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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)

TITLE: What's A Little Snow?
By Deborah Engle


Heavy snow obscured the glow of the streetlights, diminishing it to only a pale suggestion of brightness. With visibility this low, and as late as it was, Joe found it mystifying that the roads were still so congested. Growing up in Michigan can be dangerous he decided. “Everybody thinks they can drive through a storm without any problem.” Ice and snow were considered normal stuff around here, but Joe had seen plenty of accidents in weather like this. It seemed to him that anyone with any sense would get themselves home and stay there. That would sure make his job easier, but tonight, not many had made any concessions to the weather, and Joe breathed a quick prayer. “Lord, we’re all gonna need your protection tonight.”

Up ahead, the traffic light changed, so he slowed to a stop and disengaged the salt spreader. Traffic in the next lane edged forward, ready to outdistance the lumbering salt truck. Getting stuck behind the big orange behemoth would be to subject their vehicle to a shower of caustic pellets. When the light changed, Joe slowly shifted through the gears, giving way to the line of cars determined to pass him. Then, resetting the spreader, he settled in, crisscrossing the dark county roads. Hour after hour, load after load, he worked through the night and into the day.

“A noble profession.” That’s what his wife told him. “Yeah, sure,” he chuckled to himself. “The last driver that shot past me obviously has a different opinion.” Even though he was well aware that some consider the county trucks to be a nuisance, he was content with his job. It was an honest living and Joe thanked God for it. Plus, appreciated or not, he provided a vital service to the public, and that gave him a good feeling.

Returning to the yard for yet another load, he circled around to the end of the line. While he waited, he filled his thermal cup with the last of his coffee, savoring its lingering warmth. Two times so far, cars had spun out in front of him. No damage had been done, but that was the part of the job that stressed him out more than anything else. This little respite was sorely needed and Joe tried to make the most of it, willing his body and mind to relax. Through the windshield, he watched a front-end loader fill its bucket with tons of rock salt, maneuver into position, then dump it all into the box of the next truck. Assembly line fashion, trucks pulled up, got loaded, and pulled away. Within minutes, it was his turn, and soon, he too was on the road again.

Invigorated by the coffee, Joe headed out to open country. Insulated in the heavy truck, the rumble of the engine obliterating any outside noise, the howling wind had no impact on him. This two-lane road, however, had been polished to an icy glaze by snow propelled by the relentless blasts of unhindered, gale force winds. Two pickups and three cars, precariously positioned in ditches along the way, attested to the hazardous conditions. This area was in need of extra attention and Joe decided to make another run down this stretch of road.

Though he was weary, Joe didn’t realize how late in the day it was until passing a rural high school. Cars were beginning to move out of the parking lot, and he knew he’d have to be more vigilant now. He wondered how much experience these kids could have driving on snow or ice. His concern prompted him to breathe another prayer for their safety. “Seems like every storm that’s come along, I’ve witnessed the disastrous results of someone’s over-confidence.” To his relief, he realized that none of these teens appeared to be looking to impress anyone. “Maybe the sight of abandoned vehicles waiting to be rescued from the ditch has subdued their “need for speed.”

Exhausting his supply of salt, Joe headed back to the yard for the last time, ready to turn over the truck to his relief. A foot of snow now covered the ground. It took some time to dig his vehicle out, and a few more minutes before the frozen windshield yielded to the warmth of the defroster. Finally, anticipating another cup of his wife’s fine coffee he gratefully took himself home. Another sixteen-hour shift was over, and he had come through it safe once again.

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This article has been read 663 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 08/21/09
A sincere tribute to those who make our winter roads a bit safer. Nicely done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/21/09
Glad to share Joe's truck in keeping the roads safe. You did a good job of showing the heart of a dedicated worker.
Lynda Schultz 08/23/09
The perspective was unusual—and that set the story apart. Hurrah for the salt truck operators.
Jan Ackerson 08/24/09
"Growing up in Michigan"--we KNOW about those roads, don't we?

As far as spicing it up...maybe a climactic moment where it's obvious that his work has averted a tragedy?

The writing and characterization are dandy, and I enjoyed reading this!
Colin Swann08/24/09
A good interesting solid story. I felt almost as though I was in the cab viewing the important work. Thanks
Mona Purvis08/24/09
I had read it a couple times earlier this week. To me, it's a simple story that is on topic and very telling of the MC. What it lacked in suspense it offered in day-to-day truth.
I enjoyed it.
Beth LaBuff 08/24/09
During my midwest years, I always felt sorry for the road crews during winter storms. You've given us an eye-opening glimpse into their life. I have greater respect, now.
Mariane Holbrook 08/24/09
It's a good and solid entry. Don't be too hard on yourself. I think you'll be surprised how high you place with this one, and rightly so! Kudos!
Catrina Bradley 08/24/09
I love the smooth easy pace that eases through this worker's stressful day.
Ada Nett08/24/09
A smooth read that glides along nicely!
Dee Yoder 08/25/09
I love it! I think it has that every-man feel to it that I like. I truly enjoyed going through this man's day. If you do want to spice it up a bit, expand on one or two of those "oh-no-in-the-ditch" scenarios. (Maybe when he was on the icy road--that road had me tense--like I was actually driving there!)I could feel the stress in this man's shoulders as he tried very hard to do the right thing for the citizens.
Deana Thomas08/25/09
Your story put me on pins and needles, anticipating an accident that Joe fortunately prevented! Most of us have ordinary jobs that sometimes feel like drudgery. This story is a beautiful illustration of how important some of our monotonous tasks really are. Beautiful word pictures. I could see the snowy roads and feel winters cold chill.
Bryan Ridenour08/25/09
I could picture the icy streets and feel the MC's tension and desire for drivers to be safe. Great descriptions and well written!
Beth LaBuff 08/27/09
Hey, super congrats on your EC!!