Trent Shaver had been down this snow-shrouded road before.
This time it wasn't just ice. It was fire and ice.
Shaver, 43, operates S&H Portable Johns and Septic Service in Atlanta, Neb., a village of 131 southwest of Holdrege.
When most people are hunkered down during a storm, Shaver parks his pumper truck, fuels up his Dodge Ram pickup and goes in search of people to help.
That's what he did Wednesday night as a blizzard howled across south-central Nebraska.
He brought a stranded couple and a dachshund named “Tank” in from the dark and cold. He tried to persuade a driver whose car slid into a ditch to abandon the vehicle and accept a ride to safety. He stocked up on groceries for storm refugees.
About 9 p.m., Shaver came across a strange sight.
A contract mail truck from Grand Island was burning on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 6 and 34 west of Atlanta. The vehicle's right dual tires were burning. Mail bags in the cargo bay were burning.
“Nobody had a shovel,'' Shaver said. “So we used our hands and feet to pack as much snow as we could up into the bottom of the truck to smother the fire. We finally got the tires put out, but the mail was on fire inside.''
That's about when 11 volunteers from the Oxford Fire Department arrived.
“It was a delayed response,'' said Chief Al Hays. “You couldn't see the end of the (firetruck) hood. We never got going more than 20 or 25 mph, tops.''
Hays said most of the cargo was destroyed. The driver was not hurt.
Shaver resumed his lone tour of the countryside, pulling a few vehicles out of ditches before returning home at 5 a.m. Thursday.
Shaver said he put up at least three people in the residence at his business, which functions as an impromptu shelter during emergencies. Others could have come and gone without his knowledge.
“We have some big, old sectional couches and air mattresses,'' he said. “It's stocked with food, water and generators.''
Shaver said the couple and dog he encountered during his initial storm tour were heading home to Arapahoe from a trip to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Grand Island. They were sitting in a darkened, four-door car covered with snow and ice and parked in the shelter of the old village bank.
The couple asked Shaver why he stopped. He noticed their out-of-county license plates.
“What are your plans for the storm?'' he asked them.
They planned to sleep in the car.
“You don't need to do that,'' he said. “We have a shelter. It's my place.''
The couple said they were amazed and grateful that he stopped to see if someone needed help.
“It's just what we do,'' Shaver said.
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