Keeping Up

Miriam Honsacker, Vermont Public Radio

It’s been a strange winter. It rained a lot in the fall, so the ground was completely saturated before the first snow. Then we’ve gone back and forth between –22° three weeks ago to almost 50° yesterday, so every time we get a foot or two of snow, it becomes more water within a week.

As a result, our rural roads are a swampy disaster. Vermont has always known that there are five seasons to the year, with “mud season” nestled between winter and spring. But for the past two or three years, mud season has been the longest season of the year, from late November until mid-May, because we just haven’t had the two consecutive months of frozen weather that harden up the roads.

Being on our town’s selectboard, I’ve learned more than I ever imagined I would about the care of unpaved roads. (I woke up this morning, 16° and really windy out, and my first thought was “great, this’ll help evaporate the mud.”) In a normal winter, the road crew would go out in a storm and keep plowing the frozen dirt roads, finishing the storm with a coat of mixed sand and salt to bring some grip to the plowed surface. But when the roads are like this, you don’t want to plow, because you just push mud up the road and tear up the surface worse than it had been. And you can’t bring the big equipment up, because you just sink in while you’re trying to carry the gravel to the work that you need to do. So our road crew is putting in ten- and twelve-hour days, six days a week, trying to lay stone and rebuild failed shoulders in preparation for what looks like a foot of snow on Tuesday.

We make our plans, we lay out a course… and then things happen, and we have to do our best every day with what falls on us. And there’s something noble about just keeping up, about sighing and putting on your jacket and going out and doing the daily stuff. One of our crew members was talking with me this morning while he was loading stone, conferring over where the rough spots were. I thanked him for all the work he’d been doing, and he smiled and said, “My wife asked me when I thought we could have a whole weekend off. I told her probably about mid-June…”

Take courage in the daily work. Step up and take it on and do it again, and again. You don’t think people notice, but they do.