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Digging holes on a mountain top

January 3, 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Christmas has come and gone.  I gave my teen-age nieceling a boxed set of all of the Adrian Mole diaries by Sue Townsend, and the same nieceling’s mother three books by Mary Roach I told you about last month.   Alert readers will remember the titles:  Gulp, Bonk, and Grunt.

Suffice it to say Santa was good to me.  Could have been better?  Always!  I got Mr. Alden a pair of shoes and a bundle of socks.


In 1960 I gave my brother a pair of socks that cost the dollar I had budgeted for him.  He gave me a copy of Booth Tarkington’s Penrod.  I can hear my brother now as he slugged me on the shoulders:  “Ninety-eight cent socks?”  [whap whap whap] “You gave me ninety-eight cent socks!” [whap whap whap].  “I gave you a book and you gave me ninety-eight cent socks!”

Seems like years ago when I wrote to one of my ex-girlfriends to re-establish a long distance friendship.  She was a kick in the ass, I’ll tell you!  Anyway, she ultimately told me that she wouldn’t correspond further because her husband didn’t like me.  Her husband!  Didn’t like me!  I ask you, what’s not to like about me?  Anyhow, like a good guy, I agreed not to write to her again.  I tell you, censorship sucks.  However, jealousy sucks worse.

I find myself wanting to continue writing about my late uncle Carl, if only to put some finish to the project.  I think putting him back in the woods on his lookout atop Huckleberry Mountain on the western edge of Glacier Park would suit me—and him—best.


For one thing, his outhouse was in terrible shape, back in 1941, I’m thinking that was his first year.  He turned eighteen years old that year, but not until September.  Maybe 1942 was his first year.  He would have been eighteen in the late Spring, early Summer at the start of the year’s fire season.  I’ll have to do some reading.  I’m thinking one didn’t need to be eighteen to work for the Park Department then.

Every few years the lookout has to dig a garbage pit with a heavy wooden lid, to foil the bears, and he has to relocate his outhouse because the structure inevitably weathers and leans.  And of course the pit fills with poop and anything else someone drops down there.  I have an archeologist friend, Larry Felton, in California who calls such pits “time capsules.”

Couple years ago I went atop Huckleberry Mountain with my wife P. after a grueling six mile uphill hike, and I noticed the soil is thin and damned rocky.  A person would need a digging bar, a pick and shovel and plenty of patience to make any kind of useful pit near the lookout.  It could be done, however, but probably a hundred yards downhill, or so, where there are some white bark pines and limber pines.  These trees grew near the timberline.  They have the pleasant quality of turning the mountainside surface into soil by the relentless action of their roots to dig things up and the upper part of the tree to capture blowing dust and dirt and deposit the tiny bits over the years.  I suppose books have been written about alpine soil formation.  The point here is that my uncle could find the necessary dirt to dig a garbage pit and an outhouse hole.

I cannot fathom hauling a digging bar and pick and shovel to the top of Huckleberry mountain.  They were most likely packed on the back of a mule or possibly airlifted via small aircraft.  I know such aircraft buzzed the top of Huckleberry because I’ve seen aerial photos of the mountain with its lookout.  Unfortunately my bipolar nephew is quite forgetful and denies having the pictures.  He doesn’t make a secret of being bipolar or forgetful.  In fact, he has built a fledgeling career in mental health counseling based on his experiences with his disease.  I don’t know if I’m bipolar, but I definitely have problems of my own, of a mental health variety.  My psychiatrist has diagnosed me with recurrent major depression.  Some days I can’t get out of the house.  In fact, as I write this I’m still in my pajamas and it’s almost noon.

Okay.  Time to do some research on Fire Lookouts of the Northwest, from the book by Ray Kresek.

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