Snow jockeys ride on

Where would we be without them

The dawn breaks and like church bells pealing, the flash alert notice strikes joy into the hearts of children throughout the Valley. Welcome snow day!

We adults grumble more than rejoice, for instead of snowmen and sleds in the day ahead, we foresee shovels and plows and spinouts.

Luckily for many of us who live up long drives or down hollers, there are a few brave souls out there who rise with each snow day to bring comfort to us weary, under-equipped grown-ups.

Call them snow jockeys, black ice buckaroos, or cowgirls of slush - they are the guys and gals who aim to tame the snow - some for extra cash; some with a sense of neighborly duty.

They arrive with tractors, pickups, four-wheelers or riding mowers souped-up with blades. They face the sometimes-impossible steep driveway laden with 3-foot drifts and hunker down with fervent determination.

Over on the West Side, neighbors arrive in every possible vehicle - each intent on helping neighbors dig out from the 2- or 3-foot accumulations from overnight snowstorms that leave many stranded.

To these wonderful, hardy souls - Joan, Russ, Tim and Steve, plus their paid helpers, Buck and Josh -we send this small homage to the snow tamers. The names may be different in your neighborhood, but the shared can-do spirit is the same.

For without their willingness to risk an axle or two, none of us "country-folk" could ever relax in the winter. We would instead be working like our forefathers quilting, smoking pemmican and skinning the animals we nabbed on the trap-line, while holed up in our snow-sealed cabins.

For the "newbies" in town, it may still be a mystery how so many people manage to get to work when snow levels reach car windows. They may naively think that the city or the county snowplows somehow manage to fly through the night like Santa, clearing drives and opening roads.

While both road crews are stupendous and accomplish much given their short staffing levels, the miracle is also brought about in great part by two old-fashioned values found in abundant supply here in Hood River: a community willing to help one another and a supply of people still filled with the wild-west entrepreneurial spirit.

Neighbors help each other when they can, and when they can't do it alone, there is someone in town who is willing to work hard, face the elements and risk the job to bring in some extra cash.

Next time you see a guy in a cowboy hat behind the wheel of a Ford F-350 equipped with a blade, give a nod to that current-day Buffalo Bill, or if it turns out to be your neighbor chugging down your drive, plowing the path to freedom, recognize the gift of living in a small town and your luck at enjoying that gift.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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