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Shovel and Plow

By Nick Drozdowicz

A songwriter with a catalog of work that spans more than twenty years, and an engaging, polished performer, NICK DROZ sews stories of humanity to ear-catching melodies. He spent a decade in Austin, TX honing his craft before moving to Seattle in early 2015.



Since relocating to the Northwest, Nick has written and performed a slew of songs for commissions from organizations like Bushwick Book Club (Seattle), Hugo House (Literary Series), Seattle Arts and Lectures, and the 1448 Projects. Through Bushwick Northwest, he also participated in songwriting collaborations with authors from both the Jack Straw Writers program, and Seattle7Writers.

Handy with a guitar among other instruments, Nick's sideman resume includes many Seattle-based acts, including Amanda Winterhalter, Sunset Club, Mike Votova and the Ding Dongs, Debbie Miller, and Wes Weddell Band.

Lyrics & Story

Music & Lyrics by Nick Droz

White death

Moving down the mountain

Carry those cars to the deep ravine

Burying tracks

Above the Tye River

Shovel and plow couldn't keep them clean

Men on the tracks with shovels

Men on the tracks with plows

Moving wet snow on the double

Trying to clear a path to town

Snow bears down

Men give up

Knowing they've gotta work faster

But they Can't work fast enough

White death

Moving down the mountain

Carry those cars to the deep ravine

Burying tracks

Above the Tye River

Shovel and plow couldn't keep them clean

Ration coal for the heaters

Gotta make it last for days

Stuck on the Spokane Local

Waiting on the weather to change

In the dining car

They're saying grace

Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts
And deliver us from this place

White death

Moving down the mountain

Carry those cars to the deep ravine

Burying tracks

Above the Tye River

Shovel and plow couldn't keep them clean

Gravity pulled upon the snowpack

Opening several fracture lines

High up above the Spokane Local

(They'll be) Recovering bodies 'til July

White death

Moving down the mountain

Carry those cars to the deep ravine

Burying tracks

Above the Tye River

Shovel and plow couldn't keep them clean

Track Credits

Nick Droz - Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Drum & Percussion

Amanda Winterhalter - Vocals

Recorded and Mixed by Daniel Guenther at Jack Straw

Mastered by Moe Provencher at Jack Straw

© Copyright Nick Droz 2019

WELLINGTON AVALANCHE

By Jonathan Shipley

“‘White Death’ moving down the mountainside above the trains,” Charles Andrews said. He was a Great Northern employee. He was walking towards the warmth of the bunkhouse when he heard a rumble. It was March 1st, 1910, and he was witnessing the deadliest avalanche in US history. “Relentlessly it advanced, exploding, roaring, rumbling, grinding, snapping - a crescendo of sound that might have been the crashing of ten thousand freight trains.” On the tracks below - two Great Northern trains - the Spokane local passenger train No. 25 and the Fast Mail train No. 27, heading westbound towards Puget Sound. They were stuck in snow drifts near Stevens Pass in Washington State. “It descended to the ledge where the side tracks lay, picked up the cars and equipment as though they were many snow-draped toys, and swallowed them up,” Andrews said. Ninety-six people died in the avalanche; 35 passengers, 58 railroad employees sleeping on the train, and three railway employees asleep in nearby cabins. They were all enveloped by the avalanche. Andrews said the trains, and the people inside them, “Disappeared like a white, broad monster into the ravine below.” A wall of snow 14 feet high swept the trains 150 feet down into the Tye River gorge. They pulled the last of the dead out in July, the snow finally releasing its grip.

No one expected it. The ride from Spokane to Seattle would be no trouble at all. The trains were a marvel and the men working them, marvelous. They worked hard to keep the trains moving, safe, comfortable, and on schedule. Snow would not stop them. They had crews for such things. Men on the tracks with shovels, men on the tracks with snow plows, powered by coal and the sweat of men. It snowed hard though. More snow than most men had ever seen. “I had never seen a storm like this one,” said Great Northern track walker Nyke Homonylo. “This winter is a hell of a time.”

The snow kept falling. Snow first delayed them at Leavenworth. They crawled forward, plowing through the blizzard. More snow. It was snowing at one foot an hour. The men plowed harder, faster. More men went out with shovels at 15 cents an hour to rid the tracks of snow and ice. Yet, it still snowed.

The trains were ordered to a side track near Wellington on Stevens Pass to wait out the storm. Days went by. “Sunday we noticed on top of this switchback far above us an enormous cap of snow hanging precariously on the side,” said passenger John Rogers, “clinging to the sparse lumber.” Rogers had grown weary of waiting on the train and decided to hike out on foot to safety. “The menace of that immense snow cap,” he said, “was a pall on our spirits.”

In one day, 11 feet of snow fell. Days, the people waited on the train. Stuck. “The coal is running out,” noted brakeman John Churchill, “and the supply in the bunkers was used up, and what little coal they had was needed to keep the trains warm so passengers would not suffer from exposure.”

Then, it started to rain. It was the last day of February, 1910. “There was an electric storm raging...lightning flashes were vivid and a tearing wind was howling down the canyon,” an eyewitness said. “Suddenly there was a dull roar.”

In the early morning hours of March 1st the trains were thrown off their tracks into the chasm below. Railway workers and Wellington residents rushed down to try and dig out the survivors.
They found 23 of them, many with grievous injuries. They were hustled to the Bailets Hotel in town, then to Wenatchee for recovery. The dead were strapped to toboggans and pulled up. They were put on western bound trains soon after for Seattle and beyond. In a cemetery in Everett, seven trainmen are buried. And in the ghost town of Wellington lies the old track one can walk along to this day along the Iron Goat trail. Still, remnants of the train that are not yet buried. That is, until the next snow.

Further reading:
Historylink
Seattle Times
4Culture