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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

The dance of the snowplows on LI roads and parking lots

The snowman cometh.

And goeth.

And cometh back again. And again and again. For as long as it snows, and then for hours more.

Yesterday, the snowman was Matt Boyd, of Boyd Landscaping in Huntington, who, with considerable help from his nephew, James Byrnes, 14, maneuvered a 1,100-pound modified dump truck in, out, through, and round and round and round a 30-mile circuit of private roads, church and business parking lots, and big driveways.

The snow fell in big, fat chunks as Boyd cleared a church parking lot on West Neck Road in Huntington - for the fourth time since he and James began making the rounds at 7 a.m.

"You have to keep coming back and move the snow or else it will be too heavy," Boyd said, as he and the driver of another Boyd Landscaping truck cleared the lot in a pas de deux of precise, coordinated movements that was, well, it was beautiful - until Boyd brought us back to the business at hand.

"If you aren't careful," he said, "a heavy snow can blow the transmission."

It takes four or five hours for the pair to complete a circuit, moving at a careful 25-mph pace through narrow roads, steep hills and parking lots that look a whole lot bigger when they're deserted and coated with snow.

When the lots are paved, the plow, which is never silent, makes a steady scraping sound as it goes about its work. When the lots are made of dirt, the ride gets bumpy, as the plow fights to free the snow from soil. And when the lot is grass - as it was for one church - Boyd waits for as long as he can before clearing it. He wants to disturb the sleeping vegetation as little as possible, so it doesn't turn into an acre of mud.

Often Boyd will clear the parking lot, while Byrnes grabs a shovel and clears the walkways. It's the kind of work most kids don't do anymore.

"It's good," Byrnes said. "What else am I going to do on a day like this?"

Years ago, Boyd used to contract with the Town of Huntington to help clear roads. Now, he contracts with neighborhood associations in Huntington, and especially in Lloyd Harbor, where many of the roads are private.

He knows that most roads are two plows wide. And he takes great care not to pile snow up too high at the end of driveways or alongside the occasional car left in a parking lot or on the street.

"It's like every road, every parking lot has my name on it," he said, maneuvering the 14-year-old truck so smoothly it seems made of silk. "I take pride in that," he said.

Boyd and his nephew stopped for lunch at 1 p.m. And, when I left them at almost 7 p.m., they were readying to take a dinner break.

How long will they go?

"For as long as it's snowing." Boyd said.

And then, they'll keep going, for hours more, sanding and salting the private roads and the church and business parking lots, until things are as safe and as clear as possible.

Which meant that Boyd would keep working, late into the night and, probably, hours into the next day.

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