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MU senior cleans up streets with self-engineered plow

Thursday, January 20, 2011 | 9:35 p.m. CST; updated 9:59 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 20, 2011
22-year-old Craig Dunwoody started Neighborhood Lawn Care when he was a senior in high school. In the winter Dunwoody snow plows and occassionally shovels in residential and commercial areas to earn money to pay for school.

COLUMBIA — MU senior Craig Dunwoody doesn’t hesitate to pull a car out of the snow when he’s on the job running on two hours of sleep.

As he was pulling out of Sunnyridge Lane off Creasy Springs Road on Thursday afternoon, a couple waved him over and rolled down their car window. “Can you dig out around us?"

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“Yeah, I got a cable,” said Dunwoody, 22. “I don’t want you guys to be stuck.”

Dunwoody, founder of the local Neighborhood Lawn Care and a snowplow driver, attached a cable to the couple’s stuck car and charged his truck forward. The car slipped off the road, leaning frighteningly close to a ditch. After another try, Dunwoody yanked the car back onto the road.

Dunwoody's job requires him to be constantly alert, even when he's tired.

“Doing stuff like that keeps your adrenaline going,” Dunwoody said. “If it’s not something like this, I don’t like getting up early.”

Dunwoody was running on adrenaline Thursday. As the owner of Neighborhood Lawn Care, he worked five hours Wednesday, took a two-hour nap and woke up at 3 a.m. to get back on the road, without even taking a bite to eat. Despite his busy day, Dunwoody often stops on the job to help cars stuck in the snow at no charge, even though stops like this one slow down his route.

“I’ve got so much other stuff I’ve got to do, but you can’t just leave people,” Dunwoody said. He plowed until 8:30 p.m. Thursday and then went home to sleep.

Dunwoody founded Neighborhood Lawn Care as a Rock Bridge High School senior to generate income. He added snow removal to his business a couple of years ago, when he turned a truck into a snowplow using his engineering knowledge. Dunwoody, a mechanical engineering major, won a national robotics competition in junior high. Now he uses his mechanical skills to modify his equipment.

“He’s literally doubled the business almost every year since he got started because he does such a good job,” said his father, Mark Dunwoody, who is the dispatcher for Neighborhood Lawn Care.

It’s not uncommon for Dunwoody to stay up most of the night plowing during snowstorms, but Thursday’s snow was the biggest Dunwoody had seen in his past two years of plowing. Dunwoody sometimes has to miss class, like he did today, or sacrifice time spent studying for final exams to keep his business running.

“They didn’t cancel school today, did they?” Dunwoody said of MU. “Why in the world not?”

For most people who call Neighborhood Lawn Care during the snowfall, there is a wait. But for those who can catch him driving around, Dunwoody will stop to do an extra job.

As Dunwoody drove down Sunnyridge Lane on Thursday, Al Moffett and his stepdaughter, Athena Wheeler, 8, waved him down. They had been shoveling their long uphill driveway for half an hour with little luck.

“I probably would have had to keep shoveling because snowplow guys are so busy,” Moffett said. “That’s the reason I flagged him down, because he was right there, and I knew he’d do it.”

Dunwoody didn’t get into the business for nothing. He braves the cold well, with the sleeves of his blue hooded sweatshirt rolled up to his elbows and only a baseball cap to cover his head. When he started learning to drive, Dunwoody loved driving through the snow, and now he gets paid for doing it.

“Everyone else is like, oh, I hate the snow,” Dunwoody said. “I’m like, I love the snow.”


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