Out here on the prairie, the wind and snow are best of friends. They love to romp.
Shrieking in glee, the wind chases the snow who swirls about looking for the most unlikely of places to hide.
I don’t mind their games but I do mind having to clean up after them.
Once Mother Nature has settled them down, it is my job to scrape the sidewalk and clear the driveway. It is a task too light for the snow-blower, so I use a shovel – when I can find it.
This morning, the wind and his buddy played a prank on me. I had rested the shovel against a tree while I went into the house to warm myself. When I returned, it was gone.
Not only was the shovel gone but so was any sign that a shovel had ever been there. The snow was as clean as a fresh sheet of paper – even my footsteps had vanished. I trampled around the tree, probing the drifts with my boots hoping to feel a shaft or a blade but I figured the wind ran off with it.
It wasn’t much of a shovel anyway, just a cheap plastic affair. I won’t find it until spring – but that’s okay, I have a shovel in reserve.
So I went into the shed to get it.
The most important thing about looking for anything in my shed is to manage expectations. The building is larger then an aircraft hanger and rumor has it there may actually be an aircraft or two under all the junk – which makes it hard to find things – but what makes it harder still, is things in my shed do not want to be found, it is where they go to sulk and be left alone.
Still I had to try.
I looked first in the place where I most expected to find a shovel; among the yard tools hanging on the south wall. The wall held tools but nothing that might approximate a shovel.
Next, I looked under the things I had recently piled near the door. There was some amazing stuff in the pile, some that someday might be useful – but no shovels.
Then I tried an old hunter’s trick.
If you look for a deer in the forest or a shovel in a shed, you will never see them because you mind holds an image of what it expects to see and compares this to what it actually sees. The trick is to not look for a deer or a shovel but to look for an orderly line in the tangle of other things. In the woods, this horizontal line is the spine of a deer; in the shed it is the shaft of a shovel.
It was a great idea but it almost never works. There is just too much stuff out there. So I fell back on a sure fire method of finding things, I asked my wife.
“Honey,” I said, “do you know where the spare snow shovel is?”
“You left it leaning against a tree,” she said.
“No, that was the shovel I was using. The wind blew that one away.”
“No, it didn’t,” she said. “You always leave things laying around, so when I drove up and found it half covered with snow, I put it away.”
“And where did you put it?”
“Where would you expect me to put it?”
“In the garage?”
And there it was.
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