Getting Back Up a Hill
Last week, on a snowy day in Peacham, I went out for a drive. The purpose of the drive was to find a friend’s house, stop by and say hello. I got a bit lost and took it as an opportunity to explore some the back roads that I still don’t quite know very well.
It started out as a beautiful drive. Snowy dirty roads and pristine empty fields whitened as flakes danced across the horizon. All of the houses looked warm and cozy with plumes of smoke billowing from their chimneys. Really bucolic stuff.
At some point, while on Green Bay Loop, I took a turn that started to lead me down a hill—a very steep and unplowed hill that was coated in a solid sub-layer sheet of ice. The rented Kia Sportage I was driving couldn’t handle it at all. I tried to creep down the hill as slowly as possible, but I would fish tail every ten feet or so.
Even if I wanted to turn back and go the way I came, I couldn’t. There was no way that I could possibly get up the hill. I was having enough trouble as it was getting down the hill. The only option was to slowly slide down the hill and avoid hitting a tree or careening into the stream that ran alongside the road. I stopped the car for a moment to confirm that I had the proper insurance coverage for however this little adventure would end.
After roughly a mile of wiggling down the hill, I encountered a massive skid loader blocking the road. Massive metal chains were wrapped around the machine’s adult person-sized tires. A beat up pick up Dodge Ram with a “Make America Great Again” bumper sticker sat parked next to it. I slithered to a stop. I got out of the car. A man in his 40s wearing a beige Carhartt jumpsuit got out of the skid loader. An older man with a cane got out of the pickup truck.
“Am I blocking your way?” asked the man in the jumpsuit. He had the thickest Vermont accent I have ever heard.
“Uh, I think I’m a little lost,” I said. “Does this road lead back to one of the main town roads?”
The old man laughed.
“You don’t want to keep going this way. You’re on a snowmobile trail,” chuckled Jumpsuit. “It just gets worse from here.”
Defeated, I asked, “My only way back is up the hill, huh?”
“You’ll never make it up the hill in that thing with those tires,” declared the old man, his accent surpassing Jumpsuit’s accent for the title of Thickest Vermont Accent Ever.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” offered Jumpsuit. “I’ll drive up the hill in the skid loader. Between my weight and the chains on the tires, it should be enough to break up the ice. You can follow me up. Just make sure you really gun it when you drive up. If you’re not going fast enough, you’ll just slide back down.”
I was shocked. Here this guy is in working during snowstorm, encountering an absolute fool, and he is offering help.
“Thank you. I would really appreciate that,” I said.
Jumpsuit got in the skid loader and turned it around. I got back in my car and turned it around. The old man stood on the side of the road.
“Wait for him to get up the hill before you go,” said the old man.
“Ready?” asked Jumpsuit.
“Yeah. By the way, I’m Morgan. I never caught your name,” I said.
“I’m Steve and that’s my dad,” he chirped.
And with that, the skid loader rumbled up the side of the hill. I could hear the ice crack as its massive tires turned. After about five minutes the skid loader was mostly up the hill and out of sight. Steve’s dad motioned for me to go.
I pushed my foot on the gas pedal and released the break. As I started to gain speed, I floored it. With the ice now broken I was able to accelerate and was moving about 40 mph up the hill. The further up the hill I went, the more the car seemed to struggle getting up the hill.
As I got to the top of the hill, I saw Steve standing next to his skid loader. He waived. I slowed the car and waived back. He then waived more furiously, like a third base coach trying to get a runner home. I took it as a sign that I shouldn’t stop to thank him again and that I should keep going.
I drove off. Hopefully, I’ll cross paths with Steve again someday.