We’re coming up to the end of the year (because I’m sure you haven’t noticed this already), and I want to take these last few weeks to salute some of the unsung heroes of life. First responders and medical personnel and those who serve in the armed forces and all those other amazing dedicated people are deserving of every accolade they receive, and should be entitled to free massages and chocolate fountains for life.
But there are other folks, folks who we don’t think of right away when we talk about those deserving of praise, but who are important nonetheless. And who do I want to celebrate today? Snowplow operators.
I live in central New York state. We get snow. We get LOTS of snow. It slows us down at time, no doubt about it, but it rarely stops us completely, and snowplow operators are a huge reason for that. No matter the hour of the day (or, usually, the night), they are out there, plowing and salting and sanding and carving a path through the snowy wilderness for those who must be on the road. Weekends, holidays, it doesn’t matter. They are out there, doing their dangedest to tame Mother Nature just a tad.
And then there are the independent plowers – the ones who tackle residential driveways.
In October of our first year in our current house, there came a knock at our door early one Saturday morning. It was a guy named Jim, tall and gangling, with a wild shock of dark blonde hair. He told us that he had plowed the driveway for the previous owner, and would be happy to continue for us.
Now, let me tell you a few things about our driveway:
- it’s a steep hill
- with a sharp curve as you climb
- and a rock wall on your left
- and a garage on your right.
(Oh, and there are low-hanging power lines when you get close to the house, but those only present a challenge to appliance delivery people and anyone who must dump a load of mulch in the spring.)
Get the idea? Basically, we have the driveway from hell. But Jim didn’t care. He just showed up, morning after snowy morning, waving through the window and entertaining the cats do no end as he did his snowplow ballet. Many were the winter mornings when I woke to the sound of the plow dropping onto the snow-covered driveway and the low roar of his truck gunning up the hill.
It was a most wonderful sound.
In November, we realized Jim hadn’t stopped by for his usual early-winter check in. But we had been away for the first weekend of the month, and we thought we had simply missed him.
The next weekend, we got hit. Schools were closed. The plows were out in full force.
But no Jim.
We tried calling, but someone else had his number.
We called a couple of other plow people, looking for someone new. People came, took one look at our driveway, and shook their heads.
Finally, my husband happened to mention to one of the potential plowguys that we used to work with Jim, but we couldn’t track him down.
“No surprise,” came the reply. “He died back in the spring.”
We’re still hunting for a new plow operator. Meanwhile, we’re shoveling. With every person who backs away from our driveway in terror, with every load of snow I pitch over to the side, I think of Jim, and his goofy smile, and his willingness to take on what no one else wants to handle.
Godspeed, Jim. I raise my snow-encrusted shovel in your honor.