Tom Clyde: Hobos in the attic
This strange winter continues to surprise. After little or no snow, we suddenly are digging out. There has been a lot of snow this week, heavy wet stuff with a lot of water in it, but excellent skiing. Lift lines at the resorts are longer than usual, even allowing for the empty seats going up because of the great plague. The Cottonwood canyons, what those of us who grew up here know as “the Canyons,” as opposed to “ParkWest,” have been closed for avalanche control on the highways. So they all came here. Traffic backed up even with school out, and you had to be at the Park City Mountain base before sunrise to get a parking place.
I haven’t followed the approval of the project at the PCMR base all that closely because I think it will end the same way as several predecessors — surface parking. But in the discussion before the Planning Commission, parking should be at the top of the list. There’s a lot of discussion about whether the condos and hotel rooms should be heated electrically, with wind power purchases to cover it. I suppose I should care how the people who won’t buy the condos that won’t be built won’t heat their rooms. I don’t. I care about being able to find a parking place. I’m a bad person.
Skiing has been far too good to be bothered by the HVAC specs of buildings that probably won’t get built. Into the trees, into the bumps, the chutes, into the deep white and loving it until exhaustion sends me home.
There is suddenly a lot of snow on the ground at home. It’s not even half of normal, but I was almost down to bare ground. I’ve been spending a lot of time plowing snow. In the depths of my 6-foot-wide snowblower on the back of the tractor, there is a soda can-sized hunk of plastic that keeps the drive chain tight. It’s a piece that wears out. It’s supposed to. You can fiddle with it and milk a little more time out of it, but finally when the drive chain rubbing on it has chewed it to bits, it has to be replaced. It’s normally something the dealer has in stock. Dozens of farm machines have the same piece in them. Common as dirt. Yet somehow, in a year when there hasn’t been a lot of snow blowing, it has become a scarce item. COVID has apparently disrupted the world-wide supply chain for plastic chain tensioners. That’s now the all-purpose excuse for anything: COVID ate my homework.
Don’t have it, can’t get it, back ordered for who knows how long. I’m making do with the old one, and every time there is a strange noise in the snow blower, like when it picks up a piece of gravel or some horse poop, I worry that it’s the last of the chain tensioner. The back-up plan is pretty grim — the old John Deere without a cab and a blower that seems to spray the snow in your face no matter which direction the wind is blowing. I might spend some time at Home Depot looking for some PVC pipe fittings that could be repurposed if it breaks before the new part rolls in.
There has been a lot of interaction with neighbors lately. That’s partly a factor of the summer people not going home. Instead they’re winterizing their cabins, adding internet and digging in. One reported that there were three — count ‘em, three — mountain lions cavorting in his driveway a couple of nights ago. There have been lots of lion sightings in the last few winters, and deer carcasses turning up in front yards. I have no idea if that means there are more lions lurking in the neighborhood, or just a lot more people around to see them. But three lions prowling the neighborhood focuses your attention when taking the garbage out after dark.
A neighbor up the street called in a panic the other day. She was convinced there were hobos moving furniture around in her attic. It seemed unlikely, but I drove up to investigate. It was snow sliding off the metal roof. She had never heard that before. The attic was both hobo and lion-free.
Another neighbor has been launching his truck off the road. The road has a glacier across it. There is nothing different that I can account for, but this year, there is a foot of ice across the road with potholes big enough to swallow a Prius. That’s never happened before. For some reason, the neighbor with the Prius has been able to get in and out fine. Construction vehicles on a Walmart-sized house have no problem. But the guy with the new, quarter mile-long Ford F-350 is getting stuck. After the third time, you begin to suspect “pilot error.” It’s become quite the neighborhood social hour rounding up tractors, trucks with big winches, and so on to pull him back on the road. The record so far is five vehicles stacked up.
I have to confess that if he springs for a set of appropriate tires, everybody will miss the social contact. It’s been that kind of winter.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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Tom Clyde has a lot to worry about these days, with the coronavirus pandemic, the uncertain economy and airplane parts falling from the sky. Add mountain lions to the list.