Montana Outdoors

December 31, 2006

A winter day

Filed under: Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photos, Pictures, Reflections — montucky @ 10:00 am

Going to the city is not very high on the list of things that I like to do: it’s penciled in on one of the lines toward the bottom between having a root canal and breaking one of my favorite ribs. Sometimes though, it has to be done. This morning, resisting the urge to take the road leading to the dentist’s, I aimed the Jeep toward Missoula, a city of about 70,000 people which is 80 miles from where I live.

After an hour or so of trading elbow jabs with a host of total strangers in three stores in Missoula and courteously returning several one-finger salutes on the streets of the city, it was time to (thankfully) return home.

The weather here for the past several weeks has been somewhere between awful and something worse than that, but just as we were leaving the city the sun came out and I knew that ahead we would see some of the beauty of a Montana winter.

Thirty miles north of Missoula, the southern tip of the Mission mountain range was visible behind a thin veil of low clouds.

Mission range

Another thirty miles west and we passed one of my favorite winter places, an area of low cliffs about a half mile long which runs along the south bank of the Flathead river. Mother Nature has decorated them again as She does every year, with ice.

Ice falls 1

Ice falls 2

Ice falls 3

Ice falls 4

Another twenty miles and just behind where we call home stands Mt Baldy, the site of the winter rescue I described in my last post.

Mt Baldy 1

Mt Baldy 2

Sometimes there is a nice reward for completing a task you really didn’t want to do!

December 17, 2006

One dark night

Filed under: Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Reflections — montucky @ 11:32 am

At around eleven Saturday morning our electric power came back to us after an absence of some 32 hours. A severe storm that the TV weather people had threatened us with for days had arrived right on schedule and pretty much lived up to its billing.

I understand there are several environmental groups that are quite upset about the storm because it destroyed so many trees and structures without their express consent, and they are already planning to take some kind of legal action. Just imagine the arrogance of Mother Nature to produce such an event without even so much as completing an environmental impact statement! How dare She! Who does She think She is!

Darkness is sometimes a state of mind, but at other times it can also be a complete and total lack of light. When I awoke at three AM Friday morning, the latter was the case. Without light, the only thing external to my mind was the sound of a ghost train roaring past in the night, its wheels riding on icy cold ribbons of air. I could see, without seeing, the tall pines bowing low to the powerful force of the wind.

Life without electricity draws attention to many things that are usually taken for granted, and sooner or later the importance of one of those becomes recognized; a small appliance called a commode. Now this appliance has only one moving part; water. Without a ready supply of water, it just sits there occupying a corner of the bath room as a casual item of interest, but of no practical use. And water, sadly, is usually available only by a function of electricity.

Back in the 1940’s when the property on which we now live was first occupied, the occupants had the foresight (and the necessity) of erecting an out-house. A dozen or so years ago when we took residence, the old privy was no longer in use, but has remained in place and serviceable due to the insistence of my wife, who has considered it to be of historical interest and a part of our heritage. At times as in the last two days, I can appreciate that decision, however the use of it requires a certain amount of resolve and personal discipline. I don’t think she had exactly that in mind. Yesterday, as I strode resolutely though the swirling snow toward the old privy with a roll of tissue in my hand, I glanced back and could see through the window, my wife and our cat, sitting on the floor tossing a coin to determine who had the right of first use of the litter box. It occurred to me then that I would either have to go get more water for flushing or somewhere find a larger scooper for the cat box.

Outside of a few withdrawal symptoms brought on by the inability of the computer to get on line, Friday was a fairly normal day without electricity. The camp stove made cooking just as easy as it did in hunting camp, and during the evening the cribbage board acquired a little more mileage in the light of a Coleman lantern. It was even an interesting exercise to do some reading by the light of a 60 year old oil lamp that we keep around for that purpose. That also brought up the thought that maybe 60 years ago either folks’ eyesight was a lot better than now or there was not a whole lot of reading done in the evenings back then.

As we sat in the warm comfort provided by our wood-burning stove our hearts went out to the thousands of folks across the Northwest who live in more technologically advanced areas and have grown to depend solely on the sometimes fallible accomplishments of modern man to provide them comfort and security during the times when the course of nature turns harsh. They are now spending some cold and uncomfortable and very dangerous days and nights as a result of their unwitting tribute to man’s arrogance.

December 10, 2006

The thirteenth goose

Filed under: Canadian goose, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Poetry, Writing — Tags: , — montucky @ 8:08 pm

Early this morning a flight of Canadian geese could be seen over the river in their familiar “V” pattern, but this time something was not right: instead of even pairs, there were only thirteen. These beautiful big birds mate for life, and if one loses its mate, it will usually take another the following year, but seeing an uneven number in a “V” during the winter has always held a moment of sadness for me.

So, for the thirteenth goose, this:

The beat of gray wings
on a cold gray sky,
and a space in the “V”
for a time gone by.
Your life-mate is gone
and the winter is long:
there’s a void in your life
and a tear in your song.
I know your sorrow,
or if sorrow’s not known.
the loneliness;
feathered grief of its own.
When the grass next turns green
and the gray sky turns blue,
a new life-mate, then,
is my fain for you.

(I seldom attempt poetry, and I think now the reason for that is obvious.)

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