“Are you sure?” My brother, seven years younger than me, was looking at the snow covered mountainside a little dubiously. That sounded just about as close to a challenge to me as you could possibly issue. I replied with some comically heroic answer about no mountain too steep or “No Fear” or something boneheaded like that as I revved the engine in my seriously underpowered little 4×4 Nissan Pickup. No doubt I was imagining something from a Mountain Dew Commercial or maybe a Kid Rock Video at the doubt, complete with spouting champagne and bikini-clad, peroxide blondes with too much makeup and no scruples, the kind who would, in time, become the bane of my existence and constant weakness.
Not that day. I was eighteen and my brother and I had been out most of the day since there was no work or school due to the blizzard, doing what most rural, redneck, country boys do when it’s snowing: Go Four-Wheeling! I mean, what’s to stop you? It’s not like there is nothing else to do, what watch T.V.? Hah! Why? Play X-Box? Sorry, they hadn’t been invented. Teenagers still behaved like teenagers in the early 1990’s, in that if given an opportunity to play with an electronic game or a chainsaw, well, you know the answer. There were far more chainsaws than electronic games in our part of the world, which made our entertainment much more accessible.
I revved the engine and threw away the clutch, redlining the engine and taking advantage of all sixty horsepower that the massive (in my mind, it was a Chevy big-block with about the same horsepower rating of a fighter jet) engine had to offer. Just as James said, “Maybe we should put the tire chains on?”
Too late. Fully committed to the events at hand, I launched the truck, with wheels spinning furiously, towards the mountainside, which we had not checked for things under the snow, such as stumps, ditches, rocks, someone’s cow or any of the other objects that could be subject to a high speed collision. Luckily for us, there were no such objects buried in the snow. Not so lucky for us, there was a drift of snow piled against the bottom of the hill, into which I recklessly plowed, as gung-ho as a Marine on my first assignment.
Full speed ahead, we ran square into the snowdrift, the tires clawing their way down to the frozen earth beneath, where they found absolutely no traction, despite my repeated attempts to free us from the icy grip. James looked at me sideways. “I guess we’ll put the chains on now.” Smartass. He was wise beyond his years. I still listen to him.
Maybe it was him I was listening to today, his voice in the back of my head somewhere. Maybe I’m just getting older. Maybe it’s because I now have a child. Whatever the reason, I put chains on the truck before the projected snowfall began. They’re relatively easy to install when it’s dry, not snowing, and you’re not stuck. It’s not when all the above conditions are occurring at once, in the dark, while your wife is trying unsuccessfully to give you directions as you roll around in the snow and mud with a tiny flashlight in your mouth in a violent attempt to place what appears to be frozen strands of incredibly heavy spaghetti around your tire without moving the vehicle, because it won’t move BECAUSE IT’S STUCK!!
So, here are a few pictures on how to install chains.
First, already have the chains. If you live in the eastern U.S., the chances of a store having a set that will fit on the eve of a major snow even is slim to none. In that case, stay home.
Stretch the chains out on the ground, working out as many kinks as you can. Remember, the hooks need to be pointed DOWN towards the ground. They’re also easier to install if the locking side of the chain is on the outside of the tire.
Drive your vehicle onto the chains as they are positioned on the ground. See why this is hard when you are stuck?
Fasten the chains loosely around the tires making sure that they are positioned evenly.
Go for a drive, then re-tighten. Even if it doesn’t snow, now you are ready for nature’s worst! Your truck or SUV is now nearly unstoppable! Test drive it again, then go inside, make some hot tea or cocoa and help your son and wife taste the spaghetti sauce she’s been busy making while you’ve been rolling around on the frozen ground cursing the day you moved to the country and need tire chains to get out of your drive.