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Friday, January 16, 2009

Snow. Cold. January: The Longest Month

Did you memorize a version of this ditty as a child?:

Thirty days hath September, April, June and November.
All the rest have 31,
except for February alone,
which has four and 24,
and every leap year one day more.

We are about half way through the 31 days of January, a month that at times can feel like it will never end. Winter weather, the post-holiday return to reality, and a struggle to adhere to New Year's resolutions - rashly made only a few weeks ago - combine to make this month drag.

Of all the things that make January rough, it is the weather that is the most challenging. Ice, snow, and cold can kill a person. Even a pleasant winter day can be deadly if snow removal is required. There is evidence of an increase in fatal heart attacks after a heavy snow. Which is why it is time to consider the important contribution to our lives made by a Canadian named Arthur Sicard, inventor of the snowblower.

Mr. Sicard, of Montreal, invented this important machine in 1925 and sold the first snowblower two years later. The rest is history. We learned in school who is credited with inventing the light bulb, the telephone, even peanut butter. Mr. Sicard's name should be included with these luminaries. Schools should be named after him, at least in certain parts of the country.

Wisconsin is one of those places where Arthur Sicard's invention plays an important role. For example, a major snowblower manufacturer, Ariens Co., is located in Brillion, Wisconsin. And, of course, Wisconsin residents have ample opportunity to make use of the snowblower.

In Wisconsin, one of the most appreciated acts of generosity is when a neighbor, snowblower fired-up on an early winter morning, takes extra time to voluntarily clear your sidewalk and driveway. It is this type of small kindness that makes a community a good place to live. If you live in a place where a neighbor lends a hand with snow removal, or takes the garbage cans from the curb back to the garage for an elderly neighbor, or where the entire block turns out to search for a lost dog, then you have found a good home despite the weather, and despite the exceptionally long, long, days of January.