The Natural Order

If you look at the bike rack you can see the vast amounts of snow I removed from the sidewalk — but at least it makes Gunnison look a tad more Christmasy.

I got my first snow shovel of the season in yesterday, which probably makes it sound like it snowed yesterday. Which it did, sort of, in lots of soggy fits and starts.

The snow started before I got up, and CBS Denver — whose weather staff seems to love Crested Butte, based on their number of references to our area (free advertising!) — showed the “snow stake” reporting seven inches of what looked like powder.

Down here in the lowlands, we were in the realm of less than an inch, and by the time Oz and I went out to sweep off the deck (one of us did more of the work than the other) the skies were clearing.

But my internet weather was still calling for snow, and by noon the sky closed in once again and big fat flakes started wafting down, finally letting Kara feel like there might be a reason she has been spinning her Christmas tunes at work.

But our big fat flakes must have been falling at just about 32 degrees Fahrenheit, because they spent most of the day landing wetly without sticking. It looked like snow, but it came across as snain. By the time I headed out, shovel in hand for the first time since the early months of 2021, at the close of the business day, we had a very slippery, slushy quarter inch of soaking wet snow.

It was, as I think of it, a “futile” shovel, because snow was still falling even as I cleared it. Early in my reporting career, after a county commissioner discussion of something to do with water, rancher Lee Spann was kind enough to give me a rudimentary overview of water rights.

Part of the discussion covered junior and senior rights — whoever got to the water first reigns supreme — and something in our conversation prompted me to ask what happens if the senior water user is downstream of the junior, and there’s not enough water to reach. (This was a conversation probably in 1985, mind you, but it could easily become a huge conversation in the years ahead.)

Mr. Spann replied that the senior user can still place a “call” on the water, meaning the junior user has to just let it run right by, unappropriated, even as everyone knows the water isn’t going to make it to its intended destination. “That’s called a ‘futile call,’ ” Mr. Spann explained.

That conversation has stuck with me all these years — Mr. Spann made a highly convoluted, complex subject easy to understand — even during all my time as a resident of a city with very senior water rights (and way up near the headwaters), but especially these days as I’ve moved to a subdivision with what have to be junior rights, unless by chance when the developers purchased the land from the rancher who sold it they also bought his water right. Which maybe they couldn’t, since that would have been an agricultural right and we are residential. (I told you: it’s complicated.)

At any rate, it was snowing, which is fluffy water and desperately needed, last evening when I took my shovel out for the first scrape of ’21-’22. But if you don’t shovel downtown until it stops snowing, people walk through and mash down the snow, turning it into ice, which this stuff was already doing on its own with a little assist from a temperature drop.

There was one year when I was downtown near midnight on Christmas Eve, shoveling (probably 2007, that winter when it started snowing and never stopped), but generally we try to shovel right at close and then again the morning, when Kara’s husband, a professional snow remover/relocator, often gives us a swipe before heading off to take care of paying customers.

Even though it was snowing with no sign of let-up, although volume-wise we still weren’t breaking any records, I shoveled, glad enough that winter has finally arrived, no matter how meagerly.

I debated, after I got my bike to my friend Karen’s house and packed down snow as I rode up her driveway, how much of her area to shovel, since the watery stuff was still coming down. Eventually, even though it seemed futile, I opted for the entire driveway and the sidewalk along the front of her house (although I confess I didn’t clear the one on the side where all the kids walk to school), because many — many! — is the time I’ve decided to forego shoveling since it seemed like it was going to snow all day and I could just do it once it stopped only to have all snow cease about 10 minutes later.

Which is what has happened this morning, about half an hour before usual. It was still snowing as I started this, big flakes that didn’t seem quite as wet, flakes that looked like they would fall all day. But now it has stopped, with the clouds thinning out, and I am still home, no longer with an excuse to let shoveling wait.

It looks like we are in the 2.5-3″ range, suggesting that Wunderground did know what it was talking about, for once, and also suggesting that at last — in mid-December — Lynn and I might be able to call a halt to watering trees this year. (The Crested Butte snow stake was completely covered on today’s weather report.)

Or not: Denver, which at long last got some snow out of this storm, is planning for yet another 60-degree day on Saturday. I believe we are scheduled to top out in the low 30s next week, with maybe one more day of negligible snow mid-week, but Kara also had the proprietors of one local food truck tell her they were planning to re-open, given the mildness of the weather.

Thus, the snow is not likely to make everyone happy, but it is generally the natural order of things around here in December, and I’m going to take every bit of it we can get. Gotta go shovel.

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