Ode to the Snowplow Man

February 03, 2000|By KEVIN COWHERD

In the dirty gray dawn, you come

Rumbling down slush- choked streets

Asphalt scraping, mighty orange plow clearing a majestic white swath as you

Sit there, high in the cab

NASCAR cap pulled low, walrus mus- tache, beefy hand clutching a 16-ounce cup of Royal Farm coffee ...

Pack of Winstons on the dash.

Who are you?

Never mind. I know who you are.

You are ... Salvation.

Without you, I sit in this house

The schools closed, Nintendo game blaring

Kids screaming: "He hit me!" "She hit me first!"

Then I hear you, up the block, like distant thunder

The Snowplow Man!

Come to set me free.

Mr. Snowplow Man, we know how hard you work

When the weather turns grim.

Salting, sanding, plowing 16-hour days.

Sure, there's beaucoup overtime -- time and a half, right? -- and yet the

Weariness is etched in your face.

Look at those bags under your eyes, like

Twin pieces of Samsonite luggage.

No matter. When the weatherman freaks us out -- Tasselmyer, Turk, Norm Lewis and the rest -- and

White, puffy flakes fall from the sky and

The Super Fresh fills with wild-eyed pilgrims demanding their

Holy rations of bread, milk and toilet paper.

Then, like John Wayne you saddle up and ride into town

To clean up the mess. Praise God!

But sometimes, Mr. Snowplow Man, you tick me off.

Burn me up. Get me steamed.

Put yourself, for a moment

In my soggy, cold L.L. Bean boots.

I shovel, shovel, shovel 'til -- final- ly! -- the vast expanse of

Driveway is finally clear and I stand hunched, sweaty and heavy-breathing,

My lower back screaming.

Then, here comes the Snowplow Man

Tire chains tinkling merrily, the big, orange blade rumbles past -- whoosh! -- and

A wall of wet, gray snow is pushed back into the driveway.

Man, at times like that, I could

Just scream.

Three vertebrae out of whack al- ready and now

Another half-hour of shoveling looms, all because of you.

"Damn him," I say, at times such as this.

"Damn, damn, the Snowplow Man."

Then there was the morning you

Clipped my mailbox.

Sent it flying through the air, end over end, like a

Wobbly Matt Stover field goal in slo-mo.

Sure, I could hie to

Home Depot, maybe, or BJ's or wherever and buy

Another mailbox. A better one, even, maybe one painted with pictures of canaries

Warbling sweetly or a desert sun- set tableau, which seems to be all the rage now.

But I am not made of money, Mr. Snowplow Man, no siree, bob.

That mailbox you whacked, it didn't say Rockefeller or Bill Gates, right?

Did it?

So let's be careful out there, OK?

Geez.

Yet most of the time, you are my hero.

Lord of the Road, the Asphalt Cowboy, modern-day Samari- tan with your Richard Petty sideburns and rugged, aviator shades and detached coolness.

We line the grimy street on snowy morns and wait for you

Like starving refugees waiting for the bread truck.

Then -- huzzah! -- the roar of an engine, a flash of orange, a cloud of blue-black exhaust and you rumble by.

One pass, maybe two, and now there is a way out of this frozen gulag where before there was none.

Man, I could kiss you! (Hey, no funny business, I'm talking on the forehead here.)

Instead, we raise our shovels to the sky, in a silent salute to

The Snowplow Man!

And sweet freedom.

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