Snow plower braves the elements
Mother Nature uncorked a sidewinder of a storm Sunday, closing schools, sending brave churchgoers home early and canceling numerous holiday events.
But as thousands of residents throughout the region huddled indoors, watching football, baking holiday treats, wrapping gifts and trying to stay warm, Barry Munson sprang into action.
He hopped into his Dodge Ram pickup and began plowing out the 17 clients he removes snow for.
Like dozens, probably hundreds of other snow removal contractors in Hubbard County, Munson braves the elements to make sure his customers can get to and from their own jobs. One of his clients is an apartment complex. He leaves in the dead of night Sunday in blizzard conditions on icy roads to ensure those tenants can get out and about first thing Monday.
"I'm sorry, I'll have to make two, three passes," he apologizes to a rural client. "It's so deep it's going over the top of my plow."
He advises customers as to road conditions and which contractors plow township roads. He gives his expert opinion on snowfall amounts based on experience watching what his blade plows through.
"I think we've had 14 to 16 inches," he said of the weekend snowfall.
He guides the Ram expertly through the snow, around the bumpers of submerged vehicles, back and forth, piling up mountains of snow.
This Ram is his old one. His new one had a mishap in the wee hours Sunday morning when the rest of the county was sleeping.
He was plowing a road on a remote point between lakes Emma and Lower Bottle when he encountered waist-high drifts.
"I could see the snow was 4 feet deep but I couldn't really back up the hill," he said.
He plowed on. That's when the Ram's transmission gave out. It'll cost him $5,500 to replace it. He finished plowing out the point, then backed home nearly two miles in reverse, his only remaining gear, a tricky drive in the dead of night.
Monday he lost an additional two hours of work attaching his plow blade to the old Ram. His fingers were stiff from the cold when he finished.
Munson works construction during the spring and fall. It's been a rough couple years for him. His window company was doing well until a downturn in home building affected the entire industry, him included. Two spec homes he built sit unsold on the market. There's not much for winter construction.
He remains optimistic that things will turn around. He reasons they can't get much worse.
Meanwhile, he's grateful when a customer offers him more than his customary modest rate for a hard job, plowing deep snow.
"Thank you," he says. "It would be a blessing."
He's hoping that a white Christmas will put some green in his wallet. He's thinking it might be a stretch to ask Santa for a new transmission.
But if Santa grants wishes for those who plow, he might look kindly on a man who works through sub-zero nights to make sure vehicles - and sleighs - can get to their destinations.