Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Coldy Oldies

A Test All this talk of the polar vortex and how cold it is got me to thinking about my coldest days - or nights actually - spent making snow at Boston Mills(I haven't ever shown these photos on the blog before). My friend Dave and I were hooked up with jobs in the maintenance department by are boss at the farm, Johnny Szalay. We started out working in the mornings getting things ready for the season - but when the cold weather finally arrived we were broken into shifts - everyone who had been there for a few years opted for first shift - left with the choice between second or third shifts Dave and I opted for third. Working 11PM-7AM would actually allow me to keep more normal hours than 3PM-11PM(provided I went to bed shortly after getting home in the morning).

Our job was fairly straightforward - start up, run, fix and maintain the snow making machines. They were mounted on metal stands in six lines down the hills. We would take that first bone chilling ride up the lifts together then split up and head off to work our way down a line of machines. We were dressed so that by the time I would get the first hose hooked up, the hydrant opened and the machine fired up and directed where I wanted I would be warm for the whole first half of the shift. There was lots of walking and carefully climbing up those icy towers - in other words we kept moving. Eventually the lower the mercury dropped the more I would like it - I could keep busier and the snow machines ran better. Paying attention to the wind was very important - if the machines would blow back on themselves they would freeze up - something we tried to avoid. We carried  hammers with us to bang the ice off the back of the machines - the fan would then suck the broken ice through with a loud crashing noise and shoot it out over the hill - you had better turn your face away and close your eyes tight when doing this. We also carried a pair of slip-joint pliers - almost anything on the snowmakers could be fixed with these - I could even work on the electrical boxes with them. When we did need to take more tools or a new hose and supplies to a specific gun we would ride one of the four wheelers. It would be quite a thrill to be flying up a hill at top speed(couldn't slow down and lose traction), snow flying in your face in the middle of the night. When we would head in for lunch - sometime around 2:30AM we would would take off our(often frozen solid) Carhartt bib overalls and jackets outside and leave them hanging there. You couldn't bring them inside or they would melt and you'd be wet the rest of the night. All this made for the worst part of the job - walking outside after lunch and putting on those freezing cold clothes, then getting on a lift and riding up the hill - often with the snow and wind blowing....quite simply the coldest few minutes of my life. 
I remember some nights of seemingly unreal beauty - standing on top of 'Tiger' looking at the stars overhead then to all the trees and brush covered in crystal clear ice, and lastly across the valley to the layers of colors stacking up on the horizon from first light - like a compressed rainbow. It could be amazing - but by the end of the winter third shift started to weigh on me. Around 1:30PM one afternoon at home I was pretty drunk(thinking "I can't believe I'm up this late!") then waking up at 10PM hungover and heading off to work. Weird. The Groomers Four other people worked with us - our boss and his wife and the two guys who drove the groomers all night(above photo). One was a quiet pill-popper who, I remember for some reason, really only talked to us about liking Pink Floyd. The other guy liked to try and bait me into political arguments. Eventually Dave and I started to plan our lunches around avoiding him. Moguls The mogul field we made on top of North Bowl. I believe it was too warm this night to make snow so I went out and snapped some photos. riding solo Riding up to get to work. Dave Dave - in the shed where we kept extra hoses and supplies. A good spot to warm up on a slow night.  I was testing out my brand new 50mm f/1.8 lens.Dave Dave - outside the shop - one of the radios we used to communicate at night on his overalls. Boston Mills ShamrocksOur last day was St. Patrick's Day. They sent us out with green food coloring and told us to "paint some shamrocks on the hill".


Tim Fitzwater said...

I have a bunch more photos from this job on a hard drive I can't seem to get to work with this new computer. There is a ton of other old stuff on there as well. I need to figure this out.

Tim Fitzwater said...

I need an editor.