Commentary by Ward Degler
It took an hour to shovel the walk and the driveway after the Jan. 11 snowfall. Before the snow, people rushed to grocery stores to prepare for a weekend indoors. Cars were slipping off the roads as soon as precipitation began.
The first measurable snowfall is always like this, and it reminds me of colder moments from my past.
In the winter of 1979, I was living in a century-old farmhouse in Minnesota. Winter showed up on Thanksgiving day.
It started snowing around noon. Big, fluffy flakes. By nightfall, the snow was a foot deep and showed no signs of stopping.
The next morning we found ourselves in a winter wonderland. More than two feet of snow, and still coming down. I waded out to the barn, cranked up the tractor and plowed the driveway. It continued to snow.
Saturday dawned with more snow and a brisk northwest wind. I plowed the driveway again and realized that I had made a mistake. Instead of plowing the snow downwind, I had plowed into the wind. The wind responded by drifting it back over my driveway.
The county road crews made the same mistake. No sooner had their plows rumbled out of sight than the road began drifting over again. They started plowing twice a day. The road kept filling up.
I worked in the city some 40 miles away. To get to the main highway, I had to plow my driveway and a half-mile of farm road.
I started plowing at 5 a.m. Afterward, I ate breakfast and slogged off to work. Back home at night, I parked at the end of the farm road, donned heavy boots and fought my way through the drifts to the barn and the tractor, plowed the drive and the road to my car, nosed it home and into the garage, where I plugged in the block heater for the night.
The snow continued to fall for the next two weeks. The wind never slowed, and at some point the temperature plummeted into minus territory, where it stayed until after Christmas.
The snow got so deep the county switched to front-end loaders and dump trucks to remove it. My driveway had walls of snow nearly 6 feet high on both sides.
I was never sure when it ended. I just realized I hadn’t plowed for several days and the sun was shining. I felt like a bear emerging from its den blinking in the light.
I spent the rest of the winter planning my move to the warmer climes of Indiana.