There is a controversial device stored in my garage. It remains hidden most of the time, and is brought into public view with reluctance, under very specific conditions. Every autumn, there comes a day when I look out the front window and realize it's time to reach for -- dare I say it? -- THE LEAF BLOWER.
I keep the machine in its original container, which is probably about the same size as Pandora's Box. My sympathy goes out to that unfortunate woman every time the blower is unpacked. During the past couple of decades, as these powerful yard accessories have proliferated across the country, a significant backlash against their use has also developed.
Critics of leaf blowers complain about loud noise disrupting the peaceful solitude of pleasant neighborhoods, and the laziness of homeowners who refuse to use traditional leaf-clearing implements. I understand these criticisms, but there is still one area in my yard where a blower is the ideal cleaning tool: up on the roof.
Our house is surrounded by huge specimens of the temperate rain forest. There are sweet gum, beech, hawthorn, tamarisk, maple, and honey locust, all carrying a full load of summer greenery. When the massive volume of foliage is released from the branches, the entire roof is blanketed.
Rain is always a crucial factor, bonding leaves to the composition shingles like glue. Sweeping and raking are not conducive to prolonging the life span of the roof, which requires about four complete cleanings before all the trees are bare.
No, the best solution to this blizzard of biomass is a narrow stream of high velocity air, carefully directed by human hands. I point the barrel at a particular spot, and the leaves rise up and literally stampede toward the edge of the roof. I confess to feeling intense satisfaction from seeing my intentions carried out so decisively. This, I believe, is as close as a person gets to having super powers.
But I make sure not to linger at the task. Every moment the blower is roaring might be the catalyst that sets off a spontaneous outbreak of vigilante reaction. An angry mob of blower opponents would have no trouble spotting me from any direction. I can visualize them approaching the house with old rakes and flaming torches, like villagers in a horror movie storming the castle of a mad scientist. "Look!" someone will yell, "On the roof! The evil one! Don't let him escape!"
Such thoughts hasten my descent down the ladder, and I work quickly to get the blower back into its cardboard cubicle. When the roof is clean, I never gloat about my accomplishment to anyone. And whenever I hear someone out in the world angrily denouncing the use, and users, of leaf blowers, I lower my head and quietly move along without a backward glance.
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