Stranded in the Snow

A recent snowstorm left us with a few inches worth as it passed through our region. This area is not well prepared for snow removal. The clustered cities allocate meager portions of the budget towards winter operations and keep a minimal number of snowplows on hand. They rely upon the usual moderate climate to provide natural road clearing within a few days of a storm. Major highways and primary roads through the cities receive the necessary attention, lesser roads and neighborhoods are untouched.

My grown son takes his employment seriously. His scheduled shift had him expected by 3 a.m. He hopped in his car after clearing the windows and backed out of the driveway at 2 a.m. The trip normally takes him 30 minutes or less. This night his progress was much slower.

The icy neighborhood roads had him crawling slowly turn by turn, street by street, exercising great caution to avoid spinning or sliding. The feeder road was slightly better and he made it to the highway without incident. The highway lanes were not clear. The snowplows had been prioritized towards the city center region and had made limited passes to the surrounding arteries.

He navigated a few miles before hitting an icy patch followed by frozen tire tracks left by someone else. His wheels slid into the frozen channels like a train car on rails and he had no choice but to follow them until he could stop. Unfortunately, the previous track maker had ended their journey off to the side of the road. Not fully in the ditch, but enough that his low-slung car had no clearance and wedged itself firmly in the snow bank.

At this early morning hour, few vehicles were travelling. The ones that were out carefully navigated their way past him and kept going. He sat in the car wondering who to call.

  • Mom and Dad? Would they hear the phone? Would they answer? Would they come and get him?
  • The police? It was not a life and death emergency (yet). Would they help? How?
  • A tow truck? He had never called for one before. Should he call one now? How much would it cost?

As he thought through his options, a white van pulled up behind him. Three men got out and began walking towards his car.

“Oh great,” he thought, “I’ve seen this movie. This is the part where I get killed and my body dumped in the ditch.”

The men reached his car and he stepped out to greet them. They spoke little but pointed and gestured quickly at the car and hooked a tow rope to the frame. They spread some sand around the tires and motioned for him to get back in the car. One of them backed the van while the other two watched until he was safely out of the ditch and back on the highway. They disconnected the tow rope, smiled, waved, and got back in their van.

My son called his boss before moving the car again. “I’m not going to make it in for my shift. The roads are too icy.” he said. Then he drove to the next exit and began working his way back home.

The Electric Snowflake (Part 3)

The Electric Snowflake shot through the sky like a bottle rocket. This was fun! Who else could circle the globe in an instant then stop on a dime? He dove recklessly to the world below, spinning wildly out of control completely without fear. Within inches of the ground, he stopped. He looked around and began to drift lazily over a small ridge. As he surveyed the landscape, he wondered what it would be like to touch down and stand in the grass wiggling his toes.

“NO!” he told himself.

That was the one rule above all others that he must obey. Never touch the ground. To do so would mean instant death to him and the slow death of his people above and the world below.

Other than that, he had it pretty good. His purpose was to trigger the snowstorms of the world. Only he could do it. He traveled all over the planet at breakneck speed to cause the gentle falling of white, puffy flakes on open meadows. He screamed to the mountains to inspire the mighty blizzards that whipped the craggy peaks. He cruised slowly to roaming countryside hills and sparked the dry, crusty snows that blew and drifted high.

It was a good post. One he took seriously and enjoyed. He was caring in his approach to his job. He took the time to survey the land before he buried it under a blanket of white. He made each storm fit the need.

He took time to meet with the Snowflake Squadron Leaders and mingle with the troops. He made sure they knew their assignments and boosted morale in the process. They were giving their lives so the world below could live. On his command, they swarmed from the clouds. Swirling and drifting with fervent abandon intent upon completing the mission. Occasionally, he dove with them. He directed, encouraged, and shared in the pride of the job.

Yet always, he remained alone. It was not all fun and games being solely responsible for the snowfall of an entire planet. After diving with a squadron and sharing their enthusiasm, he always felt let down. None of the folks he met could ever understand how lonely it was to be unique. He missed his childhood friends. Occasionally, he wondered what happened to this boy or that girl. All it did was make him sad.

It was during one of these dives that he saw HER. Out of the millions of flakes he’d met, she caught his eye. It was a gentle flurry over a sleepy little town scattered among the hills. She led a team to coat a barn roof. He glided to her and watched her blush at his approach.

The Electric Snowflake (Part 2)

The boy who would be the next Electric Snowflake was quite unaware of the council and its decision. He played a game of Shards & Sparkles in the Ice Crystal Garden with his friends. It was a close one and just as his turn began, a guard came up and blocked his light, causing him to score poorly. He turned to protest as his friends laughed but the guard cut him off by informing him that his father, the king, wished to see him – AT ONCE. Castell knew from the man’s tone that it was something very serious. He dropped the icicle baton from his hand and ran to his father’s chambers.

When Castell arrived, he saw his father looking sadly at a freeze-frame of his mother. He hesitated for a moment not wishing to intrude upon his father’s privacy. The guard at the doorway coughed twice before announcing Castell’s arrival to the king in a soft tone. His father put the freeze-frame back on the shelf and caressed it lovingly before turning to greet his son. His father informed him of the council’s agreement with the choice of the next Electric Snowflake.

Castell sat down hard on the polished frozen floor in shock. It was a childhood fantasy come true. The Electric Snowflake was the greatest hero in the eyes of all citizens of the cold regions. He alone controlled the snowfall for the world below. He could travel at incredible speeds and coordinate snowstorms in dozens of places at one time. The sight of a shining blue spark racing though the sky inspired cheers from everyone in sight. It was unbelievable that he, Castell, would be the object of such adoration. The thought thrilled him beyond comprehension.

His father brought him back to reality with the next few statements. The Electric Snowflake could never marry, have children, or even fall in love. It was believed such actions could weaken his power to the point where he may not be able to perform the duties of the appointment. There was no other suitable replacement anywhere in existence. If anything should happen to him, the fate of both their worlds could be at stake.

The Electric Snowflake (Part 1)

The council met with grim faces. They stared at one another with somber looks. The future of their kingdom was at stake. A wrong choice could destroy them all. A right one could save them but kill everything on the world below. All the possibilities had been considered. The council had debated for weeks.

All the potential candidates who might fill the vacancy and save them had been screened carefully: Only one met all the qualifications. But he was the leader’s only son. He could not be spared. The land would have no heir to the throne. The duties of the post required a lifetime to master. It was not a short-term commitment.

The king broke the silence. As he stated his decision, the council erupted in protest. All the old arguments began again. The appointment was too dangerous. Too many things could go wrong with the power transfer. If the boy should die, so would both worlds. Even if he lived, the world below might be saved but at the cost of their kingdom.

The king would not be swayed. He knew that this was the only possible hope for the world below. It was necessary to sacrifice his son for the good of all. He allowed the council to vent their opinions. He knew that they realized the truth. One by one, the members of the council fell silent. The king’s logic was obvious.

There was no other choice. No other candidate could fill the post. His son had originally been exempt from consideration because there was no other heir. Now they agreed that no other course could be taken. The king’s son would become the next Electric Snowflake.

Snowy Memory

The weather here in Virginia is turning, teasing us with the fall season.
Temperatures are milder, humidity is dropping into a more breathable range, and there is a crispness in the evening air.
As the season changes, it becomes a time for reflection and this memory from last winter came to mind.

#1 son came home from his job late in the night after we went to bed.

A single set of footprints come up the driveway and into the house.

This morning, all windshields covered with snow, except one-half of his.

Yes, one-half.
It seems he cleared the driver’s side enough to drive home (within the neighborhood all the way).

When asked about it, he said it was too cold to roll down the window and drive with his head sticking out. So he compromised and cleared his half of the windshield.

Ah, youth!