Greetings from the Ridge.
I’m sure you’ve been there. You sit in the store’s parking lot, the temperature hovering somewhere between chilling and killing as you try to summon up the courage to get out of the car and make a break for the automatic doors. You gauge the distance and wonder if you can dash all the way to the store without breathing, knowing that the first gasp of artic chill will stab your lungs like a blast of killer popsicle. Then you see him hurry by.
Most stores hire a young man to retrieve the orphaned carts from the lot’s frozen surface. He’ll gather up an aluminum train of about forty rickety-wheeled carts then push them back into the store where you’ll hope they thaw out enough to grab. Here I sit worrying about simply walking into the store while this kid is spending eight hours on the set of Dr. Zhivago for my convenience. He’s my winter hero.
A few weeks ago I received a polite but pointed email from a fellow connected to the power company. He took exception to my depiction of his employer as a greedy predator. His words were courteously firm as he told me that perhaps I’d better check my facts when I talk about how power companies determine their rates. I appreciated his input and wrote him back saying that I have a grammar checker on my computer as well as a spell check, but that my fact checker is completely busted. I’ll leave fact checking for the page one news. My column is usually back in page four or five. In others words, he was correct and I was a columnist.
And I went on to tell him that when I’m huddled together with hubby Herb in our little Nissan with the power lines down and the north wind blowing right up my tailpipe, then I have no greater heroes than those supermen out climbing the icy poles. There’s no one I pray for more fervently than the boys at the power company once the lights go out in Coonridge. We’re partners….you climb the pole and I’ll talk to God. You’re my winter heroes.
The entire maintainance and road crew of Coonridge consists of two guys, both of whom jump into action once the first snowflake winds its wintry way toward the streets of our town. Some flakes don’t even get a chance to hit before our lone orange truck knocks it to the side of the road. Winter heroes… gotta love ‘em.
And there’s something wicked in the winter air when fires and roadside emergencies begin cropping up during ugly weather, but nothing stops our local fire and rescue team as they hurry from their mechanic shop or office desk, don a rubber suit and dash to the aid of someone in trouble. Heros all.
We used to have a fire chief named Hugh Timley who took it upon himself to crawl into his own personal tractor and go up and down the streets, scraping out the driveways. He was never paid for this service, but Hugh believed in serving people . . . as a winter hero.
And although you’ll pay a fee for their services, these hardy and perhaps half-crazed folks who crawl into their tow truck and skid their way to your ditched car can surely find easier ways to make a living. I can imagine no sweeter sight than a pair of flashing yellow lights as you sit crossways in an Interstate median. Heroes all.
Sometimes you get your heroes by the dozen. I doubt that the American Midwest holds the franchise on hospitality and good will, but it’s seldom you’ll need to be pulled out of a snowdrift in Alabama. All I know is that when the temperatures drop, acts of simple kindness seem to rise across the Corn Belt. Phones start ringing as we check on our neighbors, break out the jumper cables, and start baking casseroles just in case the folks down the street lose power. If these cold winters have an upside it can be found in the warm hearts of our friends.
Lena Ebberly lost her husband Ralph several years ago but she’s managed to do well living alone on the west end of town. She’s no longer able to scoop snow and walk behind a lawn mower, but she gets by with a little help from her friends. When the first winter blast hit us back in January she was so besieged with phone calls, neighbors dropping by and cookies left on her doorstep that she taped a sign on her front porch saying, “God bless you all, but I’m okay! Really!”
Hurray for the Heroes of Winter!
You ever in Coonridge, stop by. We may not answer the door but you'll enjoy the trip.