Re: Re: Get off the computer, get off yer ass and get out of Californi

Subj: Re: Re: Get off the computer, get off yer ass and get out of Californi 
Date: 95-09-13 15:42:53 EDT 
  To: El Polvo 

September 14, 1995 Dear Dusty, (The following is adapted from a pre-existing letter and I send it along just to fill you in. A more personal letter follows, hopefully today.) We're moved in for the most part although there is a lot we'll never be able to get into the house because it is tiny, 900 sq. ft. But there is a good sized room in the back yard attached to the garage where we can store the rest of it, as well as the low attic area above the garage. I'm going to build the kids a small log cabin as a playhouse, and we are going to carpet the garage with the old house carpet and insulate the walls so they have that area as a playroom and place to keep their toys. Cristina has adapted quickly, Zachary less so but they seem happy. They miss the things and opportunities of the city but in time they will be into the new and more subtle rhythms of country living. There is the sawtooth range 10 miles west for skiing, hiking, fishing, as well as plenty of trout streams, rivers and lakes out here in the foothills of the plains, The school they go to is academically good and there is a teacher for each grade, the classes no larger than 8 to 10 kids. The main work around here is ranching, farming, forest service and outfitting, hunting services, all the stuff you'd imagine where a wilderness area meets the plains. Everyone is so open here and receptive, they are delighted to have us, I mean it, one woman named Kelly, the daughter of an Irish aristocrat whose mother never did take to America and returned to the auld sod to die, told Marilyn that she has been praying for someone like her to come to town, (she's Catholic too, in fact built the church here 20 years ago) the school has offered her a sub teacher position and a retired Washington lawyer named Sarah wants her to work in her gift shop. There's plenty of opportunity for her to work in nursing, the park and forest service, and home nursing if she ever wants to. There's maybe 200 people in town, no city government, no real rules and regs, the dogs can run free and sit in the middle of Main St. to catch the morning sun and people just drive around them. You can stop your car to visit with someone in the car next to you and no one behind complains or honks the horn, like Santa Fe used to be. An irrigation ditch runs through the front yards of the homes on Main St, pretty, huge cottonwoods and elms. The other day we drove up to Cataract Falls and picked berries. We see elk around, deer, ptarmigan, grouse, and there's a buffalo herd a few blocks west of our house. Twenty miles up on the Benchmark is the beginning of a large protected wilderness area called the Bob Marshall Wilderness. I'd like to hike that and next season pack in with the family with some mules. There's a general store here that sells everything, prepares game meat, makes donuts and pastries, two hardware stores, a Conoco and Exxon gas station, three restaurants, two turn of the century hotels that have their big business in the Fall when the hunting season begins for elk and deer, a motel, taxidermist, there's a municipal pool, tiny library, a few gift shops catering to the tourists driving through, some bars of course. Hard to believe we were living in San Diego a few weeks ago. The woman we bought this house from, Nellie, raised sheep and cattle all her adult life, started out as a night club cook in Great Falls and saved her money, bought a small parcel of land with her husband who had come from Chicago to learn to ranch. She already knew how, and she was the driving force over the next 40 years they ranched together, and when he died in 1972 she went on alone for another 13 years on her own, eventually sold out to Bill Moore of Moore paints in California. He bought up her place along with a bunch of other small ones. He uses the name of her ranch, the Broken O, for the consolidated business. After selling she moved into this house built 80 years ago and fixed it up, the old Kruger house on Laura, then when she got sick and had a hip replacement she went to Great Falls to a retirement home where we first met her. She reminds me of my mother, fierce old woman, independent as they come, rigid, opinionated and really outrageously funny. You ought to hear her side of the story about the government heroically reintroducing grizzlies and wolf packs into the national forests in this part of Montana and paying big money to keep track of them from helicopters, and the satellite systems picking up signals from the transmitters sewn into their skin. Grizzlies and wolves are the scourge of sheep and cattle farmers. This house was Nellie's last possession besides her car, this woman who had owned tens of thousands of acres of land and several houses and was known as one of the main frames of this part of the country, now in a wheel chair sitting ramrod straight and cussing out the government and all Californians, watching over elders with Alzheimers and other kinds of stray sheep now at her retirement place, knowing she is through, her last house gone, her place in this rugged country on the east slope of the Sawtooths eroded to memories in the heads of some of the older ranchers she grew up with. There are some Hutterite colonies nearby where we get fresh vegetables and cooking chickens. We went out with the kids one day and bought red potatoes, cabbages and lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, squashes, peppers, white onions, carrots, different sorts of radishes, yellow and green beans crunchy as fresh apples. They have flocks of geese and chickens, use the latest technology for farming and ranching but stay old country traditional in what they feed their animals, birds and vegetables. Our kids went wild to see all that freshness and to hear the clutch of little kids speaking German over on the end of a wagon nearby where they sat cutting mushy spots out of potatoes, wearing stiff black hats and homemade clothes from another culture, another century. They called to our kids to bring the dog, Pebbles, so they could pet her. We heard from a Hutterite man who came by that they had once had an Australian shepherd before but had it killed because it snapped at some of the kids. You get the feeling that there is not much grey scale in this culture, no margin for error. Like that joke about the farmer who marries a mail-order bride, taciturn old guy, they're driving home from the town on his buckboard and one of the horses in the team stumbles and he says, That's once! Then it stumbles again, and he barks, That's twice!! And when it stumbles again he gets down, takes the horse out of the harness, picks up his rifle and shoots it dead, gets back on the wagon and gitches the remaining horse, starts towards the ranch. The woman who has watched this in stunned silence begins to weep and shout at him, calling him a monster, so he turns to her and says simply, That's once. But Augusta is at the other end of the scale, the horses all stumble more than walk and people wouldn't have them any other way. Well, come on up to visit, we'll take you on pack trips back into the Bob Marshall, take you to Egg Mtn. to meet Jack Horner over near Choteau, that's where they found all the dino eggs and the fossilized bones of a herd of 5,000 dinosaurs caught in a mudslide. You can stay in the RV or we'll put you up at the Bunkhouse. Joe Montana