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Helmut Schmidt, Published January 29 2013

Snow saints clear the way for neighbors

FARGO - Some people like making snow angels, while others are snow-blowing angels.

Count Dan Nielsen in the latter group, one of many in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The day after Monday night’s 5- to 6-inch snowfall in Fargo-Moorhead, Nielsen was in his glory, plowing out a couple of blocks of 20th Street South in the Greenfields neighborhood.

By 11 a.m. Tuesday, he had cleared six driveways and a couple hundred yards of sidewalk with his John Deere riding mower and its 42-inch snow-blowing attachment.

“The doctor said I couldn’t do any shoveling, but I can sure ride the tractor,” Nielsen said. “I like to blow snow. I always liked to blow snow.”

Not bad for a guy that has to use an oxygen bottle to get around.

In addition to rheumatoid arthritis, the 65-year-old retired automobile mechanic also deals with the effects of Wegener’s granulomatosis, a disease that affects his blood vessels and his ability to get enough oxygen to his body.

“There’s no such thing as keeping him down, and I’m proud of him. He just enjoys helping,” his wife, Karen Nielsen, said.

“Í can’t sit and watch TV,” Dan Nielsen said, which is a godsend for his neighbors.

“My husband gets the snowblower ready every year, but with Dan as a neighbor, he hardly ever gets to use it,” said Paula Harms. “He’s a lifesaver.

“We see him out there on his tractor and he has a big smile on his face. He just enjoys it and has a good time,” Harms said.

‘He’s all around here’

In north Fargo, Pat Morrison has the sidewalks and driveways on his block near Roosevelt Elementary covered.

Or, more appropriately, uncovered.

He bought a big green Murray riding mower this year, and with its orange cab keeping the wind and snow from his face, he’s a snow-blowing machine.

Carma Sisk, of 915 10th Ave. N., says Morrison is a go-getter.

“Soon as there’s snow, Pat’s out there,” Sisk said. “Pat’s a great neighbor. He’s across the street, and he’s all around here.”

Morrison started clearing sidewalks in his area because so many would still be filled with snow when he took his dog for a walk.

But the 58-year-old retiree also has a soft spot for the students from Roosevelt Elementary and North Dakota State University.

“I never liked walking in snow as a kid,” he said.

Morrison put in two and a half hours on his machine Tuesday morning. After lunch, he was ready to clean driveway messes left by the snowplows.

Janet Cleveland, who lives at the corner of 10th Street and 10th Avenue North, said Morrison also keeps that busy area clear.

After a snowfall last week, Cleveland said Morrison not only cleared the sidewalks “but he had also cleared my front walk and my driveway. Talk about making my day!”

Man of mystery

Glyndon, Minn., resident Carrie Krumwiede says she and her husband got a gift much better than a Welcome Wagon box when they moved there three years ago: a great neighbor.

“Our first winter we came home after Christmas to a large snowfall, dreading if we would even be able to get into our driveway. We were shocked to see our driveway had been cleared!” she wrote in an email to The Forum.

“We had no idea who had done this, but we were so thankful. A few weeks later we woke up after a large snowfall and got out of bed to shovel. Again, clean driveway!

It took a few weeks, but they finally caught him.

“Larry Link, our neighbor across the street, whom we had never met, was clearing it again. We had to go meet our mystery snowblower,” Krumwiede wrote.

“He says he doesn’t work much in the winter with his job and loves doing it. Three years later he is still clearing the driveway,” she wrote.

One-two punch

Just north of 13th Avenue South on Fargo’s Sixth Street, Sid Harrison says neighbors Cray Eppler and Gary Grandbois have long been a one-two punch against the gods of winter.

“I suspect they both get a chance to burn off some stress and do something nice at the same time,” Harrison said.

“They are better early birds than me,” clearing walkways and sometimes the alley before the rest of the neighbors have their coffee makers fired up, Harrison said.

Part of the equation may be that a snowblower is the right tool for doing a good deed, Harrison said.

“It’s kind of the men with tools thing,” he said. “If you have a good chainsaw anywhere in the country, you’re probably helping your neighbor cut down that tree. It’s just something that good neighbors do.”

Best dad ever

It’s not just a neighborly phenomenon. Some snowbound residents have a family hook-up.

Jessica Elliott, of Fargo, said as she grew up, she’d always see her father go up and down the block with his snowblower, helping people clear their walks and driveways after a snowfall.

It’s something Dan Geraghty still does for his south Moorhead neighbors, Elliott said.

“(My dad) is just one of those people that likes to help everyone else, all the time,” Elliott said.

When she lived by Lindenwood Park, he’d put his snowblower into his car and drive on over to clear her alley.

“Then I moved to a new house and (last week) he snowblowed my driveway because my husband is out of town,” Elliott said.

“The man has the biggest heart in the world, and I love him dearly,” she said. “He rocks!”

Bares has your back

Whether he’s in north Moorhead, or enjoying 89 degrees in a south Texas winter, David Engstrom knows his condo neighbor Galen Bares has his back, and his driveway and sidewalks, too.

“I expect that my driveway is nice and clean, and my driveway as well, because of Galen Bares,” Engstrom said Tuesday.

Engstrom and Bares are twin home neighbors on Country Club Parkway.

“He’s the kind of guy who’s always ready and willing to help with any kind of deed a neighbor might have,” Engstrom said.

Bares, a retired mail carrier, also clears the driveways of other neighbors, and even did so after a neighbor died and her house had to be put on the market, Engstrom said.

“He’s just plain a good guy,” Engstrom said.

But Engstrom adds that for Bares, the snowblower may also be a chance to tap into being a kid again.

“With us guys, a snowblower is not a tool. It’s a toy. Lots of guys look forward to snow, so they can get out and play. I found out I’d have to get up early to beat him,” Engstrom said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583