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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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My favorite day

By JJ Toland

Everyone has a favorite day. For some, it's an anniversary; others it's a birthday. For lovers of the mountains, it may be the day the lifts begin to spin. Regardless of the occasion, though, we all have a date we mark on our mental calendars that we know will bring us a bit more joy; one that will make us smile just a few more times.

But, for me, that exact day is unknowable because it's not set. Yes, I do look forward to the first game of the Colorado Buffalos football season. And if my wife's within earshot, I will swear our anniversary is the day I truly live for. But if pressed...if the truth is demanded, my day doesn't arrive until October.

It typically comes in the last two weeks of the month and is announced in the platinum of the predawn by mild profanity and the growling of a diesel engine. It's an inauspicious occasion by most favorite-day standards but cherished nonetheless. For me, it is snow stake day and it arrived on Monday.

At 6:43 that morning the town's old Ford rolled to a stop at the top of my road. Three men wearing orange safety vests and camouflaged ball caps poured from the truck, shuffled to the back of the pickup, and each hoisted out a bundle of wooden stakes. They then walked the length of the street, hammering the stakes into the frosted earth at varying intervals. In the coming days and weeks, the stakes will act as guides for the plow trucks that work to keep the road from being buried by the abundant snowfall.

This is the eighth snow stake day I have celebrated since moving to Vermont and I relish the occasion every year because of what it means: that winter, and all of its fun, is just around the corner. But Monday's was different. As I drove down my road, I noticed the tops of the stakes were painted fluorescent green. For better viewing at night maybe, I thought. And something else was off. When I got out of my car to take a closer look at one of the rough-hewn pickets, I noticed it came up to the level of my chest; in previous years, the posts only reached my waist.

When I came to the end of the street, the crew was just finishing their task. I rolled down my window and one of the guys turned to face me.

"Taller stakes this year, huh. You guys expecting a big winter?" I joked.

He looked at me matter-of-factly and just said, "You haven't heard? Biggest winter ever."

It's on its way, Valley fans. Get ready.

Toland lives in Morrisville and works in Warren.


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