Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Snow Wardens

As I was shoveling snow yesterday, I got wondering about the history of this task. Did a pioneer woman shovel through drifts to make an easier passage for the sleigh up to the house? Or did the sleigh just pack the snow down around the yard? I know that if you always walk the same path through the snow, you can get into trouble later in the winter, when your feet begin to slide off the sides of your packed path down into the softer and much deeper snow to the sides. I imagined a sleigh side-slipping off its runner tracks into deeper snow - not a good thing for the horses. But maybe they just drove the sleigh slightly to one side or the other each time, to pack a wider track, much like I deliberately trample the path a bit wider in the snow. Could you get the horses to do that?

I looked at some pictures in the Arcola-Kisbey history book, but I couldn't be sure what was done. I did find a picture from spring of 1903, showing the sidewalk (boardwalk?) cleared in front of the storefronts, but hemmed in by a wall of snow on the adjacent street surface, as high as a man.

A Google search for "horse-drawn snowplow" turned up just what I wanted - an essay on the history of snow removal. It turns out that I was partly right: snow was not removed from the roads at all, but rather packed down to make a good running surface for the sleighs. But it was done much more deliberately than I had imagined. Have you ever heard of a snow warden?

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