Looks like it might snow
December 24, 2015
We had a little contest in my neighborhood to see who could get their car the most stuck, with added points for style and degree of difficulty. We went from essentially bare ground to almost three feet in a matter of four days. A lot of it was that wet, heavy snow that turns to ice the minute you touch it. So we had cars in a variety of unexpected and improbable locations. Given how few people there are in the immediate neighborhood, it was a surprising number. I think some people had multiple entries.
I was out plowing the ranch open anyway, so everybody was quite willing to give up shoveling and get yanked out of the ditch with the four-wheel drive tractor. And purely on the basis that what goes around comes around, I was quite willing to pull them back on to something that was solid, even if it was slick. There will come a time when I need somebody’s very long jumper cables to reach the hood of a dead car parked nose-first in the garage, and they will be there. It works that way.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a multi-day storm like this. I’ve got more snow in the yard now than I ever did last winter or the winter before that. I’ve plowed more often, and more total times, than in the last few years. In fact, I was feeling somewhat culpable in the lack of snow because it just quit snowing the winter I bought the tractor with the heated cab and iPod dock. The most effective snow removal machine ever. All I had to do was park it in the garage, and it stopped snowing. I set up the payment on an automatic debit system because it was so humiliating to write out a check to pay for an expensive machine that mocked me. It’s earned its keep this week.
Despite my efforts, I feel like the storm is gaining on me. It’s getting harder to find places to push it, and the big piles at the corners are now making it impossible to see if anybody is coming down the road. You learn a bit about people when conditions turn rugged. For a while there, I felt like we were only hours away from the Donner Party. When neighbors meet at the mailboxes, there is a sense of sizing people up, just in case. Eliminate the kinfolk, and it’s slim pickin’s. Doors are locked at night. Then UDOT comes through and clears a path out to civilization, or at least the grocery store, where there is a slight sense of panic. Toilet paper is suddenly very popular.
But you learn who can drive in the snow and who calls in sick. One guy with an aging Honda with bald tires manages to get out and on the road to work long before the highway is clear. It’s magic. You see who will shovel somebody else out and who will wave as they drive by. Who will clear a place for the UPS truck to turn around without getting stuck, and who complains that their packages are late. You also learn to appreciate the people who keep things working. The snowplow drivers have been at it hot and heavy for a week now. I’m sure there are chances for some sleep and a meal here and there, but when I got up at 6 to plow my road open, UDOT had already been by.
A storm like this has been rough on power lines, and the power company people are out and about at all hours, cold and wet. Same with the phone company, whose junction boxes are hidden in the snow. UDOT completely buried the mailboxes, something that hasn’t happened in years, and somehow, the mail still got delivered. UPS delivered Christmas. I saw the propane delivery guy putting on the tire chains to make a delivery in a cabin subdivision with kind of sketchy snow removal. He probably takes them on and off several times a day, which is pure misery. The houses are warm and the pipes are flowing.
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Once again, the Christmas ski vacations have been saved by a well-timed storm. Things were pretty bony this time last week. Now the issue is avalanche hold. The skiing has been very good even if getting there is a challenge.
Anyway, in this community of embarrassing abundance, there are still people who need a hand, whether it’s shoveling somebody’s walk, giving them a ride to the post office, or donating to the food bank or other organizations that give hope to people who need it.
Merry Christmas. Do something kind for somebody else. It’s the best gift you’ll ever get.
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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