Bill Bushey eased his hulk of a plow truck down a narrow side street in Portland’s West End, lowered his blade with a thud, and hoped for the best.

He was about to thread a 16-foot-wide, six-wheeled plow truck through a 20-foot-wide alleyway also know as Tate Street.

Bushey’s foot nudged the gas pedal. The truck’s diesel engine let out a woosh and a groan.

“See how tight we are on that side?” he said. A telephone pole nearly grazed the tip of his plow blade. “You see how close we’re getting to this stuff?”

As one of Portland’s roughly 200 plow drivers, Bushey knew Tuesday morning that he was in for a long day. Snow blew hard against the truck’s windshield, driven by a blizzard that was only getting started. For 16 hours, Bushey would patrol a small swatch of residential blocks, including some of the narrowest and steepest streets in Portland, fighting nature one snowbank at a time.

He rattled off the route’s perimeters, barely taking a breath.

Commercial Street to High Street to Congress Street to State Street to Pine Street to Brackett Street, then back to Commercial Street. Blade up, blade down. Plow, repeat.

After four years on the same route, Bushey knows the dips in the pavement, the cuts in the curb, the people with delinquent parking habits. He motioned to his left.

“This guy in the van is known for it,” Bushey said, pointing at a black late-model kid-hauler. “He parks his car right on the edge of the curb line. Almost like he wants you to hit him. I don’t know what the purpose is.”

The plow blade crunched past. The van was spared – this time.

Only halfway down Tate Street, Bushey’s right plow blade, retracted to almost vertical next to the truck cab, barely missed a speed limit sign. Then a parking sign. Then another telephone poll. It was only 10 a.m.

“When you’re into it 15 hours and you gotta come down this street again, how hard do you think it is?”

Bushey resents the notion that his job is easy.

“Some people push snow, and some people plow snow,” he said. “It’s like how some people take pictures and some people are photographers.”

Built like a fireplug, Bushey rested his catcher’s mitt of a hand on the hydraulic controls of the plow blades. A tug of a lever evoked a satisfying hiss. The streets, devoid of cars, were his playground. Lucky for him, residents heeded the city’s on-street parking ban.

On wide thoroughfares, Bushey prefers to plow a stripe straight down the center, and return to clean up the sides.

“It’s like playing in the sandbox again, except I get paid,” Bushey said.” It’s a whole different ballgame when the cars are here.”

With about a foot of snow on the ground, Bushey knew that he couldn’t drive too fast or he would risk pushing banks of white onto the sidewalks.

“If we put the snow on the sidewalks, the public gets very upset,” Bushey said.

He swung the truck right onto a narrow, one-way part of York Street overlooking the Casco Bay Bridge. He’d been there five times already, but the snow was coming too fast and it kept piling up. Another right hand turn, and the truck pointed straight up Brackett Street, a steep slope to climb in a driving snowstorm. Bushey smiled.

“I think I can, I think I can,” he said, trying to will the rig up the hill. The truck’s tires spun. He backed up.

“This snow’s heavy. There’s nowhere to put it.”

The truck whirred again, and this time charged up the hill, a small triumph against a storm that seemed like it would not quit.