It's my fault. I take full responsibility. What was I thinking?
In my younger days, the thought of preparing for winter was, well, not a thought. Like a middle linebacker shedding blocks, hearty Minnesotans take the seasons as they come.
Twenty-five inches of snow on Halloween? No problem.
One-hundred-and-ten in the shade in July? Bring it on.
Two feet of snow on my roof? I've got just the rake.
But last winter -- the winter of 2010-11 -- was a killer. We had more than 7 feet of snow. When you add the dreaded snowplow-multiple, we're talking 20 feet of glacier at the end of the driveway.
I spent endless hours spading, scooping, heaving; spading, scooping, heaving; spading, scooping, heaving. As the snowbank passed eye level, each heave was agony on my back.
Without fail, my wife would poke her head out the door with helpful advice.
"Jim, lift with your legs."
"Jim, I have some great exercises for your core."
"Jim, did you hear about the guy who coded on his driveway after shoveling?"
Katie is a nurse; "coded" is nurse-speak for "croaked."
Don't get me wrong. I'm human and have coveted a snowblower for years.
Those Toro ads at the hardware store make using one look so inviting. Simply push the electronic ignition button, take it for a spin on the driveway, and voila, head back inside for a cup of coffee.
Unfortunately, my neighbors are Luddites in the shoveling department and I didn't want to be the first to blink.
But all sense of pride melted away with the snow -- last April. I began blinking like a street light. I committed myself to the 21st century. After all, humankind prides itself on innovation, working smarter and using our brains.
Why shouldn't I get a snowblower?
I researched my options. Toro vs. John Deere. Two-stage vs. single-stage. Twenty-foot snow throw vs. 40-foot.
Being a Minnesotan, I chose an upper midrange model with an above-average feature set that Garrison Keillor would approve of.
Unfortunately, prepping for winter became a slippery slope. I have a long commute; shouldn't I have snow tires? On all four wheels? How "all-weather" can those all-weather tires really be?
This is Minnesota; I need traction. I purchased the Michelin X-Ice tires, "engineered to tackle the most extreme cold-weather driving conditions."
And my winter coat. How wimpy. I needed an upgrade to the REI deluxe down parka rated for 60 below, one that hermetically seals me from the wind.
You get the picture. And you know what happened. Like Ahab, I tried to tame nature, and my pride was rewarded with a winter that never came. The gods are not happy; the punishment is severe.
While the rest of the state basks in the sun, rejoicing in this year's 70-degree March weather, I'm miserable. Twice a day -- as I leave for work and return home -- I must pass the shiny red Toro Power Clear in my garage.
I revved the engine once all winter for a 2-inch snowfall that a 3-year-old could have cleared with a toy shovel. Now the contraption just sits there, a scarlet symbol of the futility of outwitting nature.
I'm not sure winter will ever come back. I may have to sacrifice the snowblower in some sort of primal Burning Man ritual.
Jim Triggs lives in Edina.