Sleet smacked the windshield. Snow swirled in the December wind. Seeing the highway became a game of blind man’s bluff. Thank heaven for occasional glimpses of the yellow line that divided the two lanes.
    That scene is from a recent drive home to southwest Wisconsin from a farm in northeast Iowa. The drive got me to thinking as I guided the Minnesota Moose,  my Dairy Star car, through a universe of icy precipitation.
    The farm I’d visited has quite an admirable herd average: north of 33,000 pounds. With a couple of hours to think, my mind drifted to another farm that had admirable milk production.
    It was 1977. I’d graduated six months earlier from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with my bachelor of science degree in agricultural journalism.
    I’d just signed on with a weekly farm newspaper in central Wisconsin. I chomped at the bit to conduct my first farmer interview for the paper and to write my first feature story for it.
    But that first farm feature was not my first assignment for that fine publication. Indeed, it was my second.
    My first stab came with an article for a now-defunct group: The Committee for Individual Land Rights. As I discovered, that organization was vocal in its belief that just about anything a landowner wanted to do with his property was fine and dandy. The group also did not hide its disdain for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and many more government agencies.
    I’d signed on to start work on Aug. 1. Instead, I got hornswoggled into covering that meeting on July 31 – a Sunday.
    That bait-and-switch tactic should have made me wonder what I was getting into.
    Things turned out all right. I learned a good bit about human nature from that incident. And I began to learn about politics.
    A few days later, I contacted a farm family in Marathon County to arrange a time to visit for a feature story. That assignment stands out because of the topic: the first dairy farm in Wisconsin to achieve and maintain a 20,000-pound herd average.
    That was an accomplishment for its time. Forty years ago, you just didn’t find those numbers in every barn.
    I clearly remember the family’s last name. Three or four brothers were involved in the business. Maybe I’ll try to contact them sometime, and collect information about how the family and farm have fared for the past 40 years.
    My recent drive back from that farm in Iowa took a couple of hours, thanks in part to the snow squalls. With plenty more time to think, my mind moved ahead from 1977.
    Sometime in the next year or two, I drew the unenviable assignment of interviewing and writing about a rural snowplow driver. Now, I have nothing against snowplows or their drivers, but this particular assignment reeked of trouble from the start.
    For one thing, it was January or February. For another, we’d gotten plenty of the white stuff and were immersed waist deep in an old-fashioned winter. Apparently, Mother Nature had not heard of terms like “global warming” and “climate change.” So, she clobbered us in ways that only she can.
    The third potential pitfall was that I had no snow-worthy vehicle. So, I borrowed one of the big Ford sedans that the paper’s owners were leasing and set forth.
    I left town around 2 a.m., as I recall. I needed to get into the vast expanse that was eastern Clark County. I also needed to navigate the myriad gravel roads and find the snowplow driver as he cleared the way so milk trucks, pickups and mail delivery vehicles could get through.
    Making matters more interesting was that this was long before the days of cell phones. But I did have a set of vague directions.
    Somehow, the Great White Ford and I found our way to the general continent of where the snowplow driver labored. Mr. Sun had not yet fully risen, but he did provide a faint glow as he stretched and yawned in the eastern sky.
    Far away to the west, I finally caught a glimpse of my target. A snowplow – a yellow road grader – crawling along, barely discernible in a world gone white.
    I mentally charted a course toward it. Needing to stick to the drifting roads that intersected every mile or so complicated my endeavor.
    By the time I reached the place where the snowplow was, it was gone. I stepped out of the Great White Ford for another round of reconnoitering.
    “Oh. There it is!” I must have proclaimed to no one, for there was no one there to hear.
    Off I drove to the north this time. Twenty minutes later: the same result. No snowplow, no snowplow driver. Just the Clark County landscape. I half expected to find polar bears or penguins marching toward me.
    After two or three more attempts at finding the ghost snowplow, I finally succeeded. After I did, I rode in the cozy cab of the plow for an hour or more, snapping too many pictures of the driver, the inside of the plow, the outside of the plow, the flying snow and whatever else I hoped would please my hard-boiled editor and newspaper part-owner.
    The crowning irony of the whole adventure was that the snowplow driver, who raised feeder pigs, had little to say. He was a friendly enough fellow, and he did speak a bit about his farm and how he got into the snow removal business.
    But he offered no wise words about the loneliness of plowing snow and how it could be considered a metaphor for much of the rest of life.
    In the end, I stitched together several hundred poetic words about the experience and the paper ran five or six black-and-white photographs that turned out remarkably well, I must say.
    And I filed the entire event away. And, I found it again on a snowy drive home from Iowa.