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Covid-19 social distancing in Central Montana

May 16, 2020
Mysterious dancing birds. Ibises? Mostly brown with some white on their heads.

May 16, 2020

Today in Billings sunshine, barking dogs, workers shingling Mrs. Johnson’s house across the alley.  I walked Gunther.

I was sitting in my chair, staring, when Gunther barked loudly. Three neighbors approached our porch. They appeared friendly.

The couple across the street were with their next door neighbor, a pleasant woman, who came home from the hospital yesterday. She recently spent five horrendous days in the ICU on a ventilator.  We exchanged the usual pleasantries, then arranged ourselves at safe distances. Of course, we talked about being sick. Like that.

She said she’d rather die than have the respirator experience again.  We other three looked at one another.  I said, “and we may end up having that experience.”  Of course, I was talking about Covid-19.  Our neighbor said she tested negative for Covid exposure.  We were glad to see her up and walking about, albeit weakly.

We had been out of town.

P. and I wandered about Central Montana in our conversion van, spent two nights at Ackley Lake.  You go from Lewistown to Hobson, then toward Utica. Ackley Lake is on a series of dirt roads, easy to find.

My late aunt, Corinne Ackley, was Lewistown Librarian back in the old days–early 1940s–before my cousin was born.  I doubt if they named Ackley lake after her, but I think of my irascible aunt Corinne often. She dealt plainly with life, much to our delight. She asked me to buy her some whiskey. I refused and she bellowed, “GO TO HELL!” My sweet sister bought Corinne some whiskey, as she is mature and kindly.

We liked Ackley Lake. We saw two others camped on its perimeter. It’s a reservoir and probably didn’t exist in my aunt’s day.

The second day of our foray into Central Montana we drove to Kingsbury Pond, on miles of dirt road, close to Square Butte, close to Geraldine, Montana.  We saw no rattlesnakes, but we did see some avocets wading around in the shallows, beautiful rust-colored heads and chests, up-turned long bills dipping into the mud. 

Square Butte laccolith is visible for miles.

Phone photos didn’t do them justice, but we got good looks with the binocular.  Killdeer made their distinctive vocalizations.  We also saw gulls and smaller birds.  We ended up walking about a mile through a grassy seasonal marshland from the car to the muddy edge of the water.  Gunther bounded through the grass like a dolphin.  A couple times he stood on his hind legs to look around.  I wanted a pic, but I was too slow.

We drove to the middle fork of the Judith River, saw numerous deer and two elk.  No bears.  Cold and rainy.  Tried to go to Checkerboard, but the road was closed from snow.  Driving in we saw nobody.  Driving out we saw numerous campers at Hay Canyon.  So we returned to Ackley Lake via Utica.  On the road we saw a pair of immense long-legged birds dancing or fighting.  We stopped, made a U-turn, watched the birds.  They looked like herons, only distinctly brown.  We think they were ibises (?).  Light was fading.  Soon they finished their flapping and jumping and walked away together.  

People were friendly throughout, although Lewistown had some right wing-nut billboards advertising the “Tea Party.”  I had broken a drain pipe to the RV water tank and a nice man in Belt helped me repair it.  I didn’t see any people wearing face masks in Belt, but I did in Lewistown and at Ackley Lake the second day we were there.

Next day we went to Sluice Boxes State Park.   We drove to the upper part of Belt Creek and hiked a couple miles. Then we returned to Billings.

Sluice Boxes State Park.

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2 Comments
  1. Blaine Ackley permalink

    Thanks, a very newsy note. Full of good details and pictures too. I will check on the I is? birds for you. We went hiking today too and among other birds of interest, we saw a lazuli bunting, red-winged blackbirds, blue herons, and numerous sparrows and robins.

  2. Blaine Ackley permalink

    Maybe the birds were Sandhill Cranes?

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