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Pharmacist in Lame Deer, Montana

May 6, 2021

5/6/21

Do you think I looked forward daily to working in Lame Deer five days/week, 106 miles from my house?  I did. For most of seventeen years. I commuted daily most of the time. Once I discovered I didn’t like cleaning both an apartment in Lame Deer and home in Billings. Also, my apartment that I had in Lame Deer (only for a few months, maybe six) was infested with mice. Then I bought a cat. Then my apartment was infested with cats.

When I first arrived in Lame Deer August, 1988, Rabbit Hiwalker gave me a sideways look. “What religion are you?” In other words, he found my enthusiasm for his reservation incredible.

My view of the reservation was greatly influenced by the clinic environment, the way people were looking their best, acting their best. I quickly learned the word “aho” meant thanks, and I heard it frequently every day.

Plus the countryside is gorgeous to me and I enjoyed studying it from the highway. Velvet green changes to gold.

Especially in June.  The air is cool at 6 a.m. and two hours to work is an easy drive through beautiful country, Eastern Montana, hills, sunrise, traveling almost exactly east.  I never got tired of the drive and I still feel intimate with every mile.  Something would catch my eye one year and I’d photograph it the following year on the same day. Or try to.

The cowboys gathered the horses in a round corral as the sun rose behind them, dust billowing from countless horse’s hooves.  No camera, but the following year I was ready.  The occurrence didn’t repeat, so I got off the road to a nearby butte.  A twin butte, really, because I could catch the early morning light as it bathed the butte with orange light.  I kept the photograph on a bulletin board in my office and people came in to visit and talk about the butte.  I’ll bet several people were conceived there on its sandy summit.  I don’t remember what the butte was called, but I returned again and again to photograph it.  Always it looked different, depending upon the weather—clouds, time of day, whether I was in a hurry to get to work.

Once I was in a hurry because I was to attend my retirement party and I’d gotten a medical exam at Crow Agency earlier.  I drove a fast car, a good one I’d bought in Denver.  Natives often obtained good horses from a distant place, and my pony was fast.  So fast a highway patrolman stopped me on a long hill near the previously mentioned circular corral.  I was traveling uphill, 105 mph.  I didn’t tell the cop I didn’t want to be late for my retirement party, but I did need to appear before a judge in Hardin, the county seat of Bighorn County.

Cars in Montana don’t usually go 105 mph uphill.  Did I mention I was in the passing lane? The judge fined me $150.

It’s all Indian country from there to Lame Deer;  mostly houses built by the government set back from the highway, connected by a straight unpaved road.  Frequently you’ll see a cluster of teepee poles leaning against the house.  The houses rarely have garages or other outbuildings.  One of my friends painted a teepee on the side of his house.  He said tourists often approach to take pictures, mostly asking permission first.  He worked at the Busby school and I have a picture of him.  Somewhere. Ronald Glenmore.  He was an artist.  I gave him most of the prints I made of tribal elders.  I believe he intended to display them at the Busby school.

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