Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1395

Hurts So Good
After many months of enforced inaction, my muscles bear close resemblance to oft-used rubber bands (elastics?), and complain when forced into service. Tonight, they are feeling abused and ill-used. Their workout began this morning, when I walked out the front door with Dante in search of snow to discolor.

I had intended to shuffle to the road, so Dante could unload, and then toddle into the backyard for a few minutes of his snow-diving in fresh powder. However, there was considerably more powder than I thought, and nearly 24 inches of snow plow deposits in my driveway. Marian and Amanda usually tackle the tundra with scoop and shovel, but this stuff was heavy and growing stiff while sitting there, compacting under its own weight. So, I opened the garage door and grabbed the scoop.

Two passes with the scoop reminded me why I don't do this -- I spent more time coughing and trying to find enough oxygen than I did moving any appreciable amount of snow. It was then my eyes drifted to the ancient (25-30 year-old) John Deere snowblower in my garage. It was festooned with summer detritus and surrounded by yard tools, but I figured, what the heck, why not?

I checked the oil -- still full from fall. One tire is a bit low, but that only gives better traction. I tested the electric starter, and it worked. At this point, the little voice in my mind began reciting its usual mantra: "Things are going too well." I decided to ignore it, and poured about a half gallon of gas in the tank. I looked around and found no apparent leaks, so I opened the valve on the bottom of the tank, at which point sudden dripping told me I have a problem: really old gas lines that finally dried out. What to do?

There was no easy way to get the gas out of the tank again, so I cranked the creaky old machine, and it wheezed, coughed, and roared. Why not burn as much of the gas as possible, while throwing snow out of my driveway? The impeller was well lubricated, so it worked well. This is a John Deere 1032, which means (I believe) it is a 10 hp blower with a 32 inch maw. I have a 15 foot driveway -- which explains why the blower spends most winters hulking down in the dark of the garage. I backed it out, and pushed on into the snow...

I had forgotten how much muscle this ancient behemoth required. After ten minutes of casting white drifts halfway to the neighbor's yard, I ran out of oxygen. From this point on, I would blow a strip of snow, and pause to find enough oxygen to continue. I was fortunate the temperature was in the mid 20's, for colder temps would have caused my lungs to seize and bring on a full asthma attack. With only about 27% lung capacity remaining to me, I have to be careful to not to allow oxygen saturation to drop sufficiently to let hypoxemia occur. It's sorta like drowning, only not so warm and fuzzy.

As I was staring at the last strip of snow remaining, I heard another rumble over my shoulder, and turned to find a neighbor and a friend approaching with her snowblower. She said: "Put it inside and I will finish up." Gratefully, I nodded and trundled off to the garage, where I shut off the machine, closed the valve, and placed an old soda bottle under the valve to capture any fuel seepage. I thanked her for her help, closed the garage, and collected a thoroughly frustrated Dante (tied safely out of the way) to go indoors.

No Rest, Though
I went inside to finish my morning meds and have breakfast. Shortly thereafter, Marian started baking her Serbian Kifli, a labor intensive, but delicious cookie we have only at Christmas time -- not just because of the work involved, but because we'd both weigh an additional 50 lbs.! I figured, in for a penny, in for a pound; so I volunteered to assist.

It was a lot of work, but I was well rewarded with hot tea and "kiffles" later in the day.

Now, I ache from the unusual activity and I don't mind a bit. I think I will sleep soundly tonight. I need to rest up for tomorrow: our 43rd Wedding Anniversary!

God bless all of you who continue to pray for us, Lord knows, we need it.


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