Oshkosh V-blade and the lallapalooza

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Woe seems to be relative, and I'm not going to say we never had a severe snowstorm in Maine. But when we have had, or do have, a good northeast drifter, we hardly look upon it as a disaster. Another thing - in recent years we seem to have skipped most or all of the rousers that are credited with ''blanketing the northeast states.'' The ''blizzard of '83,'' back in February, was one of those, and while we heard with sympathy on the radio that Washington, D.C. had been snowed out of business, we had merely the ''dusting'' that was forecast. Five inches of dust.

This was the first major snowstorm (and was it really a blizzard?) since our Maine-born son took his family to live there, and were interested, perhaps amused, but certainly not dismayed at the reports. It would not be the first time he was marooned (as Bije Nickerson would say) by a winter storm. That was to be his theme when he got around to calling us on the telephone to say he was all right. Being an old hand at blocked highways, he didn't hasten to do this, so for two days we composed ourselves with the recollection that he really was an old hand, and wouldn't make the touse of the non-Maine Washingtonians.

In our first days at the farm our road down the hill past the house was never cleared of snow. The farmers would have lynched any road agent who found dirt. Instead of plowing, road agents ''broke.'' A timber was fitted to the fore-sled of a double logging rig, and behind one or more teams of horses this contrivance flattened the snow without pushing too much of it aside, and then winter teaming began. Logs went to mill, baled hay to the team track, turnips under blankets with lighted lanterns were moved to market, and with great care not to interfere with working loads the sleighs and cutters and pungs jingle-jingled as people visited or went to the ''stow-wer.'' Our road, in those days, was far better in winter than in summer with its ruts and mudholes. But by the time our lad came along the motorists dominated and we got plowed.

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The first year Clevie Bickford had a contract to plow snow for the town, a lallapalooza of a northeast storm struck, and as it settled in for serious business Clevie realized he didn't have equipment heavy enough for the job ahead. Things had piled up so he had a time of it getting to the railroad depot on snowshoes. He did, though, and rode the steamcars to Boston, getting there at ten o'clock in the morning, and he found his way to the salesroom of a heavy machinery dealer out on Commonwealth Avenue. It was snowing in Boston, too, so Clevie came into the showroom to stomp his feet (he looked about for a broom to brush off the snow, but this Maine custom was not followed in the Hub, so he stomped). This attracted the attention of a salesman, who looked up to behold an unusual sight - for Boston, that is.

Clevie was wearing his lumberman's larrigans, overalls over his pants and tucked into the boots, a red-and-black Penobscot mackinaw, and a teamster's wool hat with squirrel-fur flappers - which were tied up by the string. Over his left arm dangled a firkin, because whenever Clevie left home to miss a meal his mother always packed him his dinner. Clevie fumbled off one mitten and reached up an adequate thumb to scratch a three-day whisker growth. Clevie didn't look like a big buyer.

''May I be of assistance?'' asked the salesman.

''Eyah, I want su'thin' to plow snow.''

After Clevie had seen everything on the floor he pointed at the big Oshkosh with four-wheel drive, V-blade, and double wing-backs (hydraulic lifts), and heated cab. ''Can you get that on today's freight to Maine?''

''Er, uh, ah - yes, I guess so. Oh, certainly! Now, have you seen our Mr. Smith?''

''Who's he?''

''The credit manager.''

''Uh, uh - no need.'' Clevie hauled out his wallet, counted out $27,489, and said, ''I'll trouble you for a receipt.''

Then he sat at a table in the front window and watched Commonwealth Avenue while he had his dinner. So our son, calling from Washington, said, ''Remember the time we stood in the front window and looked up the road waiting for Clevie and the new Oshkosh?''

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