|The first half of a long road...and Yes, that's a big hill....|
I sit in the warmth of the living room, watching small snowflakes wandering about in the breeze outside the window, some flying up and about, trying to escape their destiny. It is snowing again. Lightly, almost casually, you know the kind of snow coiffed weather-girls on television make official reports about, calling them 'flurries' and 'accumulations'.
The odd fist-sized clump of snow, large snow-flake wannabe's, fall from the sky, perhaps from tree branches disturbed in the breeze, or perhaps it's conjured, unified snowflake effort to make us take the dark sky seriously,-- but casual flurries these are, not like the day before yesterday.
That afternoon started out with rain, light, easy, gentle- 'showers' they would call them, then a steady drizzle, of consistent, larger drops, then heavy, determined rain, not just annoying wet air. Shortly after that, close to dark, there were even bigger raindrops pelting, driven with intent, but white snowflakes began coming, confusing, then commandeering the mix.
Under cover of darkness, a genuine Northwestern Ontario snowstorm took over, the kind that leaves a foot of snow in a short while. It was a foot, all right, even more. Not bad for the 23rd of November though, it could have been a lot earlier. In some ways, a firm but gentle reminder of winter to be, but not the vicious, unforgiving kind.
Our road, an idyllic half mile of rough gravel, -a country side road once optimistically called a "concession" - is snowed in yet again. Yes, it's a long road when it has over a foot of snow on it. Wondering if I will be able to get out to the highway and carry on as normal, I call a neighbour who usually navigates up the road with a big yellow grader, clearing the snow as regular as clockwork every year, late or not.
This time it's anyone's guess, I wait for a moment for the hesitant answer and got one.
" No, the other plow's not available, nobody wants to work, I'm plowing myself" , the tired plow operator says,--well, paraphrased, you understand.
"I gotta get some supper. We gotta train a new man, wanna learn how to operate a snow plow?" he asks.
Taken aback, I mumble to myself, quietly paraphrased, you understand, I thank him graciously and get off the phone so he can go have supper, hopefully he'll get to my road overnight. Not likely, he's working 20 miles away. .
I seriously and sleeplessly contemplate all options available, and all night too.
I have commitments, appointments, business, stuff to take care of, and so does the better half. We're food self-sufficient, but we still don't like to be snow-locked for a week or so.
Hm...a grader...I would get to park that behemoth in my front yard. A big 360 hp 30 foot long yellow key to freedom with diesel engine, a snow wing and 16ft. moldboard--the key to freedom. I mumble to myself. My intrepid DIY character surfaces. I almost decide to go for it.
When daylight breaks, I clean the ice and snow off of my 20-year old Jeep. It has good tires, and a Diehard battery, but not much else. Not surprising, the doors are frozen shut. Freezing rain does that.
I use a 24" goose-neck pry bar creatively, not too over-judiciously whacking the door handle a few times to free the lock. I still have to pry the door open anyway. Surprisingly, the ignition isn't frozen. The engine turns over reluctantly, coughs, and starts,-- not surprisingly, but complaining bitterly.
The passenger door is frozen solid too. Whack that sucker a dozen times. Pry it open too. ow the door buttons are frozen in the depressed position. That's depressing. Out comes lock lube spray. The buttons pop out.. The other doors I don't bother with. I'm not a back seat driver. Who need's'em.
I coax T.T.T. AND E.T.S.,-- that would be Tilly the Tall and Ebony the Short, the resident pups, into the truck for company with little effort, they smile and wag their tails encouragingly as I jamb the old Jeep into gear. It groans, and the frozen wheels snap free of the ice, but putting the pedal to the metal, it moves. I get to bust the road open. A foot of snow or more, even with a couple of waggly frozen snowmobile-enthusiast tracks already confusing the straightness of the directionability required to stay out of deep ditches,-- isn't too much for a by now cranky and rusty old DIY'er, --and a 4x4 with good snow tires.
I run the half mile gingerly, avoiding swerving into deep ditches, creeks and culverts, and boldly crash, without pause, through the 3 foot snowbank left across the highway junction by the highway plow. Right at the stop sign it is. I start breathing again.
Not bad. I crash the snowbank back in again, and drive the half mile back home, carefully widening the wavering, busted tire- track slots, and then run the road four or five more times, widening them. The pups agree, now it's a 'winter road' and time for coffee.
We get out after a while to where we were headed, as required, right on time, too.
I no sooner get home, not enough time to grab a coffee, than the T.T.T. and E.T.S. excitedly announce 'here comes the grader'. I check it out, and yes, a yellow behemoth, blue lights flashing, is threading it's way up the road, but something is seriously wrong. The progress is painfully slow.
A truck is sitting down on the road, behind the moving grader, -but there's also a parka-clad man standing in front of the slowly-moving grader, right on my end of the road.
I walk out to see what's happening, expecting to see the regular operator and thank him, expecting to perhaps be needed to make a call for a service truck for the ailing grader.
I end up talking to the trainer instead.
"He's new, " he said. "he's in training".
|A NW. Ontario-sized Snow Grader|
The neophyte grader operator-trainer eventually reaches the end of the road where we stand, while he awkwardly turns the big machine around. It takes a couple of tries to find reverse, lift the blades, and get it right. It's a big turnaround, but it's also a huge machine. He stops, and the trainer gives him additional instruction. The operating cab has a dozen or more controls to play with. He tries them all. Graders do weird stuff, so he discovers, but eventually, he's got it set more or less right. Maybe.
Damn, I could do better than that, I think to myself. Train me instead, I want to tell the man. I resist the urge, and watch.
I know from past experience driving big tank trucks that at first, maneuvering a behemoth of a vehicle feels like driving a three-bedroom side-split up the sidewalk. Unfamiliar with the controls, he adjusts, talks to the trainer, and painfully, eventually, threads his way back down the narrow road out toward the highway again, almost removing the snow behind him.
A passable job. I probably would have liked doing that. After a while, it would be as easy as driving a yellow taxi with a fly stuck on the hood.
I contemplate. I go back to my writing. Maybe next time. That's life. It's a long road.
Is that Incoming I hear?