Snow job: the life and times of a Tahoe plower
We don’t meet at the local coffee shop and chat about our work. Most of us don’t even know one another. Our social acknowledgment is a mere wave and knowing glance when passing one another in our equipment. Snow removal operators are a paradoxical bunch, independent but tactfully social.
One must constantly compromise with a public that is completely lacking in logic. A normally rational person can become quite the opposite when driving or parking in the unfamiliar snow environment. When the guiding, painted lines of the road are lost in white obscurity, anything goes. It is now reasonable to park in the middle of the highway. This is also a good place to repair or install your chains. Letting your children play in the road is suddenly OK.
“Let’s make a snowman,” as the kids on sleds slide down the road-side shoulder into the blades of my blower.
People become the cattle, and I am the snow cowboy. My horses are the loader, a plow or a blower. The articulating loader is my saddle horse – fast, nimble, and imposing. A stray calf car zips into the parking area that you’re clearing, you gallop and herd them away. If you’re too abrupt, they turn into stubborn donkeys. We get results talking to them slowly, or we lasso and tow.
The plow is my mule, trustworthy, deliberate and smart enough to stay on the road. The blower, the draft horse, head down, slowly removing all in its path. It can also remove objects from its existing blast of snow, like a few windows from the Rainbow Lodge. Whoops. Mishaps regularly occur when working with snow removal equipment.
I know a guy who tore the hood off of a car with a blower. Funny thing was, it was his car. Another guy I know drove a grader straight over a Mercedes. At least he thought it was a Mercedes; he didn’t stop to look. And there’s the story of the Caltrans worker who, in shock, ran away from his blower after creating a huge spot of red snow. He thought he’d chewed up a person, but it turned out only to be a few cans of automatic transmission fluid.
That’s the dilemma we face – extremely dangerous equipment operated in the most perilous weather conditions, among a silly, snow happy, careless and clueless public. Just try stopping a chained four-wheel-drive plow when traveling at working speed. You can’t. The snow itself can create the mood. Large parachuting flakes are calm, whereas stinging, blowing, icy grapple is unnerving.
Personally, I love it all.
The more severe the storm, the more I like it. The deeper the snow, the better. During a big storm, when you can barely see 20 feet ahead, you’re only creating access. Just plowing a trough for the cars to get through. No questions, serious business. It’s after the storm is over, and you’re cleaning up, that you get time for contemplation and public entertainment.
Usually, I just have to laugh at people’s behavior. I rarely get mad, it’s not my way. But at times, I’m saddened by the selfishness of some people. I’ve been told to shut my equipment off because someone didn’t like the smell of diesel. I tell people to move away from the operating equipment, and they step back 6 feet. And when they clean the snow from their overnight parked cars, they take what seems like forever. So obsessively detailed, brushing snow off the door handles and all the while you wait. You wait so you can hurry up to continue plowing and provide access to the winter wonderland.
Tim Gorman is a Truckee resident and snow plower. Be sure to wave hello to him and his fellow plowers this winter.
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