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Harold F. Hester

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Snow Removal
By Harold F. Hester
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Riding in a snow plow during a December 2010 Christmas blizzard gave me a new and very different outlook of a friend and the men and women that clean up after a snow storm

  “It was a dark and stormy....”

“Once upon a time....”

“You can believe me when I …”

WARNING: Story best read during the winter months when outside temperatures are at freezing or below – Accumulated snow on driveways will improve and temper objectives.

 With the above openings you know the story that follows is fiction. The story I am about to tell you couldn't be anything other then the truth as I witnessed the events.

Personal stories and first-person yarns are always difficult for me to read because I have a tough time relating to the storyline, its characters and their events as told by other people. This story is different because at one time or another we have all been there. With this accounting all you need do is substitute a name here and there and someone or something from your past will come forward for you to relate, to built a fire in your belly, to remind you of past good times, to put a smile on your face or piss you off – promise.

 I have known Michael Minor for several years and felt I “knew” him. It was during one very cold wintery day I learned several new facts about him and many of his character traits; It wasn't dark and stormy but we did have heavy moisture ladened skies as the snow-gods dumped on St. Louis.

December 2010 I learned that snow in St. Louis is not only heavy but slick; I learned that large falling flakes do not last long but they accumulate quickly and deep; I learned that some tacit people do not always tell you how great they are as they are the very people that epitomize the famous English Proverb; Still Water Runs Deep.

By mid-afternoon a few short hours after the last huge flakes gave way to tiny stinging ice crystals I was standing in about six inches of pure white virginal snow and with a lump in my throat as I had just learned I knew a truly good man.

In today’s world, good men and good women are that rare breed that are far and few between. Let me give you an example; when was the last time anyone did something nice for you and didn't let you know either by telling you of their good deed, sending a text message or glowing report of themselves? OK, all Democrats are exempt here.

I was visiting Mike and family for the holidays and was comfortable on a couch in front of a roaring propane fireplace enjoying a sniffer of Courvoisier Cognac (OK, I had spent some years in France and did acquire a taste for their Healing Drink; their Water of Life; and their Elixir of Life). The cognac had built a nice warm glow in my stomach and cheeks as I looked out at nature on the other side of a large picture window that opened to a wooded area alive with wild animal life; Squirrels, doves, a few cardinals and ground-hogs and deer. It was the kind of wintery pictures that if you were from Phoenix, Miami or Houston would have been picture-perfect for the season.

Perfect until Mike said, “I'm going to plow, you wanna go for a ride?”

Sure.

Have I mentioned yet that Mike lives on a hill? When the area where he built his home was named, the person did not have any imagination but did have a keen sense of humor. The area was named, High Ridge. Mike's home sits atop a steep hill accessible only by a curvy one-way asphalt path just three inches wider then the normal car. It is not nose-bleed high but high enough that when you are on the leeward side of the path looking down will cause consternation and a tightening of your Gluteus Maximus muscle groupings.

Those deer I mentioned earlier, I did see the one with horns crawling up the hill trying to get to a salt-lick and a few apples Mike and his son Cody had furnishes that morning. The wooded area outside the picture-window? From my vantage point on my comfortable couch it was all down hill as I looked out over the tops of now snow covered mature pines, oaks, fir and ceder trees.

In my youth, I remember my father looking out over a snow covered mountain meadow and said to me as I was standing waist-deep in an icy stream washing after a hard day working in a saw-mill, “...isn't it beautiful?” 55 years later as Mike asked if I wanted to go for a ride those same words were again ringing in my ears as I head my mouth say, “Sure”.

Please step back in time with me for just a few minutes. Remember in your youth, winters, snow and snow-plows impaling or doing serious damage with that huge curved knife they call a plow, to hapless four-wheelers that had harmlessly parked on their home street or slid off a road on their way to the grocery store to stock up on necessities (30 rolls of toilet paper, 15 loafs of bread, paint thinner, two-dozen tooth brushes and gallons of bottled water, etc.etc.) only to be completely covered with dirty plowed snow? Remember? Not sure about other people but if I am ever confronted with the situation of staying in my completely covered car while waiting to be rescued or digging the hell out – I will dig. I know for a fact snow plows DO NOT have sonar or ANY devices designed to see under snow drifts. You can take that to the bank.

Depending on where you live, snowplows come in varying sizes, and lethality. I remember a demonstration from my military days where a 30 ton tank ran over several parked cars. Instant compacts.

Snow plows aren't as heavy as that tank but can give the same results.

The mere fact commercial snow-plowers are required to carry insurance for such damages is not reassuring when your family transportation has been destroyed and you or a loved one is in the hospital – or worse. Really gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing if a plow runs over and through you they will cover the cost of a burial, even if two or more caskets or required for your body parts.

Now days I never relax while driving in snow or nasty weather. The times I see a huge ten-wheeler belching black smoke and that ugly huge radiator that is the size of a normal door and it has a bed full of salt and that sharp looking plow or one of those V-shaped blades pointed at the center of my hood has my complete and undivided attention. It's throwing dirty snow and ice as high as a two-story building my mind tells me the driver knows what they are doing and they see you, so relax. My head does not always believe what it hears as my steering wheel has ten deep finger grooves from my many white-knuckled choke holds.

Maybe that attitude works as so-far-so-good.

Winter does have some fun times; catching snow flakes on your tongue; making angles; rolling in the snow as you build ice figures; making snow balls with bare hands then putting on gloves; taking your pet outdoors for potty-breaks and it's legs are three inches long and the snow is 5”; sliding on inter tubes, cardboard, or a flexible-flier hell-bent down a vacant lot hill into trees or oncoming traffic. And what is more fun then exercising your insalubrious sense of humor following a heavy snow plow up and down residential streets laughing as they pass driveways that have been meticulously shoveled clean only to have the entrances filled with 3-4 feet of dark and dirty ugly snow from the street?

I am not a fan of snow or cold. Granted snow is nice as it is falling and while still virginal but like a soiled virgin it get dirty and nasty quickly. Would it surprise yo to know the best selling music album or all time, White Christmas was written in 1940 by Irving Berlin, a Jew living in sunny and warm Los Angeles California. He wrote it for Bing Crosby for a movie and for money.

Makes your heart overflow with kindness for your fellow mankind and warms the cockles of your heart.

Sooooo, in later years I am now one of those houses and shoveling snow is still not a favorite sport of mine so a re-filled driveway ain't funny anymore.

To survive a winter in a snow-belt region what should you have in your garage? Well... for starters; Snow shovels, salt or cinders and a Snow Blower; Have you ever really examined a snow-blower? A standard lawnmower sized gasoline engine sitting on top of and attached to very sharp rotating medal blades. But... having said that if you are the out-doors type and have an extra $1,000 to blow after Christmas there is available to the faint of heart blowers with; power steering, single-handed operation, heated handgrips, headlight and joystick chute control. This monster comes with a 30-inch clearing path and a single-pass snow cut depth of a maximum of 21 inches. How's that for comfort?? Oh, did I mention this contraption works best on flat level pavement and not recommended for gravel unless you want to throw rocks through your neighbors windows... and best if you stay more then 75 feet from your own home. How far does this blower, blow? That 75 foot distance for rocks is also true for heavy wet snow. I have stayed clear of mentioning the guts of this blower because that is nasty and highly recommended all pets, children and your own fingers and extremities stay clear. That 75 foot mark works for me. If not then those nasty whirling medal blades will re-cycle all they come in contact. Guaranteed!

Back to the present. Thank you for staying with me through my small nostalgic trip to yesteryear.

Mike's “ride” was in his snow plow pick-up truck.

The next time you see a snow-plow look into the cab to see how many people are there. There will be one. I think the reason for having only the driver and no passengers is one of self-preservation and expression. What do you do and what do you normally say to yourself and aloud when things go badly or you are bored? How do you express yourself after 10-12-14 hours under constant pressure to plow roads, driveways, parking lots and main high speed expressways? Those brave souls that clear airport runways have my undying gratitude. Not sure about others but my life insurance policy does not cover being run over by a 747.

Mike recently had his 1½ T 10 cylinder, four wheel drive pick-up truck outfitted with four new Pit Bull Growler all terrain extra off road tires and equipped with state-of-the-art cutting edge remotely controlled (RC) BOSS plow and also an RC salt spreader. None of these are cheap. Mike plays the drums in his church, his home and jams with a local band on week-ends. This is important to mention here as driving a snow plow, operating two RC controls, accelerator, steering wheel on a narrow steeply inclined slippery asphalt path called a road, it is mandatory the driver do multitasking. Riding with Mike for a few hours not only gave me a different and revealing opinion of the man but also of all men and women that drive plows.

Below is a recent ad for snow plow drivers: The pay? $20 an hour + bonus.

We are looking for an experienced snow plow operator.

Requirements (Do not reply unless you meet all the requirements.)

-Must be available to work any time day or night, any day of the week (any time we get snow or ice) Do not apply if you have any other REQUIRED work or activities you can't get out of.

-Must be 110% committed to working every snow or ice event you are called on to help, for the entire season.

-Must have a clean driving record and drug free at all times. Also there is NO SMOKING IN OUR TRUCKS.

-Must be willing to work many hours when necessary to complete the task.

-Must have reliable transportation capable of driving in bad weather.

-Must have prior snow plowing and salting experience.

-Must have a cell phone that can be reached on at all times.

-Must be capable of recruiting others to work with you when necessary. (shovelers)

DO NOT REPLY UNLESS YOU MEET ALL THESE REQUIREMENTS

I talk to myself sometimes and riding with mike I learned he does also. But his is different. I blabber, he does it for a purpose and is intelligent in his thought processes. Mike does it in his snow plow cab to make sure events are done in their proper sequences. For example...”don't salt before plowing; if I am pushing the snow off to the right, make sure the plow blade is pointed in that direction, blade up... blade down... blade up and spreader on... spreader off. And most import for the community that has speed bumps? There...raise the blade (communities hate it when the snow plow takes out their speed bumps).” As a passenger with Mike I looked but could not really “see” the front plow at work. I mentioned that fact to mike and he nonchalantly told me, “I can't either”. He did further explain he relays on his RC controller to tell him the positioning of the salt-spreader, the plow and it direction. Knowing your truck is also extremely important as how hard the truck is working tells him how much snow he is moving. The only way to actually “see” his results is to look in the rear-view mirror.

You need not have a degree in Physics to understand force vs. mass, but it helps. For example; Mass is the quantity of inertia possessed by an object or the proportion between force and acceleration referred to in Newton's Second Law of Motion. Mike can tell this by how hard his truck is working.

All men and women driving snow plows can do this!

The salt spreader, naturally, dispenses salt – do you know how a spreader is filled? Mike does it.

Salt cost are not cheap. Who buys it? Mike

How much does road salt cost? From $5.35 for a 50# bag to $350.00 per metric ton

What is the cost of outfitting, converting a truck into a snowplow? Three sets of orthodontic braces; two years college tuition for three; a full-dress Harley Davidson Road King and seven house payments.

Where does road salt come from? Pakistan, China mostly and some from our seas.

The next time you see a snow plow, know that it is not driven by someone recruited off the streets, but an experienced man or woman dedicated to their position and your safety and comfort.

The next time you see Mike, wave as he is there for you.

The next time Mike plows your driveway you will notice he will not leave mounds of pushed up dirty snow and ice blocking your garage or sidewalk as he hand-shovels them away and makes your footing and drive as safe as possible. Why? He does it because he knows you will appreciate the extra effort he does for your comfort. Plus – Mike is just a really nice guy.

As an after-thought: This isn’t about Mike but the Christmas holiday season BUT its time frame.

If you are interested in timing of Christmas and other facts: see http://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/was-jesus-born-on-december-25-faq.htm

 

       Web Site: harold hester.com

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Reviewed by m j hollingshead 1/2/2011
holds reader interest


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