Opinion: Let’s talk about snow plows


Seems like a good time to talk about snow plows, what with winter nipping at the back door and all. Most mornings you can tell if it snowed overnight by the grinding of the snow plow on the road. That, and the snow it plowed now blocking your driveway.

The first snow plows were made for trains. A heavy wedge-shaped device on the front of the locomotive cleared the tracks ahead. Anyone who remembers the scene from the movie “Doctor Zhivago” where the train is laboring through deep snow in the Urals will probably enjoy a romantic twinge at the thought of it. Even more so if you’ve also lived in the North Woods of Wisconsin and watched logging trains struggle through waist-deep drifts.

The first plows for roads were pulled by horses. When the automobile came along around 1913, Good Roads Machinery Company of Kennett Square, Penn., built the first motorized snow plow for the New York City Street Cleaning Bureau.

Amazingly, Good Roads still manufactures plows at its factory in Dunn, N.C., a recently snow-bound place on the map that just got reacquainted with the finer workings of snow plows after years with little or no snow.

In 1923, brothers Hans and Even Overaasen of Norway invented the first snow plows for use on cars. I wonder if they knew then that one day half the pickup trucks and SUVs in the country would have snow plows attached to their front bumpers.

Some places just naturally have lots of snow plows. Green Bay, Wis., for example. If its fleet of plows was weaponized, it could probably win any war on the planet. Actually, you can do a lot of damage with just the plow itself. Ask any unfortunate motorist who got drifted in on the highway and was buried out of sight of the plow driver.

My favorite snow plows are the plow-snow blower combos used to clear rural roads in Minnesota. These dump truck giants roar down the road at highway speeds, while the huge blower in front sends a fountain of snow a good 50 feet beyond the edge of the road.

Truth be told, that usually included the first 50 feet of my driveway as well. Those days I relied on an ancient Massey Harris tractor with a plow up front to keep my drive clear. Some days I relied on it two or three times a day.

These days my snow removal equipment consists of a single snow shovel and a kind and generous neighbor who has a plow on the front of his truck. Around the first of March snow removal will consist of waiting patiently for spring thaw.