Westport 2-12-11

It's been a fairly snowy winter-even though we haven't had a lot of big snowstorms, dustings to a couple of inches have been frequent and regular events. That means it's also been a busy time up at the Town Shed, since little snowstorms can be just as bad or even worse from the plowtruck driver's perspective than the big ones, depending on wind, temperature, and other conditions out on the roads.

Our biggest snowfall so far came last Wednesday, when forecasts of 8-12 inches proved to be pretty much on the mark. With the storm on the way, I thought it would be a good time to ask if I could ride in one of the trucks. So Wednesday morning I found myself getting a call from DPW Superintendent Jerry Sherman at about 5 a.m., after he'd called the drivers. (School had been cancelled, or else the call would have come at about 3:30, so that the roads could be cleared well in time for the buses.) Having spoken to Jerry the day before, I was expecting the call and made my way to the Town Shed. Drivers have about half an hour to get there when called to begin plowing.

Each driver has a truck that's "his," which means that he's responsible for driving it and maintaining it. I rode with my friend Thad Tryon, who's worked for the town for decades. We got in, and he backed the truck out of the shed, joining the other trucks in line for a load of material (sand and salt) behind the shed. Each driver also has a fixed route that he gets to know very well-down to every frost-heave and every tricky corner. Like the other routes, Thad's takes about three hours. I went home after one run, but Thad, like the other drivers, kept going out until the storm was over. He got a few hours of sleep, then started clean-up duties the next day.

I'd like to thank Thad and all the other town employees for sharing their knowledge and expertise with me so generously. This is the first of several columns on life at the Town Shed, where a lot goes on that we all too easily take for granted.

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