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Winter blues set in for sidewalk salt

 Julia Fabian | Fulcrum Staff

ASK ANY CANADIAN and they will tell you that winters in our great country can be long. And cold. Every time December rolls around, we steel ourselves for another four or five months (three, if we’re lucky) of snow, freezing temperatures, and extreme weather gear. What with all the provisions the average Canadian has to make to get from home to work or school, it’s a miracle if we even manage to get to our destination on time, and get there in one unfrozen piece.

Not the least of our worries is the icy sidewalks. Sometimes you just can’t walk slowly or gingerly enough to avoid a painful spill, and when you’re lying there on the frozen pavement, looking up at the swirling snow, it can be easy to feel dejected and singled out.

Chlorette Stepdon can echo that sentiment. Why me is the exact question that was running through her head when her entire family was taken from her one ordinary Friday and shattered into a million pieces to be used for rock salt.

Stepdon, now consisting of hundreds of individual shards, used to call Windsor home. She and her family of six other sodium chloride pieces (the youngest being only three months old) lived in a rural area, where she managed a beauty salon and her husband Fred Stepdon ran a small hardware store.

“Life was great,” said the piece of Stepdon that was formerly her left ankle.

“It was really peaceful.”

That peace was shattered when Windsor Salt factory workers invaded the Stepdons’ idyllic property at around six in the evening one Friday last November. The family barely had time to realize what was happening before they were all rounded up, taken to what one of the younger Stepdon children called “that scary grey building,” and smashed. Then they were thrown into bags, along with other frightened bits of former neighbours, and shipped hundreds of kilometres across the province, ending up on the sidewalks of Ottawa.

“I just remember dark everywhere,” said Amalia Stepdon, the family’s 16-year-old daughter.

“I didn’t even know where any of my family was.”

Needless to say, the experience changed all of the Stepdons’ lives forever.

“The pieces of my head got separated from the rest of my body, and eventually ended up on the road,” said a visibly shaken Stepdon.

“It gets driven over every day.”

Despite these hardships, the family carries on. According to Fred Stepdon, all of this might even be tolerable if they knew their work as salt shards was being appreciated.

“We are here to help,” the former father of five and current father of 5,000 bravely said.

“I understand that we are carrying out a higher purpose. I just want to be able to look out of what is left of my eyes and see the people smile when they slip and almost fall, but don’t. In the end, that’s all I can really hope for.”