Pagosa’s Past: Snow, snow and more snow

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
One of my favorite pioneers was Henry Gordon. As a young man, Gordon fought in the War Between the States. He died in 1934 at the age of 101 in Pagosa Springs after spending the last years of his life ranching.

By John M. Motter
PREVIEW Columnist
Do you remember when snow, tires and chains used to go together? Nowadays, it seems that almost every family vehicle has an emblem on it somewhere denoting four-wheel drive. And guess what? You don’t even have to open the driver’s door in a whirling blizzard and sink down on your hands and knees in the snow and ice to activate the front wheel part of your four-wheel drive system. All of this, you know, while you’re prayin’ that the next car that comes slippin’ and slidin’ down the highway doesn’t crash into the rear part of your anatomy that doesn’t even have a bumper guard. I guess the best part of that job was, you were already in a good position to pray.
I don’t know how many times as I approached Wolf Creek Pass, a blinkin’ red light pointed out a sign requirin’ snow tires and/or chains. You could also have nail-like studs driven into the tread to increase traction.
The word studs reminds me of the years I worked at the truck stop that used to greet diesel-burnin’ trucks on U.S. 160 east of town. There were some pretty tough studs drivin’ those 16-wheelers. The trucker would pull up to the diesel pumps in his 16-wheeler, turn off his radio, growl “done been through a mess a snow, take care of ‘er. I’m gettin’ me a cup.”
Take care of her meant fill the diesel tanks. On the average, the tank held from 200-300 gallons when full. While the tank was filling, I’d grab a 3-foot iron rod and thump the tires looking for flats. Low tires had to be filled and flat tires repaired. Repairing an iron-rimmed truck tire is serious work, especially outside in freezing weather.
The truck stop was open 24 hours a day and that was a good thing. Town folks visited the truck stop evenings for a hamburger, shake and fries after going to a movie. I have an idea many a wedding proposal was made in a truck stop restaurant booth.
It was also a good place to down a bacon and eggs breakfast in the morning, and during lunch hour, you could catch up on the town’s latest gossip. While working there, I got to know more than I should about almost everybody in town.
Best of all, for me the truck stop was a three-shift-a-weekend part-time job. My full-time job was typing and building ads at The Pagosa SUN for Glen Edmonds. That’s where my local newspaper career started. The truck stop job bought me a decent car and helped me get out of debt. Not to mention I became a pretty good source of what was the latest news in town.

This story was posted on February 11, 2020.