Why Idiots Shouldn’t Own Snow Blowers

I like to think of myself as a relatively intelligent person. I can program in six languages, can play multiple musical instruments, run a small server farm in my garage and design networks for Fortune 1000 clients. Recent events would indicate, however, that I am not smart enough to own a snow blower.

For the squeamish amongst you, fear not. I did not sever any digits nor did I wound any appendages. No animals, human or otherwise, were harmed during the making of this story. No, the only thing harmed in this tale was my pride, and the control rod of my 15-year-old snow plow.

“A snow plow?”, you might ask. “I thought we were talking about a snow blower?”

This tale involves both. The hot new snow blower had usurped the position of snow removal tool of choice. The old and busted snow plow was destined for the wrecking yard. It was not to go quietly though. As Morpheus said to Neo in The Matrix, “Fate, it would seem, is not without a certain sense of irony.” Allow me to explain.

In 1997, my wife and I moved into our house. We had no children, no dogs, and all the clean floors one could wish for. Since our new house was surrounded by acres of grass, I set out to buy the perfect mowing machine. After weeks of research, I settled on the magnificent Wheel Horse 316 with mowing deck and the perfect two stage snow-throwing add-on. When my wife and I went to go purchase this, the most perfect of mowing and snow-removal machines, she saw the price tag and said, “Um… No.”

I was strong-armed into buying the less expensive Toro POS-2000 which proceeded to break once a year, every year, for the next fifteen years. The money we spent on repair bills for that tractor easily surpassed the money saved at the time of purchase by a factor of ten. Not one to hold a grudge, I made sure that my lovely bride knew each and every time the flatbed came to take the POS-2000 into the shop, that it was her doing that led us to the lowly fate. Had only I been allowed to follow the advice produced from my flawless research, we would not be in the financial bind as a result of repeated tractor repairs. Still, after each year’s repair, the tractor cut the grass, and in the winter plowed the driveway. It functioned, if barely, as intended.

In 2010, my patience for repairing the tractor had reached an end. The mower deck had rusted through, and the machine was no longer safe. When the repair center quoted me an $800 estimate to rebuilt the deck, I threw in the towel, pulled out my wallet and with a loud cry of “No more!”,  ponied up the greenbacks for a professional walk-behind landscaping mower. The repair place discarded the rotting mower deck, but I decided to keep the tractor for hauling and snow plowing duties.

When last I used the snow plow, a funny thing happened. It broke. Not only did the ridiculously complicated plow break, but it broke in such a way that I could not lift the blade from the asphalt, which meant that the tractor could not navigate past obstacles such as ice, which wasn’t too bad since ice only forms in the winter.

After the last snowstorm I removed the plow from the tractor (a task involving lifting the 800 pound plow with one arm while laying under the tractor on your back while simultaneously trying to insert two cotter pins that prevent the 800 pound plow from falling and instantly crushing your other arm) and put it up against the fence in my driveway. As soon as I could figure out how to dispose of an 800 pound plow, it would be history. As usual, History did not unfold as I expected.

Without a working plow or a desire to pay for someone else to destroy my yard, I decided once and for all to buy a snow blower. Naturally I did exhaustive research and settled on the best machine for my needs. It was delivered, I carefully read the manual (man speak for “I know how it works dammit”), fired it up, and marveled at its ability to not do much of anything to the two inches of snow on the ground. Still, operational awareness is predicated on familiarity with the equipment (a complete lie), so I continued to clean the driveway while learning the controls.

For those who are not familiar with the mechanical wonder that is the modern snow blower, allow me to describe their inner workings lest we misunderstand what comes next. A two-stage snow blower has two spinning blades of death. These two blades work together to efficiently remove snow from your driveway. The first spinning blade, the auger, chops up the snow and spins it around like a food processor. The snow has nowhere to go but up, where it meets the second spinning blade of death called the impeller. The impeller’s job is to throw the snow directly into the wind where it is then deposited back onto the operator’s face.

The auger (spinning blade of death #1) is the large curved blade visible from the front of the machine. It is an efficient snow eating mechanism that is also notoriously capable of removing fingers, hands and other tasty bits that many people are fond of keeping. Thus the rule Keep your tasty bits away from the auger is paramount to safe snow blower usage. Once the snow blower is set in motion, it will eagerly consume everything in its path. Snow, gravel, small animals, and apparently even snow plows.

As I cleaned the trace amount of snow from my driveway, I made sure to keep the hungry machine away from anything that didn’t look like snow. That meant giving the tractor and plow a wide berth since they were both parked by the fence. What I didn’t count on, was that one of the four-foot long, 1/2″ thick brass control rods had pivoted off of the plow. With one end attached to the plow and the other end laying in the driveway under the snow, it lay in wait, a hidden trap for the unsuspecting fool who might discover it.

I know of such a fool.

As the snow blower inched forward, my confidence with the machine started to grow. Still new to the hungry machine, my brain didn’t understand why the front of the machine suddenly started to rise. In a split second, the machine was pulled from my hands while the engine sputtered and died. Seemingly balanced on the wheels, the machine tilted such that the controls were only a foot from the ground. My attempts at righting the machine were fruitless. It was stuck. I pulled the key, cut the gas, and walked to the gaping maw of the beast where I saw the most horribly amazing thing I’d seen since watching Frank Connor eat 32 earthworms in fourth grade.

The snow blower had captured the end of the 1/2″ thick control rod and pulled it into the spinning blade of death. The auger then made quick work of the thick metal rod, wrapping it around the auger’s axle, while simultaneously bending the tip into the blade. It was as if the plow had laid a deadly kamikaze trap for the enemy.The  auger had bent the rod as if it were nothing more than a fuzzy pipe cleaner being bent around the finger of a child. I was horrified at my stupidity, while also seriously impressed at the power of the machine. How this act of destruction didn’t destroy the auger, sheer the bolts or wreck the casing boggled my mind. Without an obvious mechanical failure present, I grew concerned about the engine. I had a long way to go before I could worry about that though.

Not only was the snow blower potentially ruined, but the snow plow was hopelessly useless as well. This was fun and all, but with reports of another 6-12 inches of snow possible in the next two days, I needed to get this fixed. While the idea of paying someone to plow after purchasing a new snow blower were bad enough, I simply could not conceive of a world where both my old plow and new snow blower spent the winter encased in a giant snowbank where said overpriced snowplow operator saw fit to deposit the snow. No sir, It was time for action.

Naturally when there’s a big hulking machine to fix, I reach for my Dremel. The reinforced cutting wheel had almost zero effect on the brass rod, though it did make some pretty sparks. No, this was a job for a larger tool. A Man’s tool. It was Sawzall time! With the 14T blade and a long extension cord, I cut the snow blower loose from its clever trap. At least now I could move it into the garage so I could work on it protected from the biting wind and dropping temperature.

I disconnected the auger from the outer shell, and with a judicious application of force, managed to get the bent bar free from its tortured entrapment. I had to slightly bend the auger back into shape with vice grips. The auger seemed unimpressed by the fact that it had completely ruined a significant rod of brass. The brass rod, though, was useless. I could not easily bend this rod, even after mounting it in the vice. That the auger so quickly and effortlessly destroyed this bit of metal made me realize that a human finger or even an arm wouldn’t even slow it down.

My wife, who probably spent some quality time locked in the bathroom trying to restrain her fits of laughter, outwardly had only this to offer: “I’m just glad it wasn’t me.”

I fixed my snow blower, and it worked as well as it did before the brass rod incident.  I certainly have a new-found respect for the machine. Good thing I’m not an idiot though, because clearly, idiots shouldn’t own snow blowers.

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7 thoughts on “Why Idiots Shouldn’t Own Snow Blowers

  1. Quite a tale of stupidity but humorus at the same time.
    At least you are smart enough to have fixed the blower so your stupidity was born out of rushing to play with the blower before looking for Vampirish piece of metal under the snow.
    Burned once never burned again.

  2. I do a lot of snowblowing for my neighborhood, the best part is when those ubiquitous newspapers that magically appear in the driveways go through the snowblower, lots of fun.

  3. GAWF….LOLROTF….LOL Some more…..Spit coffee on report (and have to print again)…..Picture in mind and………………GAWF….LOLROTF….LOL Some more…..

  4. Sorry to laugh at your misfortune, but this is hilarious. At least it didn’t damge the blower. My worst snowblower hangup was abut 7 foot of wire hoop fence, surrounding a small garden patch, buried under the snow. It took a couple of hours to unwind it all ;(

  5. Too funny for words. As you know, I have an IQ of about 30 concerning things mechanical. Yet, your description enabled me to see and comprehend what was happening–very well done! I’d actually wondered whether you were home for Mother Nature’s gifts from above, and now I know….

  6. Old post indeed, but I just stumbled it upon and can’t help but note that your belief that the rusty galvanized rod is “brass” lends extensive credibility to the rest of your story and your self-assessment of mechanical competence!

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