Who is that Guy in the Cowboy Hat?

The big yellow grader passes by and you look up into the cab. There’s a man, with a big cowboy hat, smiling down. Who is that guy?

We all know him as Tom. He is here on the ranch most days, pushing and smoothing road base. He keeps our roads pristine. We wave and marvel at the skill he uses to drive and coordinate the big yellow machine.

And then there is winter. For several winters in a row we’ve had mild conditions. Three inches comes and melts before lunch. The road budget for snowplowing carries over until the next year because Mother Nature has been kind. This year has been different. According to our resident weatherperson, Ernie Parker, the weather station shows January snow fall at 15 inches (weather data is located on the SFTR website). February data isn’t listed yet-but there was a lot of snow at my house! The cold temperatures have kept the snow with us longer. Three storms that have dumped enough snow, over all 80 miles of roads, to stop us dead. Residents hunkered down near their fires. A few intrepid folks attempting to go to work getting stranded.

Then there is the miracle of Tom, out in the storm from 0900 until 0430 the next day clearing our paths. The skill so perfect, when you view the road after the plow goes by, the snow is evenly dispersed, as if creating an ice rink. And when the sun comes up, it seems to melt much quicker. How does Tom do it? He was raised on a ranch between Montrose and Gunnison on the western slope. He grew up and helped on a sheep ranch. Tom learned to operate many types of equipment on the ranch, then went to work for the highway department in 1979. He transferred to the Trinidad area in 1989. He retired from the highway department in 2009. Tom couldn't stand retirement so went back to work a year later. The Andreattas were friends with Tom and asked if he would like to take care of the roads at SFTR. He said he would, and that's how SFTR got so lucky. You will on most days find him in his motor grader with his sweet dog Daisy. She goes everywhere with him.

When asked to tell his favorite snowplowing adventure story, he replies there is nothing fun about snowplowing. He enjoys his job on the ranch and is thankful to all who appreciate him. And wants to thank everyone who watches out for him and keeps him fed on those long nights.

Tom happened to be out-of-town when the storm-before-last hit us. I am told he fretted about not being here, though his reason was a most important engagement. As it happens in an amazing neighborhood like ours, an army of Plow Angels descended to clear driveways and rescue stranded folks They worked anonymously to move around that white stuff. Your neighbors are grateful for your kindness.

We want to thank you Tom and all Plow Angels for keeping us safe and on the move.

-- Submitted by Maureen Latham