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Long Island

Snow gives tow-truckers a business bonanza

The shiny black Chevrolet with a Christmas wreath on the grille sat in the middle of an intersection in Wheatley Heights yesterday, spinning its wheels.

A woman and three children were inside. In the cab of his flatbed wrecker, James Walker of Wyandanch shook his head.

"You gotta be kidding me," he said.

But stepped out of his cab to help anyway.

Ten minutes of vigorous pushing and he was one "thank-you" richer, on his way to retrieve a dead Jeep at Lee Avenue and North 21st Street, also near Wheatley Heights.

Since the great holiday blizzard of 2010 hit, Walker, 49, had done eight jobs in weather so mean "it felt like somebody was smacking me in the face with BBs."

Eddie's 24-Hour Towing, the Deer Park outfit that employs him, handled more than 75 jobs Sunday and Monday, including four snowed-in tractor trailers, one car that slid into a ditch, and one sport utility vehicle with the keys locked inside, the work of a considerate man who was trying to warm up his girlfriend's car before she got in.

Eddie Benoit, who runs the company with Scott Eger, was less than thrilled with this bonanza. "These jobs take twice as long in the snow," he said earlier in the day. "And people don't realize if you can't get out because of the snow, we can't back up to you."

Now Walker turned onto Lee Avenue where the Jeep waited with its owner, a man named Jerome Hendrix, in a friend's driveway. "I ran the battery down when I tried to start it," Hendrix said.

Lee was too narrow for Walker to back the truck into the driveway, so he put the Jeep in park and attached a hook to its trailer hitch. Then he winched it out, the wheels sliding easily over packed snow. He hooked the front of the Jeep and winched it up onto the flatbed. This was the kind of job Walker likes: "a little bit like chess," he said.

Then he and Hendrix shook hands, and Walker drove off. He would be working through midnight, but so far the day was going well. "I imagine I'll do this until I retire," he said. "I've got a heart for it."

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