Helping Hands: Local buiness makes a difference after Irene
By Bruce Edwards
STAFF WRITER | August 26,2012
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Craig Mosher owns Mosher Excavating Inc. of Killington and was instrumental in rebuilding Route 4 in the Bridgewater area.
For Craig Mosher and his work crew, they were just doing their jobs.
But in the aftermath of the worst storm in memory, helping to rebuild large swaths of the local road network that were wiped away by Tropical Storm Irene really doesn’t qualify as your average day on the job, even for someone with 33 years experience in the construction industry.
No question the damage caused by Irene did leave an indelible impression on Mosher, but it wasn’t so much the physical damage as the human toll that he witnessed.
“Towns being lost … your heart goes out to them,” he said in an interview at the Mosher Excavating office on Route 4 in Killington.
Shortly after the storm hit, Mosher came across a man in Pittsfield whose house was upended. He offered to help.
“Are you OK? What can I get for you,” Mosher said, recalling that the man was just gratified to find his dog’s food bowl.
“I almost lost it,” said Mosher, 58, who looks years younger and every bit the part of a hard-hat construction worker but with a soft heart. “That’s all that was important to him.”
Just up the road from his Killington office, Mosher had an up-close-and-personal view of the devastation wrought by the storm. Between Goodro Lumber and the Sherburne United Church of Christ, Irene’s waters that Sunday afternoon had washed away a huge chunk of Route 4.
“As soon as I drove up to that site at Goodro’s, I know what I had to do,” he said. “I felt like freakin’ Patton.”
While there wasn’t much he could do while the storm raged, the following day and for the next couple of months, Mosher and his six employees pitched in with a half-dozen pieces of heavy equipment.
They were joined by other local contractors, including Doug Casella, Markowski Excavating, Agency of Transportation District 3 highway crews and National Guard units. Together, they rolled up their sleeves, cleaned up the debris, and rebuilt Routes 4, 100 and 107.
Asked what sticks with him a year later, Mosher pauses and says sometimes it takes a disaster like Irene to pull people together.
“Everyone jumped together and they’d do it again,” he said, “and they’d do it tomorrow, if you had a disaster like that.”
But Mosher adds that sometimes we as a society are too quick to forget and get lost in our own lives.
He said remnants of Irene and the force of nature are still visible: from the rock and boulder strewn riverbeds and streams to the now abandoned homes that were tossed about like toys.
“It’ll never be the same,” he said.
A native Vermonter, Mosher graduated from Woodstock Union High School. In 1979, he started Mosher Excavating, building ski trails and some residential construction.
His spacious office and home are right on Route 4, east of Killington, with the Ottaquechee River abutting the back of the property. Pointing to the still visible waterline, Mosher said the flood waters came within three inches of the front door of his 1885 home and office.
That’s not to say Mosher escaped unscathed. Five acres of adjacent pasture where several prime cattle grazed were washed away, with the force of the storm leaving behind 15,000 tons of gravel.
The Scottish Highland beef cattle survived but Mosher is still working to reclaim the pasture using “manufactured topsoil,” a mixture of recycled paper and sand instead of stripping off topsoil from a productive field.
Selling or developing the five acres would make him a tidy profit. But when people asked why he’s taking a valuable piece of property and turning into a pasture, Mosher had a ready answer:
“What are you doing that for and I’d say I’m going to create something that people are going to slow down for long enough to take a breath.”
Wearing an ash-colored T-shirt with a small maroon Mosher logo, worn green work pants and boots, that have seen more than a few construction jobs, Mosher reflected on a day before Irene when he ran into a woman and her son as they stopped by the pasture to watch the animals. Mosher said the woman would pull off the side of the road on her way to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for her son’s twice-a-week chemotherapy session.
“She said this is the only thing that keeps my son’s interest going,” Mosher said.
That’s all he needed to hear, he said, to know that “it’s not always about the money.”