What’s Going On: A southerner learns to use a northern rake

A few weeks ago marked the three-year anniversary of me coming to Minnesota.

I remember early on in that first year, I went to the local grocery store and was talking to the butcher when he cocked his head to the side and asked me quizzically “are you from … The South?”

Now, I capitalized “The South” intentionally. I was born and raised in near St. Louis, Mo., and I can tell you many (but not all) of that state’s residents do not consider Missouri as part of “The South.”

As I explained to the butcher when I responded negatively to his question, Missouri, although a “border” state in the Civil War, never joined the Confederacy and as such, did not qualify as part of “The South.” Mississippi. Louisiana. Alabama. Virginia. That’s … THE South.

However, I had to concede that since I wasn’t from Canada or oh say, North Dakota, I was from south (lower case) of Minnesota, which I think is what he was actually alluding to, albeit somewhat inaccurately when he added a formal “The” to the phrase.

Obviously, in talking to this man, it was apparent I wasn’t from “up north” as my southern friends would say. But I must admit, there were other things about life in Minnesota I was not accustomed to or unfamiliar with at the very least.

Beef Commercial for example. When I first saw that on a menu, I had no idea it was just another name for what us southerners called Hot Beef. Or Tater Tot Hot Dish. I didn’t know that “hot dish” was Minnesota’s way of dressing up “casserole.” And when I first heard of a “landjaeger,” I honestly thought it was a beer from Wisconsin.

And right when I thought I had figured out all the Minnesota vernacular, I learned another lesson from north this week when I bought my first … roof rake.

Now, someone is going to have to explain to me why it’s called a roof rake, because A: it doesn’t look like any rake I’ve ever used and B: it does look just like a snow shovel with a long pole. But whatever it’s called, when I got home Tuesday night from work, I got out my new “roof rake” and spent three hours “raking” my roof so it could be covered with a new batch of snow later that evening and the next day.

I should amend that: I didn’t spend the entire 3 hours raking the roof, as about half of that time was spent shoveling the “raked” snow out of my driveway. When we first bought a house in Minnesota, I remember telling my wife then we needed to get a snowblower. She literally laughed and called me a wimp, correctly stating this house had not only the smallest driveway we had ever owned, but no sidewalks to clear as well.

Thanks to me being unavailable a handful of the 4,384 times it has snowed this winter, she has had to do enough shoveling that I feel fairly safe in saying next year … we will have a snow blower.

In all seriousness, the impact of this harsh winter is being felt throughout the area, between ravaged school calendars, dangerous intersections with compromised sight lines, and parking lots overcome with mountains of snow.

With a record amount of snow for the month of February, I do take a little bit of solace watching grizzled veterans of the Great White North tire and complain about this seemingly never-ending winter. It certainly makes this southerner feel a little better, especially knowing next year I’ll have a snow blower and a roof rake to battle the elements.

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Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at gorear@nujournal.com.

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