I was talking with City Administrator Bill Reynolds the other day. With all the bad weather that we have had, we started talking about snow plowing. Bill said he was disappointed in the number of snowplowing complaints he gets. He is very proud of our snowplow drivers. He doesn’t think people know how much work goes into plowing. He had followed a couple plows that were working in tandem. Watching them work together, it was pure poetry.
As it turns out, my wife Jody is on the City Council. On Feb. 20, she asked for a snowplow ride in order to understand the job. She asked me if I would be interested in riding along. Why not? Who doesn’t want to see what is like to have your way with tons of snow?
That day, Shakopee received six to nine inches of snow. We met Public Works Director Steve Lilihaug and two of the best snowplow drivers, Jamie Theis and Keith Raines. I got in the truck with Theis.
Climbing into the truck is like rock climbing. We had air glide seats that I came to appreciate fairly quickly. Jamie explained that we were riding in two of the newest trucks. The truck was very impressive. Even though the truck with equipped with cameras, Jamie relies on the mirror on the fender the most.
It took a few minutes to get to Jamie’s route on the outskirts of town, near Lake O’Dowd. Jamie explained that he has been driving the route for 15 years.
When asked if he had the opportunity to take a different route, would he? He replied no. He lives out in the country and that makes him f eel at home. As we started to plow, Jamie pointed out a guy who was blowing out his driveway. He said, “I don’t even know his name but he is really nice. He always waves, using all five fingers, and he has even given me bottled water.”
As we were trying to get up a small hill, we got stuck. We had to back down the hill a couple of time. Jamie told me some days he spends more time in reverse that going forward. The plow had drop-down chains that are activated with a switch. Once you start spinning your wheels too fast, an alarm comes on and he will have to stop using the chains or slow down.
Again we backed up. Who knew you can still spin your wheels in a 60,000-pound truck? As we got free, a boy was on the street checking the mailbox. One thing about a snowstorm is that you have to focus on kids out of school.
We continued on to a new development on O’Dowd Lake. The snow was very deep and as it happens we got really stuck in the turn around. Chains down, chains up. Blade down, blade up. If you have the blade down, it takes the weight off the front tires. I asked Jamie if he had ever been stuck bad enough that he has had to have someone tow him out. To my surprise, he said that it happens fairly often. His route has no curbs and he slides off the road. I realized that this could be one of those times. Somehow, he managed to remain calm and we got moving again.
We passed a lady who was clearing her driveway, and Jamie looked over and said “I really hate this” as we added to her work at the end of her driveway. He talked about two guys who have very nice tractors. Occasionally they have the whole block plowed before he gets there. I feel Jamie is very fond of the people on his route and was my tour guide for the day.
I have always looked at snowplows zipping down the road with snow flying. It looked so easy, and maybe for these guys it is. I will never look at a snowplow the same way again. I will remember how complex and intense it can get and that there is someone talented and caring like Theis driving.
Bill Reynolds is right, it is like poetry in motion. Even when my driveway gets plowed in, I will always wave with all five fingers.
Proud to live in Shakopee.