Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A New Extreme Sport: Rooftop Shoveling

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A New Extreme Sport: Rooftop Shoveling

Article excerpt

There is nothing that grabs a neighborhood's attention like a man on a snowy rooftop. No one, of course, wants him to fall, but gee, wouldn't it be something to see it if he did?

That was the situation I found myself in as I ever so carefully tramped through the snow on my roof - the accumulations of two blizzards - using my shovel to steady myself. I could see a couple of neighbors peering through their windows. One, who was clearing his own driveway, stopped his shoveling to stare up at me. No one said a word in case they might distract me from my earnest and daring undertaking.

The snow on my roof was three feet thick, enough to make the rafters wheeze under the strain. I could slog only a couple of steps before needing to rebalance myself. Then I dug in with my shovel and pushed a great heaping mass of it off, taking care not to follow the snow as it cascaded off the edge and landed with a heavy thud. Every so often I did slip, but I threw myself down and clawed at the snow until I had halted my slide down the slick flume. Then I struggled to my feet and continued with my shoveling.

I considered that if I could see two neighbors watching me, there were probably several more too furtive to catch sight of. Perhaps they were communicating with each other by cellphone or wondering if they should stay on hand to make an emergency call. But I didn't dwell on these thoughts for long, because if there is one virtue that is the best friend of a man on a snowy roof, it is focus.

As I continued my labor with cautious abandon, straining against the great weight of snow, I wondered why something so darned heavy, resting on an incline, didn't just slide off of its own accord. I concluded that a snow pack is not simply a fluffy pillow of snowflakes, but rather a unified entity in its own right. Its sheer weight made it grip the shingles, holding it in place; but when I dislodged it with my shovel, it let go as if it were the thing it had wanted to do all along, and an amazing mass of it rushed down the roof and over the edge. …

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