The Studebaker Dude: The secret to shoveling ice

By:  Jon Stalnaker
AKA The Studebaker Dude

I am feeling a little existential this week so I thought I would talk about something other than cars this time.  I turned 70 last year and it’s the first milestone birthday that bothered me.  Maybe bothered is too strong, let me just say that it is the first one that really got me thinking.  It could have something to do with a major life change that also occurred last year.  I was born and raised in California and other than the 3 years, 8 months and 9 days I served in the military I haven’t really lived in any other states.  My wife on the other hand, grew up as a military brat and was married to a career airman. She spent her entire life living wherever the government decided to send her father and spouse.  Her daddy was born in Oklahoma, so she was certainly better prepared for us to pack up everything and move to the Midwest.

I had plenty of experience moving my family to a new town and starting over but moving to another climate region was different.  Add to that the fact that we are now seniors and that does make a difference.  I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not 19 anymore.  At 70 years old, if I manage to live another 30 years, I will be a centurion.  I have to face the reality that my time in this world has an expiration date that is not that far away.  When I think back 30 years, it doesn’t seem that long ago.

That is about the time that my wife and I got together.  As with many young couples, we talked about growing old together.  And it has proven to be a beautiful thing.  But the main concept that went through my mind in making that pledge was to always have her with me.  The growing old part was something we knew to be inevitable but not necessarily the part we were looking forward to.  

Growing up in the central valley of California, I didn’t have any opportunities to deal with snow.  Therefore, the idea of moving to a four seasons location was more of a romantic desire than something to fear.  I certainly had no experience shoveling snow.  The snow we experienced our first year here was just about the right amount for me.  Other than not having a blanket of snow on Christmas morning, I would say it was about perfect.  I was excited to get my first snow shovel and enjoyed being able to use it.  Being retired, shoveling the snow was more a joyfully anticipated opportunity than a chore.  It was easy enough and I reached a confidence level that was perhaps premature. I didn’t do any major snow removal, just created a couple of pathways to the garbage can and the mailbox.

We had a sleet and ice storm that laid a hazardous layer of ice that should have been left alone by this California boy.  My wife, having lived in many locations, had plenty of experience with a snow shovel.  When I decided to shovel away some of the ice, she strongly suggested that it was a bad idea.  I had confidence from my snow shoveling experience and just figured I would be a little more careful.  I figured wrong and slipped on the ice, coming down on my left wrist.  I knew as soon as I hit the ground that I was in trouble, and I was.

The Studebaker Dude’s wrist. Ouch.

That was two months ago, and I am still typing with one hand.  I had surgery that opened my arm with a long enough incision to require 33 stitches to close back up.  Inside still remains a metal plate that will need to be removed in a few more months.  This kind of injury is taking a long time to heal.  I have learned the secret to shoveling ice.  Don’t do it!  Also, I learned to pay better attention to my wife’s advice. Not only does she have far more experience living in snowy regions, but she’s also way smarter than me.  I need to constantly remind myself that my years remaining are limited.  Getting older has its challenges but it’s not so bad.  It is certainly better than the alternative.