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Covid-19 in Billings, Montana, these days. . .

July 23, 2020
My friend Josiah Mo Hugs and his friendlies at a recent rally for Black Lives Matter.

July 20, 2020

What day is it?

National gummy worm day, according to Google.  

Because I asked “what day is it?”  It told me the date, plus a few irrelevant facts.

The trouble here in Billings, Montana, with being in lockdown during Covid-19:  I often forget the date.  I forget just about everything.  I have worries!  Cares!  But each day is like the last.  P. had us watch “Groundhog Day” last night.  I’m lucky!  My cute spouse tells me stuff.  Stuff to do.  I always do what she says.  Almost always.  Most of the time, because she’s right.  Most of the time.

A good thing:  My neighbors and friends are safely in their respective homes, houses, lairs.  I imagine I know their situations.  Much like mine.

Some, like my next door neighbor, work in health care.  She’s a pharmacist, working in the emergency department of Billings Clinic, just as I did at the start of my pharmacy career, 38 years ago.  She and her spouse are an adorable, youthful couple with chickens in their back yard.  A couple of reddish hens.  The other day, one of the hens was in our driveway.  We were headed out somewhere in the car.  I walked toward the red hen, automatically muttering, “here chick chick chick.”

To my delight, the chicken turned like a marching Marine and strutted toward me!  So I repeated in a louder voice, “chick chick chick.”  Soon the chicken was standing at my feet.  I leaned forward and it dutifully hunkered down to be picked up.  I obliged.  I carried it around to its home, opened the gate, put the chicken in.  I felt the glow of righteous action!  I’m good!  I thought.  I told my spouse, but she was less impressed with me.

Gunther, our intrepid Brussels Griffon, is wary of the hens.  He didn’t menace them, even when confined with them in the back yard.

I love summer.  The days get hot, about 100 F, but we don’t have air conditioning.  We don’t because we’re older persons.  Older than 70, anyway, having lived in the same house 35 years, we’ve taken plenty of opportunities to beef up the thermal insulation in our walls and ceiling.  Even our foundation.  We open our house during the nights to let things cool.  We close all the doors and windows during the hot times.  Many of our neighbors have air conditioners.  I can hear ‘em running.  I’ve thought about getting one of those, but I’m satisfied with doing without.  My grandparents didn’t have A/C.  Grandpa died in 1957.  Grandma died in 1967.  I don’t recall either one of them uttering the words “air conditioning.”

None for me either, thanks.  Humidity is low in Montana.

Instead, about 20 years ago I installed an attic fan in our house.  Controlled by a thermostat, it runs nearly constantly during the summer.  I made sure it gets plenty of hot air to expel through the roof.  I cut five 1-square-foot holes in the attic ceiling for the fan.  Thus, cooler air from the basement can eventually displace air on the first floor, then displace hot air upstairs.

Sometimes people—friends or relatives— stay temporarily with us upstairs in our attic.  Usually not in the summer because it’s hot.  I’d fix them up with a tent in the backyard, or they can sweat.

Do you feel guilty?  Nathaniel Blumberg, Professor of Journalism at the University of Montana in Missoula, told us to eschew guilt.  I remember him saying that, but I’ve never quite gotten a grip on what that means.  Because I’m chronically, clinically depressed, diagnosed by a board-certified psychiatrist, guilt is a cardinal symptom.  Frequent guilt.

I have guilty secrets, described by a brilliant woman like one of those fish found at the extreme deeps of an ocean trench.  A black skeleton with enormous mouth.

One guilty memory is of hosting Charlotte and Earl Bonde at our house maybe 30 years ago, in the summer.  They visited us and I asked them to sleep upstairs on a mattress on the floor.  “Are you putting us to bed?” Earl asked.  I answered in the affirmative.  Must have been 75 degrees up there and the sun was still shining, but they spent the night.  They were in good spirits throughout.

How I love the memories!  In the morning Penny made pancakes and Earl kept forking the cakes onto his plate.  I loved him!  He remarked at how long our house was, front to back.  That’s when Earl told me a joke.  “In North Dakota, they outlawed round hay bales.”  Why? I asked.  “Because the cows can’t get a square meal.”

I miss Earl.  I miss Charlotte, too.  She’s still in Nerstrand, Minnesota, but this summer there’ll be no Bonde reunion.  Earl and his sister Helen were the driving force but he’s gone.  Also, because of Covid-19.

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