You might not believe it — and sometimes I can’t believe it myself — but this is how the sidewalks in my hometown in Massachusetts were plowed all through my boyhood and at least until after I left East Bridgewater for college.
The winters were long, snowy, rainy and gray and, for what seemed interminable stretches of February and March, muddy and intermittenly miserable. Plymouth County only had an average annual snowfall of 37 inches — a number that seems a little low to me — but it was not unusual to get a foot of snow overnight.
The thing is, life mostly went on, and we mostly went to school after a big snow. And the reason for that was a short, stout, ruddy-faced teamster named Eddie Kenneally.
He rose in the dark hours of winter mornings, hitched Pete, one of his exquisite Belgians, to a block sled with a plow front and cleared the sidewalks overnight. Eddie stood on the block, leather reins in hands, and commanded Pete to cut a path through the center of town to the elementary, junior and senior high schools.
You went to bed knowing there was a chance the schools might be closed. But if, by 6 am or so, you heard a cowbell out front, if you heard a man barking, “H’yar,” and, if you could feel inside your home the thud of big horse hooves, strong and heavy through the snow, you knew you were going to have classes that day.
To confirm it, you rubbed the frost off a window so you could see Eddie Kenneally driving his huge draft horse on a sidewalk plow, his Dalmatian scampering alongside him in the snow. Eddie stood on the plow, which was nothing more than a heavy wooden box with a wedge front, and drove Pete. The horse never seemed to struggle, even in a foot or more of snow.
My brother and I were disappointed we would not get a snow day to goof around at home, go sledding on Cinder Hill or on the slope at Santilli’s. So maybe we didn’t appreciate Eddie Kenneally’s work back then. Seeing him out there made clear to us that there were no excuses; Eddie and Pete literally drove home that point. We walked just under a mile to school, past the junkyard to the center of town, on a sidewalk with the snow perfectly carved away. In retrospect, it was a work of art.