January 29, 2016

Jonas and the Ninja…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:00 pm


All things proceeding from the earth to seasons, all
things that lapse and change and come again upon
the earth–these things will always be the same, for
they come up from the earth that never changes, they
go back into the earth that lasts forever.

—Thomas Wolfe

I kept telling the people at work, all through the fall and early winter. My coworkers, and my builders and random customers. It’s been too nice. It can’t last. There will come a storm. And tons and tons of snow. That’s gonna happen. But you know what? And I paused dramatically, to let it sink in to whoever I was talking to, often some poor listener who was trapped, or at least felt obligated to pretend to be paying attention. You know what? I’m good with that, good with whatever comes. When you look at the last couple of years, winter came real early. And regardless of what happens this winter, it’s gonna be shorter than the last few. And I’m good with that, I’m good with whatever comes.

It had been a real wuss so far, the winter. I mean, not that I got anything against that. I love wussy winters, where it stays mostly mild. And where you don’t get two or three feet of snow, all at once. I love to drive to work not fighting messy roads. I love to schedule my trucks at work, and know that the drivers will have safe, dry roads to travel on.

All through November and then December, it was balmy weather all the way through. Scary warm, almost. I think on Christmas Day, it was in the sixties around here. I sure wasn’t fretting about it, but I thought. It has to at least get cold enough to kill the bugs in the ground. Otherwise, there’ll be trouble next spring. And next summer. That happened a few years back, when it never really froze deep. That next summer, the stink bugs came crawling out in full force. They were everywhere, inside and out. And stank up the place, everywhere, too. They even got into Big Blue, somehow, and pested me while I was driving. Didn’t matter if you kept the windows closed, and all sealed off. They got in, somehow. That happened more than a few times. I blame it on mild winter weather.

And the New Year came sliding right in. Still nothing cold to speak of. Through the first half of January, it was about as balmy as it could be. Our crews were busy at work, building. We can schedule work right through the winter, I said. And that’s pretty much what we were doing. And so it went, until early last week. That’s when the chatter started from the weather people. There’s a big old snow storm coming. No one knew for sure the path it would take. And I heard it every morning on the way to work, and every day on the talk radio station I listen to on my computer. Now it was coming in from the Pacific. Now it was crossing the Rockies. And as each day passed, they got a little firmer, a little bolder with their predictions, the weather people. And by mid-week, they pretty much proclaimed it. A major storm, coming in from the west. Anywhere from a foot to eighteen inches of snow. That’s what was forecast for the local area. To the south, down in DC and Baltimore, down there they would see a record snowfall. These were real rumblings, of a real storm coming. And we got set mentally to hunker in.

They even gave the storm a name. Jonas. I was astounded. Where in the world did they come up with a name like that? From the Jonas Brothers? From Jonas-Jonas Huckabuck? For a first name, Jonas is about as Amish as it comes. I would bet there are more Amish Jonases than any other brand. It sounded kind of cool, actually. Jonas the Storm. And now Jonas was roaring in from the west and south. By all accounts, he was not a happy camper. And he was all primed to dump a load of snow right here in New Holland.

And I thought about it. If this thing was anywhere close to as bad as they were saying, I’d be holed up in my house for a few days. For sure all day Saturday. And I thought about it some more. For years, when a snow storm had me holed up in the house, I always turned to my favorite beverage. Scotch or vodka. You mix yourself a drink, right in the middle of the day, and you just sit there and sip that baby and look out the window and watch it snow. That’s how I’ve always, always done it. I won’t say I was all uneasy or anything like that, as my first vodka-free snowstorm named Jonas swept up from the south and west. But I will say I sure thought about it. I will say that. Oh, well, I thought, too. I got my food, my eggs and taters to fry up. I had plenty of both. And I had something else, too, a new thing. And no, this wasn’t a cooking pot from my father’s stash from years ago. This was a new kind of tool for a new kind of food. I had my brand-new Ninja blender.

Bunny trail, coming right up, here. This is how it all came down. It was about as far from my mind as anything can be, a few weeks back, when Rodney told me at work one day. He’s got a blender at home, and every morning he mixes up a healthy mixture of veggies and fruits and other goopy things. He just throws that stuff all in, he told me. And then it blends, there in his blender. He drinks a shake for breakfast, goes home and mixes one up for lunch, and then eats a regular meal for dinner. And he’s slowly losing some weight. I was intrigued. Wow. That’s a world I’ve never seen before Tell me more. And he offered. “I’ll mix one up for you tomorrow, and bring it in. You can have it for lunch.” He did. And I did. And I was impressed, I gotta say. And I was about to step through the door of the blending world, a place I had never known even existed, except maybe in the vaguest sense. I mean, you figure some whacked-out vegan is gonna be out there, blending up nuts and stuff. But not real people in the real world. I was about to find out different. Big time different.

It’s a very strange world, when you get to talking about blenders, I soon found out. Rodney had a Vitamix. The top of the top of the top. I guess it will do about everything except actually eat what it chops and slices and dices up. You can even make soup in eight minutes in a Vitamix. And that night, I threw a little post out on Facebook. I was impressed, I wrote, with the shake Rodney had brought me. I can see a quality blender real soon in my near future. Well. You’d think a herd of cats were set loose, with their tails tied together. The comments came spitting out, fast and furious, from almost the first minute. Get a Vitamix. Definitely the best. No, no, get a Nutri Bullet, came from over here. And from over here, no, no, get a Ninja. And back and forth it went, the conversation, and back and forth. My head was spinning. I never had any idea there were so many different brands of blenders, and so many passionate fans of each brand. This was a whole new world I was wandering into.

The Vitamix definitely seemed to be at the top of the totem pole, when it came to quality. But it definitely is at the top tier in pricing, too. A refurbished model goes for $300.00. Double that for a brand new model. That’s a lot of smackeroos, for a blender. My cash flow is fairly modest, and there’s been sizable hospital bills coming in. All the other brands were more reasonably priced, more in line with my budget. I figured I’d look around for a few weeks, then make my decision. In the meantime, I bought a $16 cheapo blender at Walmart, to use while I was making up my mind. And I gotta say. If that’s all that would be available on the market, I would never have taken up blending. The cheapo blender was a piece of junk. After a few weeks, I decided to step on up to something of a bit more quality.

I really liked the looks of the Ninja, and eventually that’s the one I settled for. The people I knew who owned one had nothing but very good things to say. And I watched an infomercial, too, that just happened to be on one day. According to my TV, the Ninja chops, dices, slashes, dips, mashes and blends. It does everything but cook. One notch below the Vitamix. And also vastly more affordable at an even $100.00 at Walmart. So one Saturday, a few weeks back, I picked one up. I brought it home and carefully unpacked it and set it up. The circular, spiraling blades looked so cool, and very capable of doing any job I needed done. And every morning since then, I’ve been blending up my very own secret formula of smoothie for breakfast and for lunch. It’s a production, but it’s a lot of fun, too. And I actually love the taste.


OK. Back from the bunny trail. I was all stocked up for any snowstorm, I figured, as Jonas came roaring in. Plenty of greens, and plenty of frozen fruits in the fridge. I’d be in good shape, as long as the power didn’t go out. And I chatted with the tenant, as the weekend got close. We might be getting a good chunk of snow, I told him. I just stopped tonight at the hardware and bought me a new shovel. My old one broke last year. And he looked at me, all wise. “Well,” he said. “We got a pickup with a plow blade at work. I’ll bring that home on Friday night. I can clear the drives here when it stops, then I’ll have to go to work and clear the place.” Works for me, I said. And right along, that Thursday, the weather people got bolder. Jonas will arrive tomorrow night, they proclaimed. On Friday night, at around seven o’clock, the flurries will start. And it will pick up, then, and snow all night and all the next day.

Friday. D-Day. We felt it in the air. Definitely something serious was coming. The weather people kept saying. Down south a ways, they will get hammered. Two feet, maybe thirty inches. Here, around this area, eight to twelve. By Friday, that was upped to maybe eighteen inches. Wow. That would be a mess. After work, I headed for home. I wanted to stop at Amelia’s Grocery for a few things. But first, I needed gas at Sheetz. I approached the station from the south, on my way home. It was just before six. Dark. Sheetz was all lit up. And there was something unusual going on, I saw when I got close.

The place was a madhouse at the gas pumps. Trucks and cars lined up, waiting. Not long lines, just a few vehicles deep. But still, I had never seen anything like it, not here. They have fifteen pumps or so. The place is big and roomy. I pulled in to the crowded lot. Come on, you people, I grumbled to myself. Do all of you have to wait until just before it snows to fill up with gas? And about then, I thought about it. That’s what I was doing. That’s what I had done. And I simmered down right there and quietly took my place in line and waited, just like everyone else.

And it all came down, as it had been foretold. Right at seven, I strolled out to get my mail. Snow was spitting sideways from dark skies. I saw the highway was starting to get covered, too. The road looked slick. Cars crept along carefully. A bad time to be out, tonight, I thought. And I walked back inside my warm and well-lit house.

And later that night, before hitting my bed, I looked out again. I was scheduled to work the next day until noon. And I wanted to get a good idea if the roads would be open. At 9:30 that night, I knew there would be no going to work the next day. Snow was falling steadily, and it didn’t look like it was going to stop anytime soon.

Saturday. I slept in. Around 8:30, I got up. Took my shower, then cranked up the Ninja. Sat at my computer as I sipped my breakfast. Outside, the snow was piling up, and I mean, piling up. Still. I looked longingly out the window. A quick run to Sheetz for coffee couldn’t hurt. And I bundled up in my hat and heavy coat and walked out to the garage, where Big Blue was safely parked inside. The tenant usually keeps his car in the garage. I evict him only when there’s a snowstorm coming, so I can park my truck inside. He doesn’t grumble. And it works out well for both of us. I waded through the knee deep snow and opened the big garage door. The day before, I had loaded some concrete blocks on my truck bed, for weight. Now, I got in, and backed out into the storm.

It was pretty bad getting out of my garage and driving the few hundred feet to the main road. Great drifts stretched and swathed everywhere. A few times, I had to back up and take a run for it, to get through a drift. And eventually I got out to Rt. 23. Headed left, and on down to Sheetz. That place is always, always open. Don’t matter what the weather’s like, or if all the roads are closed. Sheetz is open. I pulled in, parked, and got out. Walked in. A few straggling snow plowers wandered about, stocking up on food for their shifts. The coffee was on. I filled a large cup, paid, and walked back out. Getting onto my side road and into my garage was quite an adventure. An hour later, I don’t think I could have made it. But now I did. I waded back to the house. And stepped out again to take a picture of my stone angel, huddled and cold under the shrub tree, the snow swirling all around.

Look Homeward, Angel

And that was the only excursion anyone took from my place that day. The snow kept sweeping down, and kept getting deeper and deeper. Inside, all nice and warm by my Eden Pure heater, I putzed around. Played on the computer. Surfed Facebook. And got some reading done. Since my hospital stay, I have been reading much, much more than I have in many years. I’m working my way through about ten P.G. Wodehouse books that have been gathering dust for a long time. The man was simply a genius, and simply the greatest humorist to ever lay pen to paper. I devour one book, and go right on to the next. Jeeves, Bertie, Blandings Castle, the Mulliners. I saw somewhere that Mr. Wodehouse wrote a hundred books. And right now, I’m working my way through that list at a pretty good clip.

I fired up my cooking burner that day around noon, and fried up a mess of potatoes and eggs and toast and butter. What better feast is there than that, right in the middle of a snowstorm? And I glanced at the liquor cabinet now and then. A vodka sure would go down good about now. And that’s as far as it ever got. Just me thinking about how good it used to taste. It never was a close thing, as far as giving in.

And I thought about it, mulled it over a good deal that day, as Jonas swirled and swept around outside. The strange place I’m in, when it comes to alcohol. It’s all pretty uncomplicated. A lot of people make things a lot more complicated than they’d have to. They make the mountain way too steep, the monster way too fearful. Recently, there was a real popular link floating around on Facebook. I saw it posted at least half a dozen times. Some pastor wrote it. Fifty Reasons Why I Don’t Drink. And I read through the list, and it was all fine, I guess. But I thought to myself. Why twist yourself into fifty different pretzels to come up with fifty different reasons not to drink? Does that make you more holy, the more reasons you have? I don’t drink for only one reason. My doctor told me not to. That’s about as simple as it gets. And there’s nothing “holy” about any of it. Nothing moral or immoral. It’s just a choice, as most things in life are.

By late Saturday, before I got to bed, the snow had pretty much stopped. Jonas had played himself out, and a record storm he turned out to be. Outside, right at thirty inches lay spread on the ground. I chatted with the tenant on the phone, and we plotted our move for the next morning. He had parked his pickup and plow outside, where I usually park Big Blue. He’d get right busy as soon as we got up.

And the next morning around nine, he was out there, warming up his truck. I bundled up and stepped outside with my shovel. He walked over and we stood and talked. And after a bit, he cleared his throat. “Look,” he said. “I want you to be careful, shoveling out here. I don’t want to come around and see you lying there in bad shape, or worse. Take it slow. Stop and rest often. Shovel for ten minutes, rest for five. Shovel for ten, rest for five.” Yes, sir. I said. There wasn’t really anything else to say.

He got to plowing, then, and I had my short back walks cleared in ten minutes. And soon enough, both drives were open as the tenant plowed right along. He took off, then, for his work place, to get the lots cleared there. I stepped out to the garage and unlimbered Big Blue. Time now for another coffee run to Sheetz. And that morning, the roads were passable, almost fully cleared.

After lunch, the tenant had not returned. I retired for a brief nap. And just as I was dozing off, there came a tapping on the door, out on the street side. Ah, come on, I thought. I’m trying to rest, here. But I got up, and stepped to the door and looked out, then opened it. A young teenager stood there, shovel in hand. “Do you need your walks cleared?” he asked. And I was impressed. Tell you what. I need a path cleared to my mailbox out there, and I need the snow cleared away so the mailman can get in, I said. How much? He shrugged. “Fifteen bucks,” he said. Deal, I said. And I was impressed again. The kid got right down to business, and half an hour later, he was knocking on my door for his money. I walked out and checked his work, then handed him a twenty. Keep the change. He thanked me and walked on to the next place. An enterprising kid, right there, I thought. He’ll get somewhere some day, with that kind of drive.

The next day, things got back to half normal. I headed off to work. A slow Monday, for sure, after a storm like that. The boys spent much of the day on skid loaders, clearing the parking lot and yard. And all this week, the temperatures have warmed into the thirties every day. The snow banks are settling, sinking. And soon, all will return to how it was before.

And thus Jonas came and went.



  1. “Stop and rest often. Shovel for ten minutes, rest for five. Shovel for ten, rest for five.”

    I’d shovel for five and rest for ten.

    Am I really the first commenter? Wow!

    Comment by Jay — January 29, 2016 @ 8:34 pm

  2. And from the comfort of my chair, in Texas, this was as close as I need to get to any storm. Especially one named Jonas.

    Comment by Lester — January 29, 2016 @ 8:37 pm

  3. I am certainly glad we in Tennessee didn’t get any part of Jonas. We got about 3 inches and it almost closed up the town. We rarely get any snow. But we get enough cold weather. Since I turned 74 I can’t take the cold, it hurts my body.
    It is sad but it is what it is.

    I enjoyed your blog about your encounter with Jonas.

    I’m sure winter is far from over.

    Comment by Linda Morris — January 29, 2016 @ 9:20 pm

  4. Your blog always takes me to other places that I haven’t been. Your writing is so visual…eggs and all. This is one of my faves….

    Comment by Di Kisinger — January 29, 2016 @ 10:10 pm

  5. I always thought it was “Joni Joni Huckabuck” but perhaps not? I’ll let someone else explain where that comes from!

    Comment by Philip Miller — January 29, 2016 @ 10:51 pm

  6. Miss the old Wyoming winters. Loved reading of your experience with the Ninja, the snow, the neighbors, and yourself. I have yet to join the smoothie brigade. My family members swear by it. Your recommendation causes me to consider taking that “bunny trail”.i

    Comment by G Racina — January 30, 2016 @ 12:32 am

  7. Guess I’m honor bound to give some defense for my good Amish name – Nah!

    Comment by Jonas Borntreger — January 30, 2016 @ 7:17 am

  8. Our daughter lent us a juicer with about 47 moving parts. She also brought us a bag of fresh vegetables to introduce us to the Wonderful World of Juicing. It didn’t take. If it’s green and frothy, forget it. I’m not gonna drink it. We ate the vegetables. We returned the juicer to its rightful owner with a polite “thanks.” She and her family recently moved. Haven’t seen the juicer at their new place. Yeah, we’re near DC, got 2 feet. Husband shoveled out a path for the Post Person, who didn’t come near the place for 3 days. Now we have icy runoff from the stack of snow still melting on our driveway. It’s gonna be cute when I venture out later today.

    You take care of yourself, Ira. Love your writing.

    Comment by forsythia — January 30, 2016 @ 9:09 am

  9. I am a lurker reader…but loved this post so much I had to comment. I just love your writing style and your wonderful descriptions. Thanks for sharing your talent with this eager reader!

    Comment by Deb — January 30, 2016 @ 9:21 pm

  10. P.S. Are you sharing your smoothie recipe/ingredients??

    Comment by Deb — January 30, 2016 @ 9:22 pm

  11. Ignore that last comment – enlarged the pic and checked out your ingredients. Sorry for so many comments.

    Comment by Deb — January 30, 2016 @ 9:24 pm

  12. I had to go up the hill to Flagstaff early the day after Christmas to pick up my 2 Amish nephews and wives.It was 12 degrees,snowing and blowing.Couldn’t wait to get turned around and back down to the valley.Its not for me,can’t take that cold and stuff anymore.If Jonas wants to show up in my part of the country he is welcome as long as he has his rain suit on.Your writing about the Ninja inspired me to drag out the shiny stainless steel Cuisinert.Threw a few things in there and made a relatively drinkable concoction, gonna have to practice a bit more it looks like.There is a smoothie book around here some where and that might help some.

    At first I thought maybe Jonas was some Amish guy who came across a Ninja dude and Jonas had to practice his turn the other cheek techniques on the Ninja…..or vice versa..just saying..peace to all

    Comment by lenny — January 31, 2016 @ 11:36 am

  13. Phillip Miller, I will vouch that Ira’s right and it IS Jonas Jonas Huckabuck. I remember reading about him in our Amish school [Newport] storybook, circa 1960,[approximately]. I think there was also a Mama Mama Huckabuck and a Papa Papa Huckabuck. Funny characters as I remember it!!!

    Comment by Jon Fisher — January 31, 2016 @ 1:43 pm

  14. I was looking for a “like button” after that story!

    Comment by Fred — January 31, 2016 @ 7:21 pm


    Comment by Lisa DeYoung — January 31, 2016 @ 10:43 pm

  16. “Jonas” is Jonah in Spanish, and I thought the storm was a good sign, as it shut down DC, capital of our country, and that whole prime corridor of trade in our country. Everyone got along fine with a day or three off, when they had to. So here’s as much of the message as I can perceive. We should appreciate Spanish speakers, for one, as English and our country has a rich heritage of many peoples and languages. Then, the message of Jonah is a good one for the folk who concoct so many schemes to come out from Washington, as well as to the rest of us in the country: even if God has to warn of (or even, eventually, send) judgment, it is not right for us to hate our enemies or long for their destruction. Jonah had to repent of that, at the end. At least, it speaks to me.

    Comment by LeRoy — February 2, 2016 @ 7:11 pm

  17. You ate those green bananas?

    Comment by Tammy — February 2, 2016 @ 8:04 pm

  18. Awesome to note that abstinence of imbibing spirits has not seemed to adversely affect the spirit of your articulation!

    Comment by g. j. witmer — February 11, 2016 @ 3:10 pm

  19. What’s up, I read your new stuff regularly.
    Your story-telling style is awesome, keep up the good work!

    Comment by Kristen — February 14, 2016 @ 1:07 pm

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