Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)
TITLE: What's A Little Snow?
By Deborah Engle
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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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