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Magic Mood Jeep©
December 24th 04, 04:23 PM
The following story caught my eye in our local paper's online edition. It's
a pay-to-view site, so instead of placing a link here, I am pasting the
whole story below, inserting my comments occasionally, preceded by ******

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Dashing through the snow in a six-ton, six-wheel plow
by Kurt Van der Dussen, Herald-Times Staff Writer
December 24, 2004

It was a little after noon on Thursday when Danny Truelock slipped his
six-ton dump truck, with its huge plow blade and 11 tons of sand-salt mix,
into the first of its eight gears and rolled out from the county highway
garage just west of the fairgrounds.

*****Danny Truelock is my best friend's step-dad! I wasn't aware that he
now worked for the city!!!!!! <silly-jig-dancing ensues> My best friend's
step-dad made it in the paper! My best friend's step-dad made it in the
paper! <silly-jig-dancing ends with embarrassment when dancer notices
several bewildered kitty-faces looking in her direction>

The next 4 1/2 hours on the road in the wake of an 18-inch snow would be
enough education for any rational soul never to grumble at a plow driver for
covering a mailbox or the end of a driveway.

The veteran driver had just had some coffee after a sand-loading break in a
marathon that had begun about 4 a.m. Wednesday and continued to nightfall
Thursday with only one real break.

"Couple of hours' sleep last night, couple of hours' shut-eye when you can,"
he said nonchalantly as he headed up Airport Road to Ind. 45. "I'd like to
be home sometime tonight, take a good, hot shower and get some sleep."
There'd be more mop-up operations today.

His route took him across roller-coaster-hilly southwest Monroe County, down
narrow roads like Ketcham and Popcorn and even narrower one-lane ones such
as Thacker Road, Bennett's Lane and Cedar Bluff Road, with a run back to the
garage for a refill of sand in the middle of the route.

***** I've lived in Monroe County for 11+ years, and I don't know where
these roads are...

For Truelock, though, the worst frustration wasn't any of those difficult,
even dangerous, roads. It would come at the end of his run in a small
subdivision south of Clear Creek.

So many cars were parked along the streets, most half-covered with snow,
that it was an obstacle course. He tried to plow one side street, but
reached two vehicles - one on each side of the road - that were so close
together, he couldn't get through.

***** And people wonder why I hate subdivisions, even driving through them
when the roads are *clear* is a PITA.

"There's a good example," he said, alluding to an earlier chat involving
Truelock, dispatcher Mike Teague and highway superintendent John Chambers
about how the county's subdivisions are the toughest to plow.

It was just noon, only a few hours after the snow had finally stopped
falling, and Chambers said, "We've had at least 60 calls already," most
complaints from people in subdivisions. In most cases, he said, the callers
were from streets and cul-de-sacs that were blocked by cars.

***** And they expect the plow to get there *how*???

The department's first task in tackling 685 miles of roads is to open major
arteries, then clear secondary rural roads and the subdivisions. Truelock
said there's a good reason for that.

"No point in doing a subdivision, and they get out on the road and get
stuck," he said.

Truelock is in his 11th year with the department, a time spread on and off
over four decades. He also was around for the infamous Blizzard of '78.

***** *I* remember '78.... I was in Junior High, and could stand on a snow
drift in front of our house, reach up and grab the roof, and clamber up!!!!
I remember walking downtown after the worst was over & the majority of the
streets were clear. On a corner lot of a gas station was where the street
dept had piled the snow from the intersection.... the pile was about 2
stories tall .... and on *top* of that snowpile was a VW Beetle (a bright
yellow VW Beetle) LOL

"That was the worst I've ever seen, and I hope never to see anything like it
again," he said. "I think we worked 48 hours without sleep."

Asked how many miles he'll put in, he replied, "We don't go by miles; we go
by hours." In this case, his occasionally harrowing duties Thursday
afternoon would log 64 miles, an average of maybe 13 1/2 miles per hour.

At South Old Ind. 37, Truelock turned off the highway and headed down to the
forked entry to Ketcham Road. He hadn't gone 300 yards before he passed an
abandoned pickup truck off the edge of Old Ind. 37 stuck in deep snow -
hardly the only one he'd see.

"We usually stop to try to help if we can," he said. "But in a storm like
this, you'd be stopping all the time and never get done, so you call in (and
report it). You got to get your job done."

Ketcham Road is no picnic on the best of days, a skinny snake of a lane that
weaves up, down, left and right over ridges and through valleys until it
finally ends at Popcorn Road about a mile west of Harrodsburg.

Truelock seemed alert, almost fresh, given all the hours he'd worked. He
attributed it to "a lot of coffee, but a lot of it is adrenaline. You're so
tense."

The tensest was at about 4 a.m. Thursday when he was plowing these roads in
whiteout conditions in such high winds that he was lucky if he could see the
edge of the roadway.

"Last night, we were just keepin' it open. Today, we go out and widen 'em
out," he said of the plow drivers' task.

It was sunny, and the snow-covered scenery was spectacular. As he lumbered
up and down the hills, he'd periodically pull a lever that would start the
sand spreader. He said the department uses a mix of three parts sand to one
part salt, mainly for cost reasons. He said he wishes they had the money for
the salt-and-molasses mix that state highway crews spread.

As he drove on, most of the occasional vehicles on the road would squeeze
over to let him by, then grin and wave. But near the south end of Ketcham
Road, he ran into an exception.

He'd just finished plowing Thacker Road, a side road wandering back a mile
to a dead end. He'd had to back out the final third of a mile because there
was no place to turn around.

Back on Ketcham Road, he came to a halt, confronted by a dinky maroon Nissan
with a young woman at the wheel. She wasn't inclined to yield, so Truelock
patiently backed up several hundred feet over a hillcrest to Thacker Road,
where she could get by. As she passed, she smiled benignly.

***** I read that as "dinky moron Nissan" :)

"Lotta people don't pay attention to the radio (reports about a snow
emergency), and we spend a lot more time doing this than we ought to have
to," he said without any obvious irritation.

At Popcorn Road, Truelock turned east. His next task was Bennett's Lane, a
one-lane road running south from the west edge of Harrodsburg into Lawrence
County. The road seemed to be swallowed up in the snow and woods, and he had
to back up at one point to take another run in order to crest a hill. Down
in a creek valley, a herd of bison pawing through the snow for grass gazed
curiously at the loud intruder.

***** Didn't think there'd be Bison in Indiana, didya?

Truelock soldiered to the county line, where there was a turn-around, then
plowed back the other way. Then it was all the way back down Popcorn,
Ketcham, Old Ind. 37, Ind. 37, Ind. 45 and Airport and Kirby roads for
another load of sand.

As he neared the garage, Truelock realized he'd missed a side road off
Ketcham - Cedar Bluff Road. So after reloading, back he went a dozen miles
south to get it. It would be worth it.

Cedar Bluff was the narrowest road yet, choked with snow - though there were
tracks through it. By now, the sun was sinking lower, and Truelock twice had
to stop, back up while laying down sand, then charge up hills to get to his
stopping point, a place where the road turns into a seasonal one that the
county doesn't plow because it is so steep and rough.

A few hundred feet short of that point, out on the wooden deck of a house
socked in the snow, a woman in a red coat watched the approach of the truck
with a grin that could be seen in the cab. As Truelock rumbled by, she
jumped up and down, waving wildly and clapping her hands.

She clearly didn't care less if he threw some snow over her driveway or
mailbox.

It might have been the night before Christmas Eve, but to that lady,
Truelock and his big, red truck were more welcome than Santa.

Reporter Kurt Van der Dussen can be reached at 331-4372 or by e-mail at
.



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