A true testament of small-town friendly

Jan. 30, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

I knew Rutherford County was "small-town friendly" from the day I moved here, but I did not have a chance to witness the depth of that friendliness until Tuesday evening.

That morning began like most Tuesdays, but quickly changed as the first little flakes of snow descended from the sky right before noon.

By mid-afternoon a light dusting of snow rested upon vehicles, buildings and the ground.

After finishing my daily stories and meeting deadlines for publication, I left work shortly after 5 p.m. to see a blanket of white covering everything in sight.

It was hauntingly beautiful.

I carefully trekked up the hill in the parking lot to begin the process of thawing out my car. I cranked up the vehicle and immediately turned on the front and rear defrosters, as I located my ice scraper and got to work chipping away the layers of snow and ice stuck to the windows.

After 20 minutes of clearing and defrosting my igloo of a car, I got inside and slowly backed down the hill. I could feel the tires sporadically lose traction on the ice.

A sigh of relief escaped as I successfully navigated out onto Oak Street, where salt had been dropped but the pavement was still slick.

Now, I am no stranger to snow. I grew up in upstate New York and lived in Washington, D.C. during "Snowmaggedon" and "Snowpocalypse" and later in northern Virginia.

However, these northern states are used to getting dumped with snow, pounded with sleet and overcome by freezing temperatures. Not to mention, the roads I frequented were usually heavily traveled, heavily salted and heavily plowed. And the roads were flat.

Yet for small towns that do not experience such hazardous winter weather that often and that have several steep hills, driving is much more of a challenge.

And let me make it completely clear that had I not needed to be traveling on the roads Tuesday evening, I would have gladly been safe at home, curled up in my blankets and sipping a hot cup of tea.

As I traveled down U.S. Highway 74A toward Rutherfordton, the highway was covered in such a thick layer of ice, invisible below the freshly fallen snow, that I was unable to discern the left lane from the right.

My focus remained glued to the road as I traversed through the storm and made my way to the road leading back to my home. This particular road begins with a hill, and since it was not a portion of the main roadway, it had not been plowed or even salted yet.

My vehicle made it halfway up the slick hill before the tires stopped rotating and I began to gradually slide backwards down the incline.

Call it a coincidence, but one of the stories I had written earlier that day was full of winter weather driving safety tips from the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration and AAA Carolinas. I recalled the recommendations of actions to take in the event of a skid.

After heeding the suggestions, I was able to straighten out my vehicle but soon realized there was no chance I was going to make it up the hill. Instead, my next plan was to let the car slowly slide back down the hill and I would find another safer route to reach my destination.

However, that plan quickly vanished as the car began to slide down sideways. I stopped the car and put it in park.

I was stuck in the middle of an icy hill. Sideways. In the snow.

But I did not panic. In fact, it was not so much a feeling of panic as a feeling of helplessness with being unable to control the situation, as well as not knowing how to proceed.

Around this time I saw headlights turn onto the bottom of the hill. Unsure what the best action to take next was, I got out of my car and began walking toward the vehicle down below.

A gentleman exited the Jeep and met me by my stranded vehicle. He asked if I was okay and promptly assessed the situation, to which he replied, "I should be able to pull you up the hill."

As the snow continued to fall and with dark settling in, the man drove up the hill and backed his Jeep in front of my car. He then pulled several large chains out of the trunk, turned on his pocket flashlight and crouched down on the snow, beneath my car to hook up the chains.

Meanwhile, a small SUV descending the top of the hill stopped and the driver's side window rolled down to reveal a couple asking if we needed assistance. When they saw that the chains were safely and securely fastened to my vehicle, the couple continued down the hill.

I got back into my vehicle and the man from the Jeep instructed me what to do once I started to feel the pull of the chains. His Jeep plowed up the hill with me in tow.

Another sigh of relief escaped my breathe once we reached the top.

We got out of our vehicles, the man unhooked the chains and asked how much further I had to travel to get home.

As we were discussing the rest of my journey, another gentleman in a Volvo pulled over his vehicle behind mine and inquired if we needed any help. Another man left the comfort of his warm home nearby to come outdoors in the snow to see if he could be of assistance.

After these individuals gave me advice of how best to handle and maneuver my vehicle the rest of the way home, the gentleman from the Jeep offered to delay his own journey home to follow me the rest of the way and ensure I made it safely.

A few curves and a smaller hill later, I was so incredibly relieved as my car came to rest in front of my destination and I turned off the engine.

In the midst of their assistance, I thanked each individual for their kindness, yet did not have the opportunity to ask these good samaritans' names.

To each of you, whoever you are, know that I will always appreciate your generosity, selflessness and hospitality as the snow fell Tuesday evening and my vehicle struggled up that treacherous, icy hill.

And to the gentleman with the Jeep, a special thank you and my most humble gratitude to you, sir.

I cannot thank you all enough for your assistance in my time of need and for making this county a true testament of "small-town friendly."