As the snow flies, this Carroll plow operator gears up

February 28, 1993|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Staff Writer

As tenderly as the fingers of a master pianist caress the keys of a piano, Wanda Hartlaub's fingers manipulated the multibuttoned control panel of her salt-laden snowplow truck.

Mrs. Hartlaub, the mother of 14- and 18-year-old sons, said she enjoys the outdoor life of working for the Carroll County roads department, cutting trees and hauling blacktop. But she especially likes snow-plowing the new developments west of Route 27 from Dennings Road to Taylorsville.

She said, "You get to know how low to place the blade of the plow just by the feel of the truck. If the blade is too low, you can feel the truck beginning to lug and need more power. When it's right, you know it."

For the past 3 1/2 years, the 41-year-old Littlestown resident has ,, maneuvered the 40,000-pound truck around the curves and trapped cars along her 50-mile route. The run takes her four to six hours, depending on the amount of snow on the ground.

Mrs. Hartlaub started working with the county as a part-time lawn mower operator and then took a driving test to operate a heavy truck. She passed and was hired full time, becoming one of two women who drive the big rigs for the county.

Under the county's snow-removal plan, the 48 snowplow operators must first drive over their routes spreading ice-melting chemicals on all the roads and then return to the starting point to begin plowing.

The snow-removal plan sends the trucks in one direction on each county-maintained road, pushing snow to the side. Then they double back, plowing the other side of the road and spreading chemicals over the entire surface.

Mrs. Hartlaub, who drove her four-wheel-drive vehicle from her Pennsylvania home to the county's Meadow Branch Road Maintenance yard at 3:30 Friday morning so she could open the streets and free those trapped by the early-morning snowfall, returned to the yard for her third load of chemicals by noon.

Riding shotgun with Mrs. Hartlaub on Friday was 68-year-old Len "Scotty" Yingling, who retired from the county roads force in 1989.

Mr. Yingling's duty was to be an extra pair of eyes for the driver, particularly when it was necessary to back up or squeeze between cars parked on both sides of a narrow street.

While working 12 years for the county, Mr. Yingling did much the same work as Mrs. Hartlaub, including driving a snowplow. He now works on a contract with the county, only when needed for snow removal.

Mrs. Hartlaub was born and raised on a farm in northern Carroll County. While growing up she operated all of the farm equipment, so driving a large truck came as second nature to her, she said.

Two young boys, who were enjoying the snow in place of school, signaled Mrs. Hartlaub to sound the air horn on the truck. They were rewarded with a single blast.

Later, two other boys ran across the road in front of the truck and then turned as if to cross again.

Mrs. Hartlaub just shook her head at the playful lads and drove on.

When asked what she liked best about plowing snow, Mrs. Hartlaub replied, "I like to see the snow fly to both sides of the road when it's deep. And it sure beats cutting wood."

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