Last weekend, I was checking my e-mail and saw my DirecTV bill for the month.  It's $167.00 and we don’t even have any movie channels.   If it weren’t for the Hallmark and Lifetime channels that my wife watches, I’d have canceled it five years ago and saved $9,000.

And, believe it or not, as I’m sitting there thinking about that, the picture went away, showing the “Searching for Satellite Signal” message.    Normally, that happens when some dark nimbus clouds are rolling through.   It’s funny how TV signals will pass through some things, but not others.   One thing they don’t pass through is snow.

About once every couple of years, we have that perfect snowstorm that blankets the satellite dish with snow.   Last weekend we had it, in 10-degree weather.  So what do you do?

My dish is on top of the garage, and it’s too dangerous for a man of my age and girth to climb up there in the winter.  I hinted that my wife might try it, and got a look that was scarier than when I suggested getting rid of the Hallmark channel.

DirectTV Dish on Garage Roof-TSM Photo

It’s too far to reach with a pole, plus the thing faces the rear of my walk-out, so it’s 2 ½ stories off the ground.

A few years ago, I used a hose and a sprayer nozzle and a good stiff wind to blast the thing from the ground level and melt off the snow.   But it was a lot warmer then, and the wind had now changed directions.

So what to do?

Anybody in Michigan knows that when it’s this cold, you don’t have to use a snow brush on your car.   You give one car door a mighty slam, and all the snow falls off, right?   So, with that in mind, and a great idea from WBCK News Director Jim Mishler and a solution was born:   Shoot that DirecTV dish with a tennis ball cannon!

I started to research.   There are a lot of these on the market, and they fall into two categories:

  1. Tennis ball cannons that use an accelerant to cause an explosion that will launch a tennis ball a quarter-mile.
  2. Spring-loaded plastic guns that launch a tennis ball 20-40 feet, so the dog can chase it down and you don’t have to risk a rotator-cuff injury throwing the thing.

When we were kids, we used to build #1 out of pop cans and electrical tape. It wasn't the safest thing to do, but they sure were a lot of fun.  I decided this would probably knock the dish out of alignment, or maybe off the roof altogether.  So I went to Meijer and bought the Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster for $19.95, plus another $5 for a package of 4 extra balls.

Tim Shooting at the Dish with Mugsie-TSM Photo

I got it home, and my faithful dog, Mugsie, came out to help.  He’s a Tibetan Spaniel, a hearty Himalayan hound who is impervious to 5-degree weather, and always helpful in any situation.

Mugsie, the always helpful and hearty Himalayan hound -TSM

So, I stood back, about 25-30 feet away, cocked the Nerf Blaster, and took aim.   Missed it by that much.  Then I missed it by a lot.  Shot three fell short.  Then another miss.  I was out of balls.   Dejected I turned around to see Mugsie standing there with a ball between his front paws.

Mugsie with ball-TSM Photo

It must have fallen out of my pocket.  Once Mugsie saw that I'd spotted the stray ammo, he moved away and I grabbed it  and I loaded it up for one final shot, and BAM!   Dead hit.   Ok, not much of a BAM…..more of a dull thud, but the snow slid off.  The TV started working!   Hallmark channel restored.  (Ok, there’s always a downside to any ingenious plan).   Mugsie and I went inside, curled up in a chair, and watched some internet TV.

One thing to keep in mind if you decide to try this.   These dog toy tennis ball launchers are all kind of wimpy.   If the snow was heavy, or sticky, it might not have fallen off.  But with temperatures at 10 degrees---and it’s a dry cold this time of year---mission accomplished!   Once we get a thaw, there’ll be a bunch of tennis balls in the yard.

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