No need to plow ahead in winter

It was a Saturday night, and I was a 17-year-old kid who wasn’t about to stay home.

That was despite the heavy, falling snow at my out-in-the-boondocks home.

Those of you who grew up in rural areas, such as the one where I spent my early days in upstate New York, know those barely-a-lane-and-a-half, crowned roads that usually were ignored by the plows until the snow storm passed.

But, for goodness sakes, it was Saturday night. I couldn’t stay home to watch TV, which then featured about eight channels. No way.

So I went out and got into my American Motors Ambassador, the one with the up-and-down as opposed to side-to-side radio dial. This old beater hardly could get me to destinations on dry roads. But away I went.

I didn’t go far, either, to a buddy’s house a couple of miles away.

The trip went smooth enough and, once again, I had made the right decision, not wasting the moment.

Yes, I was smarter than my dad, who just happened to work for the New York State Department of Transportation. His job in the winter was to plow roads.

Now this was a different time and place, when safety for the truck drivers or the general public was not a big concern. Snow plow drivers such as my dad would work 48 hours straight in bad storm conditions, and I always remember the sight of him, completely worn out, after such a marathon of plowing.

It was not surprising that my dad preached to me constantly about the weather. Above all, he would say, respect a winter storm. Stay home.

That would be followed by, “I had better never have to pull you out of a ditch after I plowed snow for two days.”

After the Saturday night with my buddies, it came time to go home. The snow still was falling, but it only was a couple of miles. What could go wrong?

Everything was going well, too, until I got to this hill about a half-mile from home. The front of my car suddenly started to go to the right, and the back went to the left. The Ambassador was going forward, but sideways. I was steering left, but it just didn’t matter.

My car refused to go any farther up that hill and began to have a mind of its own as it headed for the ditch. Plunk. I was stuck, but good.

Nothing I could do would get me out. Yikes. I had to make the dreaded call. Dad, can you get me out?

I still remember the big, New York State truck pulling up to my car, my dad getting out and hooking a chain to the front of my car. He didn’t say a word as he got back into the truck, but just gave me a look that I never will forget. The kind that burns a hole through your forehead, then goes south, all the way to your toes. For a kid who loved and respected his dad, it was the worst kind of punishment.

I never drove out again in that kind of storm, at least not without an important reason.

On Saturday, it was easy to reflect on that moment as Bedford North Lawrence administrators were trying to decide whether to postpone the girls basketball regional, one that included Columbus North High School. Noon had come and gone, and the basketball tournament still was on.

Just about everyone else in the area had postponed their events, but BNL was still trying to decide as the snow piled up higher on the roads. I wasn’t happy about making the drive to Bedford, but at least I have four-wheel drive.

Do you?

I am not suggesting that schools going into a full-out panic due to an inch of snow. Certainly, though, we all had been warned that this was going to be a considerable storm.

And these events aren’t just about getting the athletes safely to a venue. They are about parents and fans and fellow students all getting in their cars and driving.

When you measure inconvenience against safety, it should be no contest.

Yes, the event eventually was postponed, but it was dangerously close to going forward. It should have been an easy decision.

So please administrators, take my dad’s advice, respect a winter storm. Don’t wait until you get stuck in the ditch, or something far worse, to understand the meaning of those words.

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at or 379-5632.