Commentary: Snow plowing shouldn't be this complex

I have a mostly true story to tell, but I'll get to that later.

I am a public street snow plowing guy. It is my passion; I love plowing. I buy my own "tools of the trade" such as the truck, plow, sand and gas.

To get a snow plowing opportunity, I must ask the proper contact person for streets I want to plow. I call them the "Block Captain." They block and are in charge. Brattleboro advertises and promotes the Block Captains' and their streets one day a month. The Block Captain and possibly a committee of residents will inspect my work, gauge the color of my truck, the GMO characteristics of my salt and the gluten content of my gasoline. If I hear back at all, the polite rejection is that, "We are not interested at this time but, best wishes in your future endeavors." Even if pressed about how I can improve my application to plow — is my truck the wrong color? Does my experience not include sufficient awards? — The response, again if any, is additional best wishes.

Sometimes, I am granted the opportunity to plow. However, I must sign a contract with the Block Captain. The terms of the contract are that if I damage any curbs or mail boxes, I must repair them at my expense. Furthermore, and to wit, it says, the Block Captain reserves the right to cancel my plowing opportunity at any time if they later decide that the gas or sand I use is in anyway displeasing to them by some unknowable standard. If my truck is stolen, I must also indemnify the Block Captain and not hold them responsible for its loss. They take no responsibility for ensuring the safety of my property. The best part though, is, should any of the street's residents want, and it is not purely discretionary, to compensate me for my plowing, I must pay the Block Captain as much as 50 percent of any money I receive.

Now some Block Captains ask for a lower percentage, but those Block Captains' streets are usually dark, poorly visible or nearly inaccessible side streets. Some Block Captains, even those in public or town subsidized areas, will charge me an up-front fee to plow. However; they take the lowest or no percentage of any money I might be paid.

Now, the true story. I'm not a snow plow guy. I'm an artist. The rest is pretty much true. I admit I may be painting with a broad sable-hair brush here, but this has been my experience trying to get people to see my art. After this diatribe, I suspect I might never get an exhibit opportunity in Brattleboro again. The "Block Captains" may recognize themselves; but, maybe not. Some are blissfully unaware of what it feels like to be on the other side of the easel. Some might object and say that isn't me or it's this way because of some valid or historic reason or other. I'm all ears.

"Explain it to me Lucy."

Succinctly, artists bear the effort and expenses up-front, risk theft or damage to their work with no recourse, and must pay for that arbitrary privilege. Brattleboro would not treat a snow plow guy, office worker or any employee like this. Artists, though, are not thought to be a person who invests their own money, spends their time, and then begs omnipotent arbitrary authorities for an opportunity to demonstrate their passion and show their work.

Wayne Estey is the President of Brattleboro Artists Union. He can be contacted at The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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