Mychal Wilmes: Just who is the patron saint of snowblowers?

March 5, 2019 GMT

The late Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died along with his wife and daughter in a plane crash near Eveleth in 2002, left a lasting impression.

A few years earlier he had stopped by the Post Bulletin’s office to discuss farm policy. The gregarious senator spent more than the allotted time and needed a ride to the Rochester airport. I was the reluctant chauffeur. My car was noticeable for its rust and dents. Worse, its interior was a mess.

Wellstone insisted on riding in the back, with an assistant in the front passenger’s seat. The backseat was crowded with two children’s car seats, toys and worse. Sarah’s breakfast hadn’t agreed with her and evidence of that was obvious. Wellstone sat on the backseat hump.

I apologized, but the senator insisted that none was necessary. Something similar happened a couple years later after a morning spent covering the National Barrow Show, which remains a national event that features the nation’s best hogs.

Even the highest-class pigs, when massed together, generate a stench that seeps into fabric, hair and shoes. On my afternoon return to the Rochester office, I learned that the governor and agriculture commissioner would be stopping by. It is not a comfortable experience talking with men in suits while bathed in hog stench.

In both instances, I should have been better prepared in the same manner one should always wear clean underwear and socks lest a car accident happen. Mother, who was concerned about the matter, said it was nearly as important as the St. Christopher’s medal pinned to the car’s visor.

Christopher, for non-Roman Catholics, is the patron saint of travelers. Legend has it that Christopher was a big, ugly man born in the 3rd century to a heathen king and a Christian mother. A Roman emperor condemned him. After being burned, he remained alive until he was dispatched with arrows. A martyr he was, but the church eventually demoted him to a lesser status in its pantheon when his feast day was struck from the church calendar.

Chris, if I can call him that, saw me survive a crash that totaled a car and a couple fender-benders that otherwise might have been much worse.

He’s not the only vehicle-related saint in the church. Elijah the Prophet was carried to heaven on a golden chariot.

Nothing quite that fancy is needed, but it would be nice to have a vehicle that would make it over or through today’s mountain-high snowbanks. We — like so many others — are running out of places to put the snow.

Winter has been hard on everyone — except perhaps for snowmobile owners whose machines haven’t gotten much use in recent years. They recall with some wistfulness the glory years when dozens of manufacturers produced machines. John Deere, Massey Ferguson, Herter’s of Waseca, Evinrude, Ski Whiz and Scorpion sold machines like hotcakes in the early 1970s before two years of little snow dulled demand.

There were more than 200 snowmobile makers in the early 1970s that sold more than 200,000 units; only four makers exist now. My brothers, who were suspicious of my snake-bit nature and refused to let me drive one, had four machines. After considerable lobbying and in a moment of weakness, I drove one with a brother’s reluctant permission. It quit in the middle of a field, which was a long way from home.

The engine blew up, an occurrence for which blame was assigned to me. My defense was not helped by instance that his pride and joy was nothing more than a hunk of junk.

I’m now content to run a beautiful yellow snow shovel, which is ergonomically designed to put less wear on the back. Someone suggested a snow blower is a better option.

I neither have an interest in getting one nor thus far found a patron saint of snow blowers.