We Have to Do Better Than This

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Well, the forecast is still for beaucoup snow, and we’ve decided we’d better bring in more groceries today rather than wait till tomorrow. We shall see what happens.

As I learned from my experiences as a reporter, snow removal is often a contentious issue in small towns. Generally they’ve already spent their snow removal budget on other things months before the first snowflake falls. Then it snows and they have a crisis, and the residents are fit to be tied because their streets aren’t getting plowed.

I am reminded of a colossal snowstorm here, many years ago, in which the town councilman in charge of activating the Public Works Dept. for plows, etc., was nowhere to be found. It was a quirk of government that only this guy had the authority to put the plows to work: they couldn’t move until he gave the word.

It turned out he was spending the night with his girlfriend and didn’t realize it was snowing like crazy. The next day, of course, he discovered that we’d had two feet of snow, so he finally told the plows to go ahead. They would’ve had a much easier job of it if they’d gotten to work 12 hours sooner.

Pressed for an explanation of why he hadn’t been available when they needed him, the best the councilman could do was, “Well, it ain’t snowin’ now!” Made it stop, then, did you? Attaboy.

I’ve attended more than a few town council meetings that melted down into ire and rancor over snow removal: no one likes getting blamed for it not happening. I’m reminded of one night when the Public Works foreman practically frog-marched a vocal critic into a DPW truck for a tour of the township so he could see the lads were hard at work everywhere–not just lazing around the township garage drinking beer and watching TV, as the critic had slyly suggested. He had no choice but to go on the tour–and the whole crowd insisted on waiting till he was brought back, so they could enjoy his humiliation.

And you want to give government more power?

9 comments on “We Have to Do Better Than This

  1. It reminds me of a snowstorm in Denver on Christmas Eve, 1982. It was an unusually heavy snow and they didn’t have the equipment necessary to deal with it. A serious suggestion was made by a politician, that they should use garbage trucks to pack down the snow. The mind staggers.

  2. Snow removal was pretty simple in Cheyenne when I was stationed there in the early 1970s. It usually amounted to shoveling a path to where you wanted to go and then waiting a day or two until the wind blew all the snow into Nebraska. I’m exaggerating only slightly. They did clear the major streets — all three of them? — and highways, and yes, they were usually prepared for sudden squalls.

    I remember only one of these sudden storms where even our Base was caught flat-footed. It had been a beautiful spring day, and we were entertaining a visiting inspection team at the Officers’ Club. During the evening, someone started to leave the Club and discovered he couldn’t get the door open because a sudden blizzard had come up and snowdrifts were blocking the doors. It wasn’t a bad place to spend the night, though, and in the morning some of my troops showed up, having shoveled their way through to us, to bring us winter wear and get us out of there. We had to walk, though, since our cars were drifted in up to the windows (and, in a few cases, the roofs). By three days later, almost all the snow had blown away. I’m not making this up.

    1. Having visited Cheyenne many times, I can relate. When I’d drive up I-25 from Denver, when I hit the border, I automatically turn the steering wheel 1/4 turn to the left, because the wind kicked it precisely at the border. I know the Dell Range Road can be like skating rink, at times.

    2. Cheyenne is a wild place. The wind blows out of the west, constantly and they can have winter storms which are epic. It’s a nice place, in many ways, but the winter winds are brutal. I’ve been there many times, and always enjoyed visiting, but I don’t think I could stand to live there.

    3. I loved Cheyenne despite the wind and the cold. In fact, a surprising number of officers and NCOs whom I was stationed with retired there because it was such a great place to live. The wind could get fierce at times, though. During one windstorm I had to drop to my hands and knees and scuttle from my car to my front door to keep from being blown down. But the wind sure did keep the air fresh and clean!

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