Skip to content

Well, some of these days are like that.

Retired guy, thinking.

May 2, 2020

A shitty day.  P. and I are not getting along.  Last night I drank a bottle of wine after she went to bed, then I took a 30-minute hot bath.  Then got light-headed.  Result was I crawled around our room in the dark and she was upset that I was drunk.  Not like a pirate, but like bozo.  In short, I fucked up.  I scared her and disrupted her sleep.  I fear Covid-19 pandemic will kindle some alcoholic relapses in others, too. Thanks for not judging me. I’ll do you the same favor.

Earlier today I said to P. that part of recovery from alcoholism is relapse.  She practically spit out her coffee.  I don’t think she had heard that one before.  Okay, I am an alcoholic.  My trouble is not a rare and I am in good company.  My dear aunt drank too much Jack Daniels nightly.  Sometimes, after everyone else turned in, her jolly self turned to tears and anger and she paced around the house cursing. 

My drinking ended up with me taking hot baths, then getting light-headed, in danger of falling.  Anyhow, I wouldn’t be of much help to anyone if there were a late-night emergency when I’m drunk.  And such emergencies do happen, but I won’t talk about those because it’s nobody’s business.

Remorse is part of relapse is part of recovery.  Remorse.  In copious amounts.  I’ve joined the club of sad old guys.  Wait.  I’ve been a member of the club for years.  Now I get to wear the hat, recite the creed, give the secret handshake.  Not the handshake, no.  Covid-19.  

I’m retired.  I do occasional work, mostly manual labor, semi-skilled.  This can make staying sober challenging these days.  Superman is a mythical guy.  Sometimes my best strategy is going to bed early.

My pharmacy co-worker, Phil Minnick, once told me that he was always amazed how things look better after a night’s sleep. 

Today as I write I get to sit in on grandson Josiah’s creative writing class.  This class at Sarah Lawrence College is being held on line via computer video conference.  They are critiquing each others’ short stories.  They are collected together from many parts of the country. One of the students is speaking to the group while driving to Minnesota. I am impressed with the generosity of spirit expressed by the group toward each other.  They encourage each other.  They find themes and literary devices in each other’s work that I didn’t know existed.  

In my head, I am thinking some of the stories are boring, and that’s a literary device I am familiar with because I used to employ it.  I quit when I told stories to sixth graders in Lame Deer. I couldn’t afford to bore them. But that’s the topic of another post.

I noticed the instructor did not criticize any stories for being wordy, although some of the students tactfully suggested compressing parts [of the boring] stories.

Cojiah printed out all of the stories for me before class.  Actually, I read some of them only part way.  Some were long, long, LONG so I gave up on them.  

However, the longest piece of the lot was not boring.  It was a first hand tale of a young person with bipolar disorder confined to a mental hospital.  It had a frank, honest tone, a great voice.  Well, I wanted to keep reading because I had questions.  The story didn’t disappoint because it had answers.  Honest answers.  Like about doors that didn’t open, windows that didn’t look outdoors.  Time that seemed to not move because there was no place to go.  People in a mental hospital know about such things.

Unfortunately that one didn’t get a critique because the instructor spent the class time demonstrating his knowledge of literary devices.  And I was impressed, like I said.  Highly impressed that his job is teaching writing at Sarah Lawrence College.  E.L. Doctorow and other distinguished sorts also taught at Sarah Lawrence, encouraging youngsters like my grandson.  Cojiah’s work did not come up for critique this session, but he encouraged the others.

Covid-19 Lifestyle

You’ve got to pick up every stitch. (Remember?)

May 1, 2020

I doubt if my grandparents experienced what I’m experiencing with the Covid-19 pandemic.  Or did they?  

Carl and Ellen lost their toddler, a girl, in 1918 to scarlet fever.  She died in my grandma’s arms, I was told.  Like that.

Soon after, they adopted a kid from North Dakota, Sigurd Christianson, whose mother died during the flu pandemic.  The mother was married to one of my grandma’s brothers.  I don’t know what became of Sigurd, but I think he returned to live with his father after a few years in Kalispell.  Perhaps his father remarried.  ?

My aunt Corinne said everyone liked Sig.  He was approximately as old as Corinne’s brother Bud, lost in WW II when a U-boat torpedoed his troopship in the English Channel Christmas Eve, 1944. Wars never end.

But. Back to the present.  In Billings, these days we live in a strange, compressed way, with face masks and computer zoom church services.  Our neighbors howl each evening at 8 o’clock.  We were walking and P. and I saw a kindergarten-age kid leafing through a coloring book on his front porch.  He howled at the kids across the street as he leafed through the book. The adults across the street looked like they got a kick out of the scene.

Earlier today, at two o’clock, I walked Gunther around the block and at the end of our alley I saw my friend Nick.  He said he was glad to see me.  He approached me and I shrank back.  He presented an elbow to bump.  “Elbows,” he said.  He is young, muscular, black.  Lovable, wholesome. Always friendly to me.

He is working.  Distributes potato chips and other snacks for Frito-Lay.  That makes him essential so he can keep working.  He is essential to his family.  His wife is applying to become a physician assistant student at Rocky.  They have two high-spirited daughters who write messages of love on the sidewalk in pink chalk.  Nick and his wife recently remodeled their house.

He is interesting.  Formerly a college and professional basketball player, he played for the Harlem Globe Trotters in addition to more conventional teams.  I’m not a great fan of pro ball, but Nick cares about the same kinds of things I care about.  People, pets, pandemic.  Sometimes he parks his big Frito-Lay rig at the end of our block.  We talked about getting together for supper, his family and mine.  Well, we still talk about it, but now the getting together seems remote, in the social isolation time of Covid-19.  Nick said we will get through all of this.  In my imagination I’m grilling him a steak. Maybe a baked potato. Here’s a beverage.

Gunther needed more time for his physical needs, so I walked him down the alley.  My neighbors are socially isolating in their back yards.

I’ve been napping a couple times a day, these days.  Then I get up and do chores.  Sometimes I sit in the back and look for birds.

My friend Ezra Stewart called me this afternoon.  Ezra reads science fiction, but other things too.  Good stories.  Some by Kilgore Trout.

He and I like to volunteer at NOVA theater when we can get adequate instruction and supervision.  Carpentry in a theater is different from standard household carpentry.  (duh!)  A nice thing these days is the lack of any work deadlines.  Tuesday, I plan to meet with the theater manager along with Ezra to see if we can spruce up the theater.  Probably make some repairs. Do some deep cleaning.

But back to Ezra’s phone call.  He mentioned giving his mother a book of Emily Dickenson’s poetry.  This inspired me to read through a book we have at our house.  And that’s what I’m doing tonight.  

Famous Pharmacist in Broadus

Broadus, Mont., pharmacist John Lane stopped dispensing birth control pills to his customers in Powder River County, Mont. (File photo)

April 13, 2020

I thought I was hot on the trail of Montana’s most famous pharmacist.  Pharmacists can be bright, clever, endearing people.  Think of some pharmacists you know.  I think of the young man—an actor—who has been pleasing audiences at Billings Studio Theater.  He’s bright, talented, yes!  Famous?  Well, yes!  Well, not, perhaps.  Fame doesn’t come to pharmacists (or radiologists, or lab technicians, etc. etc.), as a rule.  However, many people are fond of their pharmacist.  I like my pharmacist, a helpful person at Osco Drug.  She gives me my flu shot every year.

Fame?  One vice president—Hubert Humphrey—was a pharmacist.  His name may not be well known in every household, but he helped create the legislation in the late 1940s for instituting Medicare.  A good guy.  Like a pharmacist.

I digress.

My tale starts in 2002 or 2003 when I attended a pharmacist’s meeting in Billings at one of the big hotels on the West End of town.  We were promised continuing education credit if we would take drug therapy management training.  The program was hosted by UM School of Pharmacy educators, like UM professor Vince Colucci.  

I thought I was hot stuff.  At that time, I had recently published a scholarly paper with professor Mike Rivey entitled, “Combined Therapy with an ACE Inhibitor and Angiotensin Receptor Blocker in Chronic Heart Failure.”  The ink was still fresh on my doctor of pharmacy degree and on my certificate of board certification in pharmacotherapy.  How could I resist attending such a meeting?  It was my passion. Also, I needed the CE credits!

At the meeting, seated to my right, one row behind me, was a winsome and charming young pharmacist.  Turns out he was from the Eastern Montana town of Broadus.  I had a distinctly good impression of him.  He was spontaneous and friendly. We chatted about rural pharmacy practice.

Jump ahead a half-dozen years.  By then I had retired from the Public Health Service and I was working at a home infusion pharmacy.

I happened to read in the Billings Gazette that a Broadus pharmacist had gained national attention by refusing to fill birth control pills on religious grounds.  He had been reported to the state Board of Pharmacy who declined to punish him because Montana has no laws or rules against refusing to fill a prescription.  He didn’t just decline to fill oral contraceptives, but he refused to hand over the prescription to another pharmacist who would. Women’s rights organizations were outraged.

I marveled.  Although I have refused to fill prescriptions a few times during my 23-year career, it was not because of religious convictions.  No.  I refused faked or altered prescriptions a couple of times, and once I refused because the patient and I both knew it was the wrong thing to do.  “I won’t do it,” I said.  In no case did anyone report me to the Board of Pharmacy or anyone else.  One knows when one is right to refuse.  Doesn’t happen often.  In my case I didn’t get any attention, nationally or locally either.  That’s why I marveled that the pharmacist from Broadus was famous in a profession that doesn’t get much fame.  Or any notice at all.

These days, during the Covid-19 pandemic, P. and I are living in our van in Eastern Montana.  Because we must stay away from our house for at least two weeks, we rattle around from small town to small town, returning to Miles City at night to live in our van DOWN BY THE RIVER.

Today, we drove to Broadus.  Our quest for a great piece of pie didn’t work out.  We couldn’t find the restaurant, although we drove up one street of Broadus and down. 

Finally, I spotted the IGA with pharmacy.  “I’ll ask about the good pie,” I said, jumping from the driver’s seat.

Within, I quickly found the pharmacy.  Two very attractive women stood behind the counter.  The whole pharmacy was perhaps 15 feet wide, 4 feet deep.  One woman, who turned out to be the pharmacist, was talking on the phone.  She hung up and asked me how she could help me.  I told her I was a retired pharmacist, interested in meeting a pharmacist I met from Broadus.  A man who had refused to fill a prescription for birth control pills.  She gave me the pharmacist’s name.  She said the he moved to Hot Springs.  I said I hoped to meet him.  I said I liked met him years ago, and I wanted to meet him again to see if I still really liked him.

The two women quickly convulsed with laughter.  Always great to connect with other pharmacists. I couldn’t tell how they regarded him.

P. and I departed Broadus in silence.  I suggested we drive to Hot Springs, a town near Kalispell.  To look up the pharmacist.  To see if I still really liked him.  P. was enthusiastic because we needed to wait four days before returning home.  Because Covid-19 quarantine.  Hot Springs seemed like a great destination.

Then I checked the internet to check for identity of the pharmacist from Broadus who had refused to fill birth control pill prescriptions.  This was John Lane, a name different from that of the pharmacist and technician in the IGA.  An article with accompanying photo confirmed his identity for me.  I have a weakness for people with gaps between front teeth, and I recognized him.  Trouble was, Mr. Lane was no longer in Montana.  He now works in Hot Springs, South Dakota, according to the Montana Board of Pharmacy website.

I guess I won’t find out if I still like Mr. Lane as much as before.  Still, he is arguably famous at all, for that. 

Pandemic Refugees Explore Eastern Montana Oddities

April 10, 2020

We love the sparsely populated parts of Eastern Montana.  Oops, redundant.  

Have you read journalist and musician Ed Kemmick’s book, Montana the Lay of the Land, recently published?  He described unusual places in Eastern Montana. 

I liked “Montana’s Niagara Falls,” about Shonkin Sag with its now-dry waterfall in what used to be the course of the Missouri River after the last ice age, 10,000 years ago.  Well, the river channel moved and the waterfall is now about 50 or 60 miles west, near Great Falls.  The sag is another name for the valley eroded by the defunct part of the river.

The sag’s dry falls is on private land, and you face about 10 miles of dirt road, so I didn’t think I’d ever find—much less see—the sag.  

A few years ago at the Lilac restaurant in Billings I found Mr. Kemmick at the bar nursing a. . . lemonade, I think.  He assured me that with a bit of perseverance we too could visit the Shonkin Sag, the dry waterfall, and Lost Lake, a body of water at the foot of the 250-foot falls. 

I had read about the sag in Ed’s Last Best News.  Hard to find a catchier name for a geologic feature, I thought.

With coronavirus distancing, we needed to leave home in our camper van so our grandson could quarantine in our house.  “Good,” we said.

To get used to camping, we stayed at the KOA by the Yellowstone River, in Billings.  Spent three nights there, then north to adventure.

We got to Fort Benton to an RV camp.  Melting snow leaked through the porch roof as I knocked on the office door of a mobile home.  An attractive, older woman, took my $40, and we plugged in our van.  We walked around the fairgrounds.  Then we walked downtown.  Quiet for Saturday evening.  The bars and restaurants were closed for coronavirus.  A gas station/convenience store was open.

Next morning we headed east toward Geraldine from Fort Benton, but after crossing the Missouri we saw sign for a road to Highwood.  We pulled off the highway to think.  And let Gunther relieve his bladder.  Our map showed Highwood to be near Shonkin, so we changed our plans.

In ten miles we got to a sign that said “Shonkin,” and took gravel roads over hill and dale until I thought we were lost.  A pickup headed our way, so I rolled down the window and stuck out my hand.  I asked the young man dressed in camo if he could tell me where the Shonkin Sag was.  

“You just went through it,” he answered.  After prompting, he told us how to find Lost Lake, three miles farther on a muddy road, to a sign telling us to park.  A Subaru was there, so we pulled our camper van behind, then followed some footprints through snow.  

You can’t see the magnificence from the road, but in a short space we viewed the 250-foot deep, perhaps half-mile wide gorge that had birds wheeling on the fluted granite columns of the cliff.  We didn’t get too close to the edge.  Gunther gave me a scare.  We soaked in the magnificence.

Big dry 250-foot waterfall.

Then we drove to Great Falls to a KOA where we stayed two nights.

Because I recently read Margaret Bell’s tale of her childhood at Sand Coulee, near Great Falls, we visited. We saw a bar, a jail, some dugout houses, and a town park with horse shoe pits with horse shoes hanging on the backstops.

Jail in Sand Coulee.

Our computers worked fine pretty much everywhere we camped, so we could look up our questions.  I re-read Mr. Kemmick’s chapter about Shonkin Sag and soon I was aching to visit the Square Butte Granite Quarry.  Turns out the iconic Square Butte is a laccolith, formed by an intrusion of magma between layers of overburden.  Square Butte and the Shonkin dry waterfall are each composed of the same brown granite, called Shonkinite.  During the days of the great influenza pandemic of 1918 until the 1930s, several companies invested in mining Shonkinite at a quarry near Square Butte town, about seven miles east of Geraldine, Montana.

We drove to the town of Square Butte, onto the main street.  I approached a man as he stepped out of his pickup onto the dirt street to check his mail. When I told him I was interested in visiting the quarry, he told me I wouldn’t be seeing it that day because the road was wet.  He said last week a truck from Tire Rama made the mistake of turning south off the highway instead of north and got stuck.  The man said he had to pull the Tire Rama truck out with a back hoe and four-wheel drive tractor.  Obviously we’ll have to wait to see the quarry next go around.

By then we felt like driving to Lewistown for groceries.  Then back on the road again. P.’s mother used to live in Benzien, Montana.

Between Sand Springs and Benzien.

We got to Sand Springs via Grass Range, took a road toward Benzien.  Just a dirt road with no signs.  Arbitrarily took a left fork and drove 10 miles until we encountered a pickup with a couple, perhaps our age.  I learned we took the wrong fork.  P. learned she and the man in the truck were probably distant relatives, through her mother’s side.  His name was Don Rich.  His grandmother was a teacher.  Mr. Rich knew P.’s mother.

Benzien post office.

I felt overwhelmed by the feeling that P.’s mother, who had been postmaster of Benzien during WW II, was acquainted with most all of the folks in the Sand Springs area of Garfield County.  

Lillian’s root cellar near the Benzien post office

Only we didn’t stop at the Rogge ranch because a sign warned us not to approach the house.  Years ago, P. and I went with her mother to visit Edwin and Darlene Rogge at their modest mobile home at the ranch.  Edwin and Darlene took us three on a great tour of a bison ranch in the Missouri breaks down near where the Musselshell joins the Missouri.  

Rogge Ranch.

Looked like rain as we headed back on the dirt road toward Sand Springs and we didn’t want to get stuck in gumbo.

We stopped at the Wolf Cemetery and found Edwin and Darlene’s graves.

 We headed east on the highway to Jordan. We counted 13 dead deer and one live one.  Pronghorns were too numerous to count.

My view of Jordan was tainted by the so-called “Freemen,” a group of criminals who gained notoriety in the late 1990s for claiming freedom from the laws of the United States.  Their “freedom” allowed them to escape debt, print money, and declare sovereignty until they were convicted of fraud and punished.  Jordan is arguably in a remote part of central Montana.  

Only I was surprised at the generosity and friendliness of its citizenry.  The high school used to have a dormitory, but that was razed in favor of an RV park where we were the sole occupants.  Also, gasoline was only $1.51, forty cents cheaper than anywhere else in Montana.

Jordan, Montana.

My impression was that people throughout Eastern Montana were taking seriously the advice to socially isolate themselves to prevent spread of the pandemic.  We saw plexiglas shields in Fort Benton, Great Falls, Billings, Lewistown, and Miles City.  I didn’t see a shield in Jordan, but we visited just one business, a gas station.  Just about everywhere had tape on the floor marking off six-foot distances for people to stay apart.

Lewistown and Billings get the nod for many people wearing face masks.  Certainly all the places we visited had closed their bars and restaurants.

The Great Falls KOA had the good shower facility.  Neither Jordan nor Miles City had a water hookup (too early in the spring).

Next?  After a day in Miles City, we explored Sidney.  I particularly hoped to find my friend Gordon Simard’s grave.  He died in the late 80s, early 90s, of malignant melanoma.  Gordon and I were musicians together with John Herman and our bass player and manager, whose name escapes me, in a band we called “Water.”  Our repertoire consisted of:  Keep on Chooglin,’ Slow Blues, and I Ain’t Superstitious.  Just those three songs, but we’d play each one twenty minutes each.  We didn’t have enough material for a show of our own, so we usually did gigs with another group.  We didn’t play many gigs, either.  One in the UM University Center ballroom, one in Helena at the Civic Center, and a half-dozen at the roller skating rink on Higgins Avenue where we practiced in an upstairs apartment.  I want to think we played in the Monk’s Cave in Missoula, but that might be a false memory.

I did not find Gordon’s grave, but I found a Simard family plot at the Sidney cemetery.  Gordon was too much a counter-culture type for burial in a family plot, I’m thinking.

Irresponsible Dog Owner.

Gunther doesn’t want to be left behind.

March 26, 2020

Yesterday my nephew Jon had bronchitis, saw a medical provider, got an antibiotic.  He said in 24 hours his cough abated. They didn’t suspect coronavirus because he had no fever.

Mentally for me, things are not quite so smooth.  At the grocery this morning we bought our usual list of fruits, vegetables, cereal, eggs, dog food, lemonade.  Otherwise, we stay at home nearly all the time.

We also needed toilet paper, so I checked out the “bathroom tissue” aisle, nearly bare.  I asked a nearby store man for some TP.  He went to the back part of the store, then tossed me a 12-pack.  He said before they instituted the “senior only” hours from 7-9 each morning, young people would show up when the store opened, clearing certain shelves.

I’m stalling.  I need to confess.  I am certifiably an irresponsible pet owner.  Allow me to explain.

Yesterday we went for a three-mile hike. Gunther loves to hike with us.

As usual, as soon as I set his soft crate near the back door, G. ran into it and hunkered.  He seems to fear being left behind.  Me, I dislike lugging him in his carrier all the way out to the car.  He weighs almost two stone, according to his veterinarian.

Therefore, I upended his crate and poured him out.  I shouldered my daypack and jacket, and out the back door and down the steps.

Only Gunther didn’t trot to the car.  He started howling and barking and sprinting to the front of the house to challenge our mail carrier, who by coincidence, was passing the end of our driveway.  

Another time he had warned me that he didn’t like being harassed by our dog.  

I ran after Gunther and shouted at our mail carrier, “I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!”

But it didn’t help.  Our carrier turned for the street, making a wide circle around our place.  He didn’t stop to deliver mail or pick up the Netflix envelope.  

I felt doom.  Jon’s wife, Kristi, who is also a mail carrier, told me that she had been instructed not to deliver mail to places with aggressive dogs.

Gunther howls and barks sometimes.

Nonetheless, we hiked at Sword’s Park.  Had a pretty good time walking three miles.  Visited Yellowstone Kelly’s grave, although I never get too worked up over Yellowstone Kelly.  I should probably learn about him, but I’m not curious.

Today after our grocery trip I posted on Fb the news that yesterday G. menaced the postman, because guilt weighed on my mind.  Kristi told me it was a serious offense.  I worried.

By noon, while I cowered in the bedroom, the Postmaster came to us.  He hand-delivered a letter to our adult son, stating that our mail delivery service had been stopped because of our unrestrained dog.  I would have to visit the main post office to get mail delivery again.

The letter.

Kristi recommended I take additional action.

I wrote an apologetic note to our letter carrier.  Then I drove to Starbucks to buy a coffee card.  Then I drove to the main post office to collect our mail and sign a letter of understanding that if our dog menaces the carrier again we would have to rent a post office box because we would forfeit our mail delivery service for ever!

Only trouble was, the clerk at the main post office didn’t know where the letters of understanding were.  She said to try later.

Irresponsible pet owner.

Back home, I harnessed Gunther for his noon constitutional walk.  As we turned the corner of the block near Mrs. Johnson’s (where Gunther likes to poop) I came face-to-face with our carrier!  Of course Gunther growled menacingly so I pulled tight his leash.

“I’m so sorry!” I stammered.  “Look, I wrote you an apology!”  I handed him the envelope with the card.  

“You didn’t have to do that,” he said.  

“We appreciate you!” I insisted.  “Please accept my apology.  I put in a coffee card for you!”

He smiled, placed the envelope into his mail pouch.  “Thanks, Dan!” he said.  He told me a couple minutes later that he would deliver mail to us again after he gets the letter I need to sign at the main post office.

Later, P. and I drove to the main post office, signed the letter, and got two pieces of mail.  Junk mail.  Well, one was a birthday card from our insurance agent.  I resolved to leash Gunther if we so much as think about going outdoors.

I eventually sold that VW bus to a guy in Colstrip, Montana

Typical day for me when we drove the Volkswagen to Alaska.

March 21, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic coincides with daily surprises, front page news.  Deaths in Italy increased dramatically.  Numbers of cases surged in New York and California.  Many schools and restaurants and bars in Billings have closed or changed their manner of doing business. Half hour ago I returned from Masterlube (R) where three workers washed our camper.  It’s Saturday afternoon and hardly anyone is seen downtown.  Perhaps four or five people on the street as I drove a couple of miles through the heart of Billings.  The sky is blue, the sun bright, the temp about 60 degrees F, slight breeze.  Pleasant, but practically vacant of human beings.  One woman on a bicycle.

We got a new roof, thanks to a squad of workers who replaced the house, garage, and woodshed roofs in a little more than two days.  I stayed out of their way.  Today I split some firewood and picked up those annoying little cellophane strips that come from shingles.  Also, three shingle nails from the driveway.  From the margins of the driveway.  Just takes one, I think.

Good to get out of the house, where we two (three, including Gunther) have spent most of the past week.  P. has been making quilts, I read, do puzzles, take naps.  At least Gunther isn’t barking, now that the workers have gone.  As I write, G. is sitting on my neck, a perch he seems to like.

Whenever I sneeze or cough I worry that I’m getting sick.  I will resume my internist’s admonition to abstain from singing, caffeine and alcohol and to take omeprazole twice daily.  This is to reduce irritation to my larynx.  It doesn’t mean anyone else needs to avoid those things, just me because of my laryngeal inflammation.

Mostly I miss the many people I’m used to encountering at singing practices, NOVA Theater, and the “church of the fervently religious.”  Oh yes, our relatives, too.  The ones in Billings whom I see at least once or twice a week.  I keep telling myself to get back to writing this blog, with its tens of readers.  No lack of material for writing.  I’m considering the following topics:

  • Mrs. Daisy Jacobs, who taught us in second grade at Washington Grade School in Missoula in the late 1950s.  Something about her genuine interest in us kids, her generous affection.  I mean, she liked us.  
  • Dana Graham, my ex-sister-in-law, powerful woman, artist, huge personality.  She died young following the death of her daughter Hannah.
  • My mother’s queen anne chair, which she inherited from her mother, then recovered with needlepoint flowers.
  • Our six years living in student housing in Missoula.
  • The seven years in the Marine Corps, when P. and I launched our family together.
  • The amazing story of my sister Carol and her friend Kurt Fiedler who spent their early years breaking into the buildings at Fort Missoula to explore the former Italian internment camp of the early 1940s.
  • My seventeen years commuting to the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations for the Public Health Service.
  • The alley behind our house, with its shifting stories and barking dogs.  Gunther loves to walk the alley and taunt his doggy cousins.
  • Mowing lawns and amputating the tip of my finger.
  • Swaggering around my grandparents’ apple orchard in Kalispell.
  • Trying to build a fort out of boards using a hammer and screws and nails.  I mean, why can’t you pound screws in with a hammer?
  • My quest to make gun powder.
  • The youthful desire to explore every building on the university campus undetected.
  • A history of my mental health.  Or any other kind of health.  Wait, I’ve already told you and everyone you know about that.
  • The story of our journey to Alaska in a green VW bus that blew up 20 km from Edmonton.
  • Our good fortune to end up atop a mountain lookout tower, and getting paid to do it.

A poem apropos of our pandemic

March 16, 2020

Returned from Gering, Nebraska, where I enjoyed a couple evenings with my sweet sister, Carol Hotchkiss.  She’s 10 years older.  And she’s smart, too.  You’ll have to trust me on that.  Our idea of fun was reading poems to each other.  We also told how we used to sneak into university buildings to explore and pillage.  We come from Viking stock.

Here’s a poem by Mark Twain, published in his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Helps to read it aloud. Pause after you read the first word of the second stanza, for additional mirth.

Ode to Stephen Dowling Bots, Dec’d.

And did young Stephen Sicken,
    And did young Stephen die?
And did the sad hearts thicken,
    And did the mourners cry?

No; such was not the fate of
    Young Stephen Dowling Bots;
Though sad hearts round him thickened,
    'Twas not from sickness' shots.

No whooping-cough did rack his frame,
    Nor measles drear, with spots;
Not these impaired the sacred name
    Of Stephen Dowling Bots.

Despised love struck not with woe
    That head of curly knots,
Nor stomach troubles laid him low,
    Young Stephen Dowling Bots.

O no.  Then list with tearful eye,
    Whilst I his fate do tell.
His soul did from this cold world fly,
    By falling down a well.

They got him out and emptied him;
    Alas it was too late;
His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
    In the realms of the good and great.

###