Tales of a snow plow operator

These are stories from Doug McConnell, whoworked in the Wilkie, Revenue, Kerrobert and Kindersley areas from 1960-73.

December 1964 - While making a trip to Compeer, Alta. on Highway 51, I had a new assignee who had not spent any time on a high speed plow and was nervous. We were coming to a large snow bank that I estimate at eight to 10 feet high on the right side and four to five feet wide on the left with a V-plow on a Diamond T truck. It wasn't the fastest equipment, but you certainly had to hang on, because when you go through a solid snow bank it's going to throw. The trick was to go as fast as you could on the right side and you would come out on the left shoulder. Unknown to us, there was an elderly gentleman taking his cream can to town on a stone boat with one horse pulling the rig. When the horse saw the plow pummeling out of this snow bank, it immediately reared up, turned and booted it back for home, which resulted in the stone boat being flipped in one quick burst in the air. The cream can went lying as did the farmer. We had quite a bit of explaining to do to convince the farmer we had absolutely no idea he was there.

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January 1965 - A big Saskatchewan blizzard blocked the Biggar highway to Kerrobert leaving 10-foot drifts. There was a drift one mile long at the Junction of Highway 51 where a long row of trees stood next to the highway. The grader with a V-plow would punch a hole and we would widen it at high speed with the truck plow. While waiting to widen the clearance in this drift, we came across a truck completely covered with snow. Upon closer inspection, to see if anyone was in the cab, the truck moved. One of the operators was spooked about this as he believed someone was in the cab, but there was definitely not. After observing the truck a little more, the truck moved again. This was unnerving in the middle of a solid white quiet surrounding. Here we discovered the farmer was at an auction the day before and bought a large sow that was completely covered in snow in the box and once we cleared a spot out, she came bailing out and headed across country.

December 1970 - Another Saskatchewan blizzard and a call came from a small town that a young person was in dire need of insulin for their diabetes. A rescue team was formed with two snowmobiles, a large grader with a wing plow and two people on foot to walk the centre line of the road. Prayers were feverish as the wind was high making visibility poor. After a long afternoon, the insulin was delivered, but this story does not end there. Ten or 12 years later, while attending an anniversary celebration, a lady asked my name and I answered her, as I did not who she was. It turned out she was the person that required the insulin and I got the hug of my life as she believes we saved her life. It was what was done, without a moment's hesitation, all in a day's work in our job.

January 1975 - On a Friday, about quitting time another big blizzard blew in. A phone call was received that a woman was about to have a baby and couldn't get to the hospital. We were dispatched to open the highway to there home some 35 miles away only to find the gentleman who made this call was a bachelor. He felt so lonely he wanted to get to town and feared no other way of getting there than to create this sense of urgency.

December 1978 - Another blizzard hits. At Rockglen Highway 2 was blocked with drifts up to 10 feet high. A large blower was working on a half mile drift when they had trouble. A local farmer offered his heated shop to do repairs and the snow plow was soon back on the road. They had a 100 yard tunnel blown out and started in with the blower running when they saw something ahead. Much to their surprise they found a herd of cows wandering that had sought refuge in the tunnel for shelter. What a disaster this would have been if they had continued to go ahead. If it wasn't for the sharp plow operator they would have been making a lot of hamburger.

February 1978 - The worst blizzard to hit southern Saskatchewan in decades blew in. Friday and Saturday we hauled snow from the railroad fence to make a snowmobile track for Assiniboia snowmobile races as there had been very little snow. Sunday morning there was supposed to be a pancake breakfast at 6 a.m. and the weather was nice. We were worried about losing our hard work on the track. Around 9 a.m. a storm hit town, it lasted six days without a break. Every road in Southern Saskatchewan was blocked. There was no mail truck, train or buses. Everything was at a standstill. There were drifts on the highway so deep, that there is no way of imagining it in today's winters. A person hurt at the US border, close to our area, was unable to get assistance so a call was put out to the Glasgow, Mont. air base for help. They dispatched a helicopter with an instrument landing and were able to save the person. Lots of travellers were stranded for days and this entire system we were fortunate that there were no casualties.

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