The dawn breaks and like church bells pealing, the flash alert notice strikes joy into the hearts of children throughout the Valley. Welcome snow day!
We adults grumble more than rejoice, for instead of snowmen and sleds in the day ahead, we foresee shovels and plows and spinouts.
Luckily for many of us who live up long drives or down hollers, there are a few brave souls out there who rise with each snow day to bring comfort to us weary, under-equipped grown-ups.
Call them snow jockeys, black ice buckaroos, or cowgirls of slush - they are the guys and gals who aim to tame the snow - some for extra cash; some with a sense of neighborly duty.
They arrive with tractors, pickups, four-wheelers or riding mowers souped-up with blades. They face the sometimes-impossible steep driveway laden with 3-foot drifts and hunker down with fervent determination.
Over on the West Side, neighbors arrive in every possible vehicle - each intent on helping neighbors dig out from the 2- or 3-foot accumulations from overnight snowstorms that leave many stranded.
To these wonderful, hardy souls - Joan, Russ, Tim and Steve, plus their paid helpers, Buck and Josh -we send this small homage to the snow tamers. The names may be different in your neighborhood, but the shared can-do spirit is the same.
For without their willingness to risk an axle or two, none of us "country-folk" could ever relax in the winter. We would instead be working like our forefathers quilting, smoking pemmican and skinning the animals we nabbed on the trap-line, while holed up in our snow-sealed cabins.
For the "newbies" in town, it may still be a mystery how so many people manage to get to work when snow levels reach car windows. They may naively think that the city or the county snowplows somehow manage to fly through the night like Santa, clearing drives and opening roads.
While both road crews are stupendous and accomplish much given their short staffing levels, the miracle is also brought about in great part by two old-fashioned values found in abundant supply here in Hood River: a community willing to help one another and a supply of people still filled with the wild-west entrepreneurial spirit.
Neighbors help each other when they can, and when they can't do it alone, there is someone in town who is willing to work hard, face the elements and risk the job to bring in some extra cash.
Next time you see a guy in a cowboy hat behind the wheel of a Ford F-350 equipped with a blade, give a nod to that current-day Buffalo Bill, or if it turns out to be your neighbor chugging down your drive, plowing the path to freedom, recognize the gift of living in a small town and your luck at enjoying that gift.