Here is how our first ice dam story concluded. The experience was a harbinger of future ice dams in a new house we occupied for almost forty years in New Hampshire.

With temperatures stuck in the low twenties and a light mist of freezing rain falling, we managed to drag the ladder and raise it up to the offending roof and the ominous ice dam overhanging the eave. I ascended the ladder, facing my first ice dam with a mixture of determination, nervousness, and intense physical discomfort from the cold. Our landlord was correct. Almost a foot of ice blocked any chance of melting snow from escaping. I began with a tentative chop at the formidable dam. Nothing happened.

Fifteen minutes later, with my outer coat and hat soaked from the mist turned to frozen drizzle and my inner clothes damp with sweat from the chopping effort, I heard the bathroom window open underneath of my perch on the ladder.

“It’s still leaking,” my wife said, adding a touch of commiseration. “Must be nasty out there. I’ll let you know if it stops. Be careful.”

Her appearance into the vignette supplied a degree of encouragement along with a moment’s rest, and I resumed my attack with renewed resolve. A few moments later, I was wishing the landlord had offered just one additional bit of advice, seemingly minor but crucial. She might have said, “Don’t chop directly in front of you, but rather off to the side.”

My elation at finally breaking through was short lived as the water backed up behind the dam cascaded in a torrent directly into my chest, nearly knocking me from the ladder. I held on and waited. The torrent abated, finally slowing to a trickle and stopping, leaving me drenched and thoroughly chilled. I heard the window raise once more.

“It not dripping anymore,” my wife called out.

“I’ll be right in. Would you start running a hot bath, please?” I chattered, grateful that our frozen pipe issue had long since been resolved.

We left the ladder up for the remainder of our stay there, a constant reminder of future ice dam potential and yet another hard lesson learned.

Next up- The status of Murder in a Small Town: The Tragic Death of Stacey Burns, my book about the murder of Stacey Burns.