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Old Harry Would Like Our Snowless Winter
by Jean & Phil Ropp


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While we are finding the lack of snow traumatic this winter, there was a time in the old days when such a winter would have caused our old pal Harry Anderson a lot less consternation.

Harry's gone now. He passed away about a year ago, having survived well into his late 80s. We miss old Harry and the stories he used to tell. Stories of working in the sawmill for $1 a day, farming with horses, cutting ice in the wintertime. But Harry's best story goes like this:

Fifty years ago in Leelanau, so the old timers tell it, the winters were much rougher than what we have today. Whether this is really so or merely the result of memories changing over the course of time is open to debate, but without the modern snow fighting equipment we have now-a-days, it's for sure that the winters back the must have at least seemed tougher.

Anyway, back then few people had their own snow plows, snow blowers were unheard of, and the primary weapon in the war against Old Man Winter was the shovel. Harry drove plow truck for the county in those days; a great big old Osh Kosh monster that roared and belched black smoke as it pushed the snow off the roads.

Now Harry was a good guy and a good neighbor, and he came up with an excellent system for keeping his friends plowed out in the wintertime. If you were in need of a plow, Harry would have you put the flag up on your mailbox, and when he passed your place on his plow route, he would make a quick turn up your driveway, plow you out, and be on his way. That is, he would be on his way after he made a quick stop at your mailbox for a pull on the liquor bottle that was stashed there as a "thank-you " for his trouble.

One day, during a particularly vicious winter storm, Harry's plow route was lined with upright mailbox flags. It was a terrible storm, and everyone needed a plow, but for Harry this meant more mailbox "thank-yous" than usual, and by the end of the afternoon everyone's snow was plowed and so was Harry.

The last stop on Harry's route was Louie Shalda's place, where we now reside. Louies's place was last because, being a close friend, Harry knew he could count on old Louie for a "thank-you" at the end of his route, even on slow plow days. But on this day all Harry wanted to do was make a couple of quick passes for Lou and head back to the truck barn in Maple City.

Well, Harry made his first pass, opened up the drive to the barn, and proceeded past the barn, down a hill and into a drift that even the old Osh Kosh couldn't extricate itself from. The old truck bellered like a chained bull and smoked like a steam engine, but proceeded to only dig itself in deeper.

Louie arrived at the scene, cussing poor Harry up one side and down the other (as they used to say). He pulled open the driver's door to the truck and Harry poured from the cab. Louie got Harry into the house, and Louise Shalda began to pour coffee into him, spiced with a good scolding. Meanwhile, Louie picked up the phone and called the neighbors. "Harry's in trouble," he told them, explaining the situation. "Bring anything you got that can pull."

Within minutes they began arriving at the Shaldas'. Trucks, tractor's and teams of horses stood by as their operators pondered the situation. Some how they hooked up this odd assortment of equipment to the old Osh Kosh and with a mighty effort pulled it back from its snowdrift purgatory. By this time Harry was in good enough shape to make it back to Maple City, the county road commission was none the wiser, and Harry continued to plow driveways in this fashion for many more winters, though he did learn to take a little less in the way of "thanks."

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