The Prairie Spy

Alan “Lindy” Linda

There are several seasonal subjects about which I have written. Wood ticks. Fishing opener. Deer hunting. Those are just a few. Perhaps it is ego; perhaps it is lack of faith; whatever it is, first columns about those subjects are columns which I don’t think I can improve. Here is another: The first snowfall.

With each new snowfall, finding my mail becomes more and more of a problem, due to a snowplow driver who shall remain anonymous but whom I shall name “Banger.”

Banger comes with each new snowfall, you see, driving one of those big orange gravel trucks with a salt-sand spreader on the back and a huge snowplow blade on the front that scours snow from the road and flings it far into the ditch.

Far into the ditch. With my mail.

Had my knee surgeon seen me thrashing around in the ditch most winters, floundering around hip-deep in ditch snow like a beached whale trying to get back out to sea, he would have had a heart attack. You want a cardiac workout? Come get my mail.

A Christmas or so ago, I noticed that the usual box of small loaves of banana bread from cousin L. did not come. I thought no more about it, until the following March, when I went down the driveway to get the mail, and saw the corner of a box sticking up out of the snowbank in the ditch. Lo and behold, it was my cousin’s package, preserved perfectly. Christmas in March. I wanted to thank my snow plow driver.

So, with no more ado, I went and found Banger, to interview him. He’s quite a character. He’s so unique that it’s like I made him up.

We were in his truck, bombing down my Highway 54, our own little moving blizzard, when this interview took place. I asked him: When did you first decide you wanted to be a snowplow driver?

He said, “You know I think it began clear back in high school when some of my rowdy friends and I invented a game called mailbox baseball.” He was grinning quite proudly as he spoke.

Look, I told him, I don’t think you invented that game. Juvenile delinquents have been knocking over mailboxes with baseball bats since the pony express passed on. (He seemed quite disappointed, really.)

“Watch this,” he said, as I saw a neighbor’s mailbox looming up ahead on our right. He sat up straighter in his seat, his brow furrowed in concentration, his pupils enlarged slightly for better vision. The mailbox came closer. “The trick is,” he said proudly, “to hit it just hard enough to spin it around in a complete circle, but not knock it down.” He went on to say that since mailbox stands had been invented for rural use that would spin in a complete circle, his life and other snowplow drivers’ lives had been enriched immensely.

“BANG!”  said Banger, as I saw the mailbox go by on our right in a flurry of snow. I couldn’t even tell he had hit it. There’s a great deal of skill involved in this, it turns out. “Yes!” he exclaimed, pumping his non-steering hand.  “I spun that sucker around completely.”

He went on, discussing intelligently the calculus involved in a successful mailbox hit. “There’s geometry,” he said, “and some differential velocity calculus, all of which are necessary if you’re going to compete seriously.”

Oh yes. It turns out that Banger and others like him get together at the end of each snowstorm and compare counts and techniques and velocities and such. You and I, my dear rural readers, have always suspected as much, haven’t we.

But, I said, what about the mail? It’s strung out all over a snow-filled ditch.

“Oh,” he replied innocently, “is it?” He winked at me, and said, “I once propelled a J.C. Penny catalog over a hundred feet!”

Really, I said. That far? “Yes,” he said, “and never tore a single page.” “BANG!” he said, as he hit another one.

We plowed along and “banged” several more mailboxes. Behind me in the rear-view mirror I could see circulars, envelopes, catalogs, miscellaneous mailings—all strung out across snowy ditches.

Maybe I made this interview up, you’re saying?

Maybe I did; maybe I didn’t.