I live in the Pacific Northwest, about ten miles from the sea, nestled against the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The Cascades get tons of snow each year, and Mt. Baker, right next door to us, is snow capped year round. But down here at sea level, we get maybe one or two inches twice a year, and it stays on the ground only a day or so before it warms up and the rain starts again.
Ever so often, though, we get a perfect storm where cold Arctic air pushes down from Canada and meets the moisture laden air from the Pacific and we have a snowfall of a foot or more that hangs around for weeks. When that happens, schools and church are cancelled and people mostly stay home.
Recent move-ins, especially those from northern climes where it snows lots, make fun of us and tell us how snow doesn’t faze them. That’s usually before their first trip out when they discover that the roads haven’t been plowed. Usually their comment is, “This is insane!”
It’s a matter of economics. Snow removal equipment is expensive, and we get so little snow that it’s hard to justify in the budget. The state has plows for the main highways, and the county has a few plows they put on the front of sanding trucks. They do the best they can, but you can count on it, if you venture out, you’re going to be driving on compact snow and ice.
We haven’t had any appreciable snow in the four years since we sold the farm and moved to town, but two weeks ago one of those perfect storm things dumped about a foot and a half of snow on us. We live on Red Headed Step-child Street—we live in town, but people across the street from us live outside the town limits. They’re in the county, so ours is always the last street to see a plow. We didn’t see one at all during this storm.
Last Saturday evening, the rain started pouring down, and by Sunday it had turned the snow to a slush that was challenging even to four-wheel drive. Our driveway and the street just in front of our house were pretty bad, though a block away, the main roads had all been plowed.
I stood at the window, eyeing the driveway, thinking about snow shovels and arthritis, and weighing the odds of making it to the open road the next day to get to work, when here came my neighbor on his little tractor with the front-end loader.
He got busy on our driveway, and another fellow from a farm down at the end came with his larger tractor and started on the street. In a couple of hours, even my little rear-wheel-drive car could make it out to the good roads.
What a great service our neighbor rendered to us! We have only a talk-in-the-front-yard acquaintance, but he was mindful of this older couple and reached out to us in a most significant way, adding his mite to answer the question, "Who is my neighbor?"