RFD Maine — Tom And The Ice Grippers
There’s a lot to be said about stores putting seasonal products on or near the counter where everyone checking out sees them. For instance, for years, I’ve needed some kind of cleats for my shoes so that when my driveway and dooryard turn into veritable skating rinks, which often happens, I can walk around outside without fear of falling.
But since I never saw anything like what I needed for sale in my local stores, I just never went out of my way to look for them. But this afternoon, after barely making it from my house to the car because of slippery conditions, I was a prime target for the pull-on grippers on the counter of the convenience store where I regularly trade.
It’s like that old country tune, "Arkansas Traveler." Part of the words go, “The roof never leaks when it doesn’t rain.” And sure enough, who ever thinks of ice grippers for the feet when it isn’t icy outside?
Impulse buying, that’s the term for what happened to me today. And in fact, some of the handiest and most useful things that I ever bought were impulse items.
With me, it works this way. I’ll identify a need, or better stated, a need arises that I cannot ignore. Usually, whatever it is that I need turns out to cost a bit more than I want to spend. Or perhaps it’s a specialty-type item, only available through mail-order. Either way, the thing gets put off and eventually, I’ll wind up not needing whatever it was, at least for the time being. That’s how it went with my ice grippers.
And every time I finally do relent and buy whatever it was that I needed for so long, I’ll end up chastising myself for not having giving in sooner. I suppose that’s just typical human nature.
This idea of putting off needed tasks or purchases could fall under what I call “leaky faucet syndrome.” It goes this way. The kitchen faucet begins to leak just a little. I’ll check to make certain that it’s completely shut off and the leak stops. So the problem goes out of sight and out of mind.
But several days later the same thing happens again. This time it takes a bit of pressure applied to the handle to effectively stop the faucet from leaking. But it works. And once again the leaky faucet gets relegated to the “things to do at a later date” bin.
Eventually, the leaky faucet that only stops leaking when I push hard enough on the handle to nearly break it, becomes an accepted part of life. “The faucet leaks,” I’ll tell myself. And then I’ll answer myself. “Ayuh. Yes, it does.” It does not occur to me at this point to consider doing something to fix the thing.
It’s only when the leak becomes so pronounced that the constant, “drip-drip-drip” keeps me awake at night that I consider addressing the problem. And as usual, after it’s all over, I wind up kicking myself for letting the thing go for so long.
I suppose if the store where I shop had faucet washers on the counter with a sign saying, “Got Leaky Faucets? Fix Them Today, Quickly And Easily,” I would have bought the washers and replaced them many months ago. Sometimes that’s what it takes to get me to take action. And not only me, of course. I’m sure that others share in my proclivity for procrastination.
My leaky faucet discussion was a digression and now we’ll return to ice grippers. Despite my too-lengthy time without a means of safely walking on ice, I once briefly owned a set of ice grippers, albeit homemade ones.
My grandpa made a set of ice grippers for himself, many years ago. He had on hand some scraps of harness leather and also, some leather punches and a collection of rivets. So he made grippers that were something like little leather belts that went around your shoe, with the buckle being on the top and the ice-gripping part on the bottom. And guess what the old man used to grip the ice? Well, necessity being the mother of invention, he used inverted soda bottle caps.
In days gone by, bottle caps were made of steel. They were thick and not susceptible to bending. Today’s bottle caps are wimpy, thin little things made of goodness-knows-what and most anyone with normal strength of grip can bend one between thumb and forefinger. I don’t recall anyone of 50 years ago and more ever manually bending bottle caps, since they were just too thick and strong. They were also durable, which explains why my grandpa thought to use them as the working part of his homemade ice grippers.
Time went on and grandpa died and many of his belongings, the ice grips included, passed on to various hands. I never saw his ice grippers again. So I decided to make myself a pair. Fortunately, I owned some leather punches, a special leather-cutting knife and a supply of shoe leather. My finished product was nowhere near as strong and rugged as what grandpa had made, but I figured it would work OK nonetheless. That was an incorrect assumption.
The day came when it was impossible to walk outside because of ice, so I dug out my homemade ice grippers and strapped them on my shoes for their field test. I went perhaps 10 feet when something slipped beneath my right foot. Soon after, the same thing happened with the left foot. And then my traction became decidedly less sure and I began slipping.
The bottle caps had collapsed in on themselves. It was then I realized how thin and flimsy modern bottle caps are compared to the now-antique bottle caps that the old man had used.
People who fly fish most often take to wading, whether they need to or not. It goes hand-in-hand with fly fishing. Wading in streams and rivers entails walking on slippery, moss-and-algae-covered rocks. In order to keep from taking a dunking, the well-equipped fly fisher buys special grippers that fit over the bottom of chest waders. This encumbered, the angler can now climb up one side of a greasy, submerged rock and down the other side without missing a beat.
It occurred to me that these devices would make great ice grippers. But they cost way too much for my practical nature to approve of. And while I fly fish occasionally, it might seem logical that I could also use these things for their intended purpose, wading in fast water on slippery rocks. But I seldom if ever wade. I find that by not wading I catch as many trout as when I wade. So in the end, I wouldn’t use the fly-fishing grippers for fly fishing.
The universal-type ice grippers I bought today at the store are really all anyone could ever need for walking on ice. The rubber bottoms are fitted with metal studs, very similar to those used on motor vehicle tires in winter. These are easier to put on and take off than the bottle-cap ones my grandpa made and they certainly are easier to deal with than the type used by fly fishers for wading.
Anyway, now you see why it took me so long to buy a pair of ice grippers for my feet.