I cannot follow a plow truck, or look out the window during a snow storm without thinking of my grandfather. He worked for the town of Whitefield, NH most of his life. This meant he spent every snowy day & night rambling the roads of his town, doing his best to keep it safe. He never bitched or moaned about his job, I honestly think he loved it, and saw himself as a steward of town. One with a job to do, keep people safe.
Grandpa Brown with his retirement house. An old school bus, he decked out in his free time.
My grandfather was a widow for as long as I knew him, as his wife/my grandmother died when I was 3 months old. Most of my childhood he lived with his mother, ‘Grammy Brown’. When I was little he lived at her house, and later in my childhood the roles reversed, and she lived with him, in his house. I was practically attached to Grammy Brown by her apron strings, which meant I spent a lot of time with my grandfather as well. He was a man of few words, a man who liked to watch time go by. He was simple, predictable, and reliable, and his job in many ways defined him.
In the winter he slept on the couch in the living room; close to the phone, ready at any minute to get called out. When a storm was forecast, he would set about preparing for the inevitable night on the roads. His lunch box was a sturdy, old, metal thing, large enough to hold a couple of sandwiches, some snacks, and an emergency soda; in case his sugar dropped. He was diabetic, which meant he carried a needle with insulin, and a sugary treat just in case. Along with his lunchbox, he carried an enormous thermos filled with coffee. I always loved watching him put together his road pack, specially watching him fill up the thermos with coffee. I loved the little cup that screwed onto the top, and thought how fun it must be to drink out of it.
As a child, watching my grandfather prepare for a winter-storm , was like watching Indiana Jones prepare for an adventure into a hidden temple. Everything was prepared, just in case it was needed. Flashlight batteries were checked, extra clothing was packed, and rations were laid out.
My grandfather told stories of his wintery adventures. One that stood out, involved a blizzard and a VW Bug. Like all towns, there were winter snow bans in Whitefield; simple really, if we are expecting big snow, don’t park in the road, and like all towns, there is always someone who does not think this rule applies to them.
One snowy night, during a heavy snowfall, my grandfather was out on the roads in blizzard type conditions. It was late into the night, and he had drank as much coffee as his bladder could handle, when he headed up onto South Whitefield road. South Whitefield road, winds up and over a long hill. It’s rural, and heavily wooded. You don’t see much traffic on it, but the roads are a bit narrow. My grandfather was about half way up the hill when he came across a complex of family houses, place where all the neighbors were related to each other.
One of the younger cousins of the complex had totally ignored or forgotten that his car should not be in the roadway. When my grandfather came up the road, with his plow blade down, he did not see a car in front of him, on the side of the road. He saw a snow drift, much like half a dozen others he had seen that night. When he hit the snow-drift, it became apparent that it was not snow, but was indeed a car. The VW bug was completely lifted off the ground and shot into the snowbank, as if it was no more then a block of ice. My grandfather being the matter of fact man, that he was, didn’t even stop. He just kept driving, chewing his gum, and rumbled a bit to himself, about how the dumb-ass shouldn’t have parked his car there.
Another story that sticks out to me; when I follow a plow truck, or sit comfortably on my couch during a snow storm, is of a local man I have communicated with in Spirit. Many of his family have been to see me for Spirit Communication and he loves these visits. He worked for the town road department, right here in the Northeast Kingdom; in Sheffield or Wheelock, VT I believe. Like my grandfather, he was dedicated to his work; stopping in to the family holidays and dinners when he could, but the roads came first.
Whenever he comes through, he always shows me his plow truck. One of the stories he likes to share, is how he went off the road, and put his plow-truck on it’s side. It was during a big storm, with a lot of ice. Coming down a steep hill (I believe Square Mile Road), his truck ended up in the ditch on it’s side. I always wonder what kind of tow-truck it takes to get a road-truck out of the ditch.
I think about these Winter road-warriors, whenever I start to complain about following a plow truck, or when the roads are so bad, that I am thankful to follow one. I think about the long hours, through blinding, warp-speed looking snow, and ice. I think about drinking lots of coffee, and trying to stay focused and awake, while everyone else is hunkering down. I think about the time I watched a plow-truck with chains on, have to back down Newark-hill (the hill I live on) unable to make it up the icy incline. I think about the challenges of a job that many of us take for granted, and I am thankful.
The next time you run into someone who you know plows for a living, whether they are working for the state, or plowing your driveway, remember to give thanks. There is a lot of sacrifice made to keep our roads safe for driving.