The worst weather brings out our best

The afternoon of Dec. 12, 2022, the phone rang and it was Michael, my snowplow driver. "Lady (he always calls me 'lady'), I've been thinking, and I just don't know what to do with you." He said he drove into my driveway a short way, dropped the blade and back bladed, but had no place to take the snow. We'd received 16 inches overnight, in this second of three snowstorms in about a week's time.

Michael is a wonderful neighbor who has kept our driveway free from snow problems ever since my husband, Gary, broke his hip three years ago. If Michael didn't know how to proceed with plowing my driveway, I sure didn't. The temperature was hovering around zero, but I said maybe the weather would turn warm enough to have a "melt down". That would take away some of the volume. Perhaps it might even rain.

I told Michael that I'd looked out the windows that morning and then opened both the front and the back doors to check, and realized that I could do nothing. I was just getting over COVID and I didn't want to jeopardize my health by shoveling snow. So, I'd decided to instead focus on wrapping Christmas gifts to put into the boxes I hoped to mail to Colorado soon. My plan was to ignore the "elephant" in the room, for the time being and I told Michael to please not worry about me.

He said his neighbor across the street had a tractor, but the neighbor was busy using it on his driveway and was scheduled for shoulder surgery the next morning. I knew the neighbor he spoke of to be the Palmer Fire Chief. I said, "I have a perfectly good tractor sitting in my yard that my brother knows how to operate, but he's busy with his own snow troubles in Anchorage". Before his health problems, Gary used his tractor to keep our driveway clear. My job was to keep the deck clear. We worked well as a team, but now Gary is living in the Pioneer Home. Michael and I hung up without coming to a solution.

About 7 p.m. that night, I heard unusual noise out in the driveway. When I looked out the window, I saw a piece of equipment moving fast and piling snow very close to my well casing. Since it had an excavator hanging off the back, I didn't recognize it to be a tractor, in the dark. Immediately alarmed about possible damage to my well casing, I put on my boots and ran outside before even zipping my coat.

On my way out the door, I grabbed a flashlight to use to signal the driver. Last year when the snow piles at the end of my driveway and the subdivision road got too tall for his plow, Michael rented a backhoe/loader and used it to move snow. I'd forgotten about his comment that the Fire Chief had a tractor and thought perhaps Michael had rented the backhoe/loader again.

When the driver noticed me approaching, he stopped, looked in my direction, and even though he was totally bundled up against the cold, I could see it was not Michael. This guy introduced himself as Chad and then said he was the Palmer Fire Chief and that we met last winter. I interrupted him say, "Oh yes, I know who you are, now. But, it is dark and so late in the day for you to be here working."

Chad told me that Michael said I needed help and because he had shoulder surgery scheduled for the next morning, this was this only time he could do it. I was speechless. Then I explained that I'd come out because if it wasn't Michael working, that person wouldn't know about my well casing. I have a 46 inch metal pole with a single reflector at the top stuck in the ground next to the casing, but for all I knew, the recent snow depth had covered the reflector. He motioned and said he saw it and also noticed my other lawn markers.

If Chad was determined to do this, I didn't want to waste his time talking, so I thanked him, said I would let him get back to it, and returned to the house. He worked out there for at least an hour.

After he left, I bundled up and went back outside and spent some time dragging giant snow loads from around the back of my car, in front of the garage, and in front of the deck, messing up the nice neat driveway Chad just created. The next morning I finished unburying my car and made the trip to Brentwood to mail my packages. A trip that was only possible, thanks to the Palmer Fire Chief.

When I returned home about 3 p.m., there was Michael in my driveway cleaning up the snow mess I'd made.

I asked Michael how much I should pay Chad for that hour of work. "Nothing," he said. Take it as a gift and pay it forward sometime. I didn't think I could just let it go at that. I wanted to at least give him money for fuel. (The fuel money was refused.)

Later, going about my chores, I found myself contemplating the concept of good neighbors. I imagined that hundreds, perhaps thousands of these same kinds of good neighborly deeds took place during the December 2022 back-to-back snowstorms. I certainly was blessed by my neighbors' acts of kindness.

Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan currently residing in Palmer. Email her at

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Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan now residing in Palmer.

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