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Precarious Plowing

It’s mid-March and another winter storm is expected to hit us. We had a foot just a week ago, since melted due to the warm, sunny days. The same is expected to follow this next storm. Wash, rinse, repeat. Each cycle creating a mini mud season with the road turning to muck.

I don’t mind the process of removing — or more accurately, moving — the snow when it falls. However, I still get nervous each time I mount the plow to the front of the truck and sit at the top of our steep hill, before inching the vehicle forward over the edge. Each time recalling the worst experience I had plowing my own driveway.

The side of a brown house with lots of snow not he ground after a new storm.
Our house during a snowstorm in 2019.

The first time we visited the house that would become our home, we slid backwards down the snowy driveway as we arrived; the experience nearly killing the desire to purchase the property. But we fell in love with the house and land, and one of the first things we did after moving in was remove a few acres of mangey, white pines that shielded the driveway from the sun.

For the last few months of winter that year — and the next winter — we relied on our next door neighbor to plow for us. Not a professional, but he had the equipment and experience we did not. By the next winter we decided we needed a second vehicle and opted on a used truck with a plow.

The first truck we bought was a lemon and the plow assembly that came with it was beyond repair. We sold that truck to another neighbor who had the same truck and wanted ours for parts. We threw in the plow. The next truck we looked at we passed on; however, we ended up becoming great friends with the sellers despite not purchasing it. The next truck we viewed we got for a great price because the seller was moving to Kenya to be with his daughter and son-in-law. We purchased a polycarbonate plow locally and had it installed.

A 2003 Tacoma with a small Fisher plow coming down a steep snowy hill during a snow storm.
Our old 2003 Tacoma mentioned in this anecdote.

The only problem was we had a challenging driveway and I had no experience at all using a snow plow. I practically dreaded the next storms that came. Thankfully, the next few snow events were small ones, on which I could practice, and I started to gain some confidence.

Maybe too much confidence.

One day we got a little over 4 inches (10cm) of snow, and I was late for work. I decided to simply put the plow down and drive to work with the plow mounted. I sat at the top of the drive, took a deep breath, and made my way down the hill, clutching at the steering wheel. The snow was a bit wet, but it seemed to go well. I may have pumped my fist.

I thought “I’m not too late, I may as well do another pass.”

An orange sunset glows over a fresh wooded snow scene with a small snow-covered barn in the background and a snow-covered bird feeder in the foreground.
Sunset over recent snow. December 17, 2020

I turned around and started to make my way back up to the top, but about three-quarters of the way, I started losing momentum. I knew quickly that I wasn’t going to make it. I tried down-shifting, but it didn’t work and I came to a stop.

Then I started to slide. Backwards.

I looked in the rearview mirror, and tried to guide the truck, but it ended up off the drive in the ditch on the left. I was stuck. I was not going to work.

I walked up the driveway, explained the situation to Sarah, and called work to let them know what was happening. Then I called a tow truck.

The truck arrived quickly and proceeded to connect to the front of the truck’s frame. I got in my truck, and put it in neutral. As the tow truck slowly pulled me out of the ditch and up the hill, I steered.

Then I noticed that the tow truck was sliding backwards — as was I. We were still tethered to one another.

I made the decision to ditch to the right and thankfully the tow truck opted for the left. When we came to rest, we were both stuck.

The tow truck driver called someone who ended up being a friend of ours, and while we waited for them, the tow guys were able to use their winch to get me unstuck — but still facing backwards. I was able to back down the drive out of the way for our friend, who tossed some grit under the tow truck’s tires allowing them to free themselves.

Everyone had a chuckle and I learned that I needed to back up the driveway due to the extra weight of the plow when doing more than one pass. Oh, and chains. Invest in chains. Thankfully the whole experience lasted under 2 hours, and I was able to get to work.

Side view of the 2003 Tacoma with its plow and chains on from January 2021.
2003 Tacoma with chains and plow in January 2021.
A dark grey 2014 Toyota Tacoma V6 pickup truck with chains on the tires and a yellow Fisher plow attached to the front.
The 2014 Tacoma we purchased in 2021 to replace the old truck.

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