Over 30 years ago a small ski lodge was opened in Harris Hollow. The entrepreneurial idea was a good one: It was the closest such recreational facility to all the would-be skiers and snow bunnies in metropolitan Washington. The only problem was: there was never enough snow. If memory serves, the ski run struggled through a couple of seasons, then closed for good.
That was then. Now – this week, anyway – all anyone in Rappahannock could talk about was snow. And too much snow, way too much snow, at that.
Just about everybody seems to have a tale to tell. My personal favorite involves the part-time resident whose half-mile driveway remained unplowed. On Super Bowl Sunday, he brought a new TV from Walmart in Warrenton to watch the game; it took almost a half hour for him, his wife and son to slog up the two-foot-snow-covered driveway with the 32-inch flat-screen. But when they finally got to their cabin to unwrap the television set and plug it in, they had no power.
At least in the telling, they had learned to laugh about it. But for some Rappahannock residents — especially local farmers — snow is serious stuff indeed. They seldom complain, or even talk about the problems and extra work caused by heavy snowfall: it’s a given, goes without saying, comes with the territory. But in snow, as one long-time local farmer allows, “even the simplest job becomes a hard job.”
First, the farmer has to figure out how to get to his cattle – to ensure they’re fed and watered. That means negotiating the gates in the fencing. (Just think about it: a gate won’t even swing on its hinges if the snow is too deep!) So the farmer has to plow away snow simply to open a gate to get to his cattle – assuming the gate is hinged toward the plow. If it’s hinged so that it swings away from the plowed area, it won’t swing at all. So the farmer must then try to lift the gate off its hinges.
And what of those farm gates that really aren’t gates, so-called cattle guards? They get clogged with wet snow and so no longer function as “guards” at all. Rather, cattle can now walk across them or, worse, get their hooves and legs stuck. Unclogging cattle guards brings a whole new level of difficulty to snow-shoveling.
Once the farmer gets to his cattle, he must plow and clear snow from a big enough area for them to be somewhat comfortable, particularly if a calf may be born. This usually means spreading a blanket of hay over the plowed and packed snow.
Lugging a television along an unplowed driveway to watch the Super Bowl doesn’t seem so hard after all.
And therein lies snow’s one true virtue: no matter how sick and tired we are of its continued presence, it unites Rappahannock residents in a single conversation. Forget quarrels over the education budget (the Tuesday school board meeting was canceled!); forget the endless talk about the Town of Washington’s new sewage system (the Town Council meeting, on Monday, was canceled, too). Instead, let’s talk about the snow. We here at the newspaper want to share your stories.