Chopping Ice


Web photo courtesy of (Andrew Peacock, Footloose Fotography, via Associated Press)

I can’t remember the last time that the sidewalk in front of our house and walkways in the front yard were sealed in ice about 2.5 to 3 inches thick—the series of storms and sequence of snow, sleet, and rain in the past two weeks did a number on the  footpaths. With a respite in the weather, my wife and I yesterday took advantage of the strong sun to beat the crap out of the local ice sheet. It wasn’t easy. We had a traditional ice chopper, long handled with a square-ish steel blade on the end, plus a more ominous device that I had picked up at Home Depot for just such an attack: a more compact tool, about the length of a spade and culminating in a thick steel cutting end. The official name is “Heavy Duty V-Head Ice Chopper with Shock Shield.” I recommend it. Gravity is your friend when you use this baby. You barely have to pound down on the ice because the weight of the business end of the tool makes it Thor’s Hammer upon contact with what lies beneath. It is merciless. A beast. With each blow I carved off a hefty chunk of ice. In some places the consistency of the ice was just right to slice off white steaks the size of a laptop. The conventional chopper was effective enough on thinner layers or where cracks showed in a section; the surface was wildly irregular, from solid sheet-cakes to frozen-over boot prints and triple-set runs of slush. Our elbows were zinging from the down-thrusts even with one shock-resistant cutter.

I was reminded of the Russian research ship with scientists and tourists locked in ice earlier in the winter, and the icebreaker vessels from China and Australia that went in for the rescue. Mother Nature can be a real “mother” in the winter. We made three forays to the ice ground and got down to the pavement in the areas where the sunshine had given us a head start, but we didn’t make clean work of it. If the thaw holds this afternoon, we’ll be back at it for the sake of the pedestrians, school kids, letter carrier, UPS guy, and newspaper delivery lady. Also, the law says you have to clear the sidewalks. Good luck.