More Dogs on Main: The blackbirds are back |

More Dogs on Main: The blackbirds are back

If you see a plow driver, buy him a doughnut

Tom Clyde

Park Record columnist Tom Clyde.
Tom Clyde mug

The other day I was refueling my snowplow tractor. Again. It was cold enough that the handle on the hose was uncomfortable to hold on to, and the diesel was flowing slowly because the filter on the bulk tank had iced up. I got counting, and realized I’ve burned almost 90 gallons of fuel on snow removal so far this year. And I say “so far” because there is nothing to indicate that it’s over yet. Last year’s total was about 20 gallons.

There are a lot of metrics for a winter like this — total inches of snow at the resorts, which is good news, and  total inches of snow on my roof, which is bad news. My house has a metal roof that was designed to slide off, but there is a glacier up there that isn’t moving. It’s cantilevered out from a second-story dormer and may land on the dining room table if it all lets go at once. I’m hoping that it will gradually melt back before it all comes crashing down. But nobody’s getting up there in these conditions to do anything about it. We’ve shoveled roofs on the farm out-buildings four times and they could use it again. My brother’s grandsons built a ski jump off the roof of the tractor shed. 

Another metric is the gallons of washer fluid wasted trying to keep the salt off the car windshield. The wiper blades are getting chewed up by the junk on the windshield, and the best they can do is smear things around. UDOT has done a great job keeping things open, but the amount of salt spread out will have Jordanelle as salty as the Great Salt Lake come spring. I bumped into one of the UDOT guys at the Kamas Chevron, loading up on doughnuts and Mountain Dew for another long shift. He looked absolutely beat. Through all of this, I’ve always been able to get out of my driveway. There have been a couple of days when the traffic jam coming into Park City was so bad I turned around and went home, but that’s not his fault. They’ve been right on it; city and county crews, too.

Normally, between storms, they have a chance to push the snowbanks back. My road is the last one they get to, and there really hasn’t been a “between storms.” So the highway is getting narrow as an Old Town street. But it’s cleared and dry, which is nothing short of a miracle in these conditions. If you see a plow driver, buy him a doughnut. Same with a ski patroller. They have done an amazing job getting the mountains open and keeping things safe. There are days when it’s frustrating that the top of the mountain isn’t open first thing, but they are doing their best. It would be interesting to know how far over budget they are on explosives.

There is a count of powder days — it’s pretty much all of them. I can’t remember many days of disappointing snow conditions since early December. It’s not just stormy, it’s staying cold. I could count on one hand the number of days when there was enough sun to cast a shadow, except that my fingers are all balled up inside my duct-taped mittens and too frozen to extend. Still using hand warmers. It’s getting on mid-March, and I’m still dressing like it’s deepest, darkest February. Some years I have my road bike out by now.

This weekend we change the clocks to Daylight Time. My mailbox is full of seed catalogs. Ace Hardware has a big pre-season lawnmower sale. Yeah, right. Like I’m going to see my yard before the Fourth of July. A guy can dream, I suppose.

Needless to say, it’s been a long, relentless winter. There’s snow in the forecast as far as they can guess.  That’s kind of funny because the official pre-season forecast was for a pretty much normal winter in terms of temperature and snowfall. They missed that by a mile. The hornets built their nests in the very tops of the trees last fall. They knew what was coming. Hornets 1, Science 0.

I was breaking the icicles off the garage the other day. They really posed no danger to anybody, but knocking the icicles off the garage makes me feel like a 10-year-old. And then I heard it. I heard spring arrive. The red-winged blackbirds are back. It’s probably 20 years ago when a neighbor and I bumped into each other out at the mailboxes. It had been another of these Donner Party winters, and her place is really isolated, even compared to mine. We were commiserating about broken snow blowers, stuck cars, and constant drifting snow so we had to plow even on the days when it didn’t snow. And suddenly, right there at the mailboxes, we heard the red-winged backbirds trilling in the willows along the riverbank. We knew right then that it was going to be OK. A few tears of joy were shed, and ever since then, the sound of the blackbirds at the end of a long winter is about the happiest song I know.

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