Following the Plow

When I worked for a daily newspaper in western Mass., I drove a good country road, Route 143, from the small hill town where we lived through two others to a valley city. Most of the year, it was a pleasant 45-minute commute with long views, deep forests, occasional wildlife, and very few vehicles. A traffic jam typically involved three cars stuck behind a logging truck on one of the route’s steep hills.

But then, there was winter. I dreaded November. Rain that month meant black ice. And that was just the start of a long season of digging ourselves out of deep snow.

Lucky for me and other drivers, those little towns spend most of their money on schools and roads. And the men who maintained the roads took their jobs seriously. They deservedly got a wave and toot of my Subaru’s horn when we passed.

After depending on them for so many years, I also got to know their work habits.

Snow piles up outside our former home on Route 143.

When freezing rain or snow fell, the highway crews hit the steep hills first so they don’t lose them. That included the one in front of our house in Worthington. When I saw a truck’s strobing yellow lights move down that slope I knew a storm arrived.

I left for the newsroom at 6:10 in the morning. I knew by then the plow trucks were out on the roads. I had faith when I reached the end of my town, the Chesterfield crew made its pass already. I kept going until I reached the Williamsburg line. Here was another hill. Again I lucked out. It was rare when I didn’t.

Sometimes we got hit with a storm at work and my boss let me leave early. I learned the first time I shouldn’t go at noon. No matter the weather the guys took their lunch break then. If I waited until 1, they were back on the roads. I’d take a left onto Route 143 and find a cleared path.

Often I met the plow and gratefully followed it uphill all the way to the next town.


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