Standing at the top of the snow covered driveway, I saw the pickup slow down, but keep driving past. Then it backed up again, right into the bank of ice and snow that I had been piling up for the past hour. A bearded young man hopped out of the cab. I called down to him, "What can I do you for?" Before I had time to think, these words, or at least the syntax of my father had become my introduction.
Mister Beard had arrived to clear the snow off the deck of the cabin that we were renting for the holiday weekend. I had just introduced myself in the manner that I had become accustomed to hearing my father interact with strangers so many years ago. Standing in the midst of ten foot drifts on all sides, it seemed appropriate. My father spent years after he left my mother living in our cabin in Colorado without any electricity or running water. The only heat he had came from a pair of wood burning stoves, one in each corner. Try as he might, there was never a way to get his bedroom, located opposite from both stoves, anywhere near comfortable once winter set in.
Consequently, he took a number of house-sitting jobs during these months, but that didn't keep him out of the cold forever. Sooner or later he had to drive that dark and twisting road up into the ice and snow and brave the elements. I mentioned that there was no plumbing, which meant the closest "convenience" was an outhouse a good ten yards up the path behind the cabin. All of this tended to spur his frontier spirit, and phrases such as "What can I do you for?" came quite naturally out of the mouth of a printing salesman from the suburbs of Boulder.
And so I found myself negotiating with this mountain dweller in a patois that I assumed he would immediately understand. We talked in this folksy manner about the potential of six feet ice and snow falling down off the roof as he worked to clear the deck with is snow blower while I chipped and scraped away at the four inch ice flow just below him. It was good, honest work, and when he was done, I gave him a comradely tip of the cap, and off he went to where other vacation renters were struggling with their own drifts. I leaned on my shovel and thought of my father once again, and was grateful that I was just a few steps from indoor plumbing and electric space heaters.