Burt and I and the Olvis and Mimi arrived at the Dearborn Parlor Picker’s Picnic this weekend on Friday. The DPPP has been happening for 30 years. Many, many memorable things have happened at the DPPP. This year it was the goat. As we arrived Friday a young man fixed his gaze upon us from across the field and was headed our way before we could park. Just the way he looked at us from 100 yards out you could tell there was a ‘situation.’ There were only a few early arrivals scattered around. We were the first of the over 50 set. The young ‘uns are slowly taking over the event. They arrive earlier and grab prime real estate. It’s the natural order. We headed to the oldsters side of camp and Dave arrived just as we came to a stop.
Within a few seconds we knew Dave wanted a gun. The grim story that played out the night before made us both happy and sad we had chosen to wait a day because of heavy rain. In the middle of the night Dave and his companions were woken by a horrible ruckus. Their dogs went crazy. One, a big wolf hybrid, took off into the dark. Then silence. The dog returned. At daylight the group found the neighbor’s pet goat had been mauled by a mountain lion. The goat looked okay from top side. He sat upright but he did not move and he had a low moan. When Burt and I arrived at around one o’clock the situation hadn’t changed much. The goat was alive. Nobody knew how serious the injuries were but it was obviously suffering. They wanted to dispatch it but only had a knife. Killing isn’t easy. It shouldn’t be.
I went to look for the owner. Being amongst the oldsters I actually knew this goat and had met his owner. The goat was a handsome billie that thought he was a dog. He would ride in a pick up and go swimming at the river. His owners were Lou and Mike. Mike had died the year before. Lou, it turned out, was in Philadelphia. I didn’t know this yet so I went to her home and hoped she was okay. It was weird walking into her unusual, off-the grid, off-the-beaten-track home. The cat was there looking well fed. Birds were in the cages with food and water. An alarm was sounding: IT’S TIME FOR YOUR AFTERNOON MEDICINE. Over and over. The alarm rattled me. Was Lou okay? Had she fallen and hurt herself? I saw no sign of her. Burt came and we did a second search. Her house is a cobbled together structure resembling a child’s fort crossed with a pirate ship.
Kyle arrived. Kyle is the first born son of the host of the event. Kyle and his siblings are transitioning (practically do it all already) into the hosts. Burt went to set up camp. Kyle and I looked at the goat. We did a tough thing. We rolled it over and looked at it’s injuries. Burt had a .22 rifle but we hadn’t euthanized the goat yet because we wanted the owner’s approval. When we saw the injuries Kyle and I were of the same mind. He called Lou and left a message that the goat was too far gone to save. He told her we were going to put it out of its misery. I called Burt back with one stern,”BURT, get the gun.” The goat had actually been fed on but was still very much alive. There were cat claw marks across its back. When we rolled it over we discovered that haunch was gone and the leg broken. Amazingly there was very little blood. I think the lack of bleeding and the fact that the goat looked okay when it sat on top of its injuries gave us a false sense that maybe it was a superficial wound. Hope dies hard. The goat never gave up.
Killing a goat isn’t easy. They have very hard heads and very small brains. I held him while he died. We all cried. The boys blame me for starting the waterworks. I blame the fact that the first bullet didn’t do the job. The second one rendered the goat unconscious. I found the spot for the third one with my hands. There’s a soft spot on a goat’s head between the ear and the eyeball. I guess it’s their temple. Goat’s heads with their massive horns and odd shape don’t make this spot obvious. If we had internet we could have googled where to shoot a goat but we didn’t. This was heavy experiential learning. The third shot did the job and we were all relieved. I am please to say a bunch of people showed up to the woods in Montana to camp and we were the ones that had the gun. Normally we wouldn’t either but hunting season is right around the corner and we’ve been collecting our stuff. This helps dispel the notion that all people in Montana are carrying. I think I could have channeled my friend Berna (Former Miss Navajo Nation) and cut the goat’s throat if we had been without a firearm. Miss Navajo Nation competitors must slaughter and butcher a goat or sheep (I can’t recall which) as part of the competition. They slit the throat.
On the lighter side we did contemplate eating this grand billie but it was Lou’s pet so we buried it. Meanwhile Elvis rolled and licked the bloody grass and enjoyed the scene. I can only imagine the details Elvis could share if he could translate scent into words. Here’s what the mere humans came up with. Young mountain lion attacks goat. Takes out a few bites. Goat starts screaming. Wolf-hybrid arrives. Scares off mountain lion. Wolf-dog called back to camp. Goat lies down and stops bleeding with own body weight. Apply pressure is part of the ABCs of first aid. Humans wake up and get involved. Afterwards Burt and I went fishing. We both had a hard time killing our fish.
We recently went fishing at a favorite spot. I landed a biggie that I could hardly manage. The pole was bent in half and I almost dropped it. It feels good to fish again. My meds have slowed me down but a slower pace is okay when you’re fishing. I took my time walking up stream and casting behind rocks and into deep pools. Just yesterday we did a 3.5 mile (7 round trip) stretch. These pictures are from a previous expedition to the same area. Yesterday I only caught two wee fish. Burt caught the lunker.
Montana’s stream are taking a big hit by drought. The entire Yellowstone basin was closed to all human activity this week due to a contagious disease. The thinking is the disease got a foot hold due to high temps and low water and stressed fish. There has been a massive fish kill. This closure is a radical step to protect one of Montana’s most valuable resources. Millions of dollars are at stake. Hopefully a short term loss will keep the disease isolated and protect the rest of the state. Burt and I were happy our favorite spot was still open but we quickly observed that the fish were under stress. They fought hard for about a minute and then gave up. Once we caught our fill for dinner we stopped. No need to practice catch and release and further stress the fish. Dinner was mighty tasty. The trout flesh was bright pink. We think from all the crawdads they eat this time of year.
Numerous mini-events were noteworthy this week. Sometimes I think, “How will I feed the blog? Nothing interesting is going on.” It can become a kind of pressure. This week was one of those weeks. We ate. We camped. We played music. I felt boring but I was enjoying myself. Then weird and dangerous stuff started happening.
We spent four days in Columbus where we made a lot of loud music that was sometimes sublime and sometimes meh. WE met people we had only known on the internet. We reacquainted ourselves with our former bandmates and playing companions. We hung out with Zondra, Edd, Barb, Mike, and Ed. Burt broke a string. Now normally this is not noteworthy but several factors played into this broken E-string becoming an event. First off, Burt used to break strings all the time. On his excellent Daniel Roberts’ Minstrel he rarely breaks a string. Nextly, Burt had no spare strings. This is unusual. Usually we have a wealth of strings. While Burt was fruitlessly searching the gNash for strings I was sitting with our friends brainstorming who would have a spare. As it was none of the musicians in our jam were with guitar. The Zondra walked up. Zondra is a bass player. Zondra is the daughter of Wayne. Wayne died 11 years ago. He went out in a blaze of glory in a domestic situation gone bad. Self inflicted with police pressure. That’s a long and complicated story. We all loved Wayne and we all hate the way he died. We try to focus on the positive. Wayne encouraged all of us to participate as musicians. None of us could escape his playing clutches. If we were just liking together two chords we were expected to contribute our two chords worth. And we never got away without at least making one attempt to improvise.
So Zondra walks up. Zondra has her father’s guitar and fiddle with her. She is trying to learn these other instruments but she is such a fine bassist none of us will let her. She drags these instruments to camps and jams all summer long and she’s lucky to get them out for ten minutes. This weekend I asked if there were any spare guitar strings in her guitar case. She didn’t know. She had never changed the strings. That shows how much she has or has not been playing guitar. It turned out there was a nest of strings in the case. New and used. Wayne apparently kept the old strings he’d changed in case he needed a spare. We found a used but unbroken E-string for Burt’s guitar. That string was sitting in that old case since before Wayne died. And there was Wayne back playing music with us. He saved the day. In thanks to Wayne Zondra and I had two fiddle sessions where we proudly ignored the pain we inflicted on others and took Wayne’s philosophy to heart. You must play. You must proudly play, no matter your skill.
While in Columbus I got an email from Burt’s sister asking if I had received the package she sent a week earlier. I told her I’d get it Monday. Our mail delivery is a complicated process. Burt was worried it was baked goods or other edibles. I figured it was too late too worry. It would be okay or spoiled. Nothing I could do about it. It turned out is was beyond okay. Jill had inherited her grandmother’s charm bracelet after her and Burt’s mother died two years ago. Jill decided to share the bracelet bits and sent me the charm commemorating Burt’s birth. So there in the mail was a little boy’s golden head with his name and date of birth. What a sweet present. I feel honored. It also reminds me of Burt’s mom’s last trip to Montana. When we drove her to the airport she spontaneously said, “You were such an unusual little boy.” It’s become a catch phrase for Burt and me. I am sure you can see the still relevant uses.
Speaking of unusual little boys and the deeds they do, this brings us to our most recent noteworthy event. Do not try this at home or in the confined space of a trailer. Trailers do not have porcelain gods. They have plastic demi-gods. Plastic is not smooth and slippery like porcelain. Keeping your plastic demi-god clean is one thing. Making it look good is impossible. Burt got a bee in his bonnet and tried a nuclear approach to cleaning the urine infused scale in our toilet basin. He thought pure bleach might brighten up the unsightly mess. He poured an “I-Don’t-Know-How-Much”amount of bleach into the bowl. I was still semi-asleep in bed. Then he left leaving the bleach in the bowl. Soaking. Fumes filled the gNash. I was quickly roused from bed but then nearly rendered unconscious as I ran to the bathroom to flush the bleach out of the bowl. My lizard brain was going bleach? bleach? was that bleach? no no no no no….but I couldn’t quite grasp the situation. When I flushed the toilet the real reaction began. The bleach hit the ammonia filled ‘black’ water tank and Chemistry 101 was happening at my feet. I screamed for Burt. I said something about dangerous concoctions but it was Burt that realized urine equals ammonia and that he had created a toxic smoke bomb. I retreated to the bed. Burt flushed the toilet again and smoke came out of the black water tank. I thought he was joking. There was some chickens with their heads cut off milling about. Copious water was dumped and more smoke came out of the recesses of the black water tank.. Ideas bandied about. Windows opened. Finally we did what all irresponsible and unusual children do. We fled the scene. When I relayed this to my dad over the phone he asked if we left the cat. Yup. In hind sight that’s not a good move. I have no excuse. Mostly I was figuring the water was diluting the situation and that the deadly gasses would come out the plumbing vent and not into the trailer if we could just stop opening the drain to see how thing were going. Leaving kept us from trying to ‘solve’ the problem. On our errands Burt asked me how long the reaction could take. Like all smart ass engineers I anwered with: It depends on temperature and the volume of bleach you applied. Since you can’t give me an accurate answer on the bleach we will NEVER know. He argued successfully that ‘I don’t know’ is an accurate answer.
While trying to find our elderly friend Ruby we came across two relevant signs for today. Ruby lives in a retirement community. You can see the signs below. We never found Ruby and we wondered if the gNash was okay and if Mimi was alive. Burt pointed out that if this reaction was exothermic and had indeed burned the place down it would have been wise not to post to social media like I had earlier in the day. I had ruined any plausible deniability. That and my dad might have ratted us out. All is well, my off the cuff calculations were correct. Fumes dissipated and no fire and Mimi is as good as she ever was.
We’ve had much fun this summer. Fishing, floating, singing, eating. Yesterday Burt sent me on a major bummer when we visited the Bear Paw Battlefield just south of Chinook, Montana. I’m serious. Standing at the spot where Chief Joseph finally surrendered at the end of a more than 1,000 mile journey full of skirmishes and deprivation that lasted from June until early October just 2 days walk from freedom in Canada induced a deep sadness at the futility of the human condition. That’s a very abbreviated version of events. What I was struck by was how this same thing is still happening all over the world and across cultures. The Nez Perce’s story is well documents and the National Park Service in conjunction with the tribes’ survivors has preserved many locations along this famous trail. The Bear Paw Battlefield out on the unchanged plains of Montana in sight of Canada is the perfect place to consider all the peoples of the world looking for safety and freedom. I have no answers. I am saddened and dispirited. It’s important to think about these things and so I will. It was there that Chief Joseph famously said, “from where the sun now stands, I will fight no more, forever.” (October 5th, 1877.)
So here we are in Columbus (oh, the irony), Montana at a gathering called The Musician’s Rendevous. This get together has been happening for 30 years. Musicians from all over Montana congregate in a city park and we play music. It is a very good thing. We’ll put out some tunes and hope to soothe our wild beasts.
The other day Burt, Jack, Spinner (Jack’s wee chihuahua), Olive, Elvis, and I went fishing on the Upper Stillwater Lake. I presumed it was named still water because it is fed by a stream of calm water called the Stillwater. Now that I have personally visited the lake I think it is called Stillwater because there is still water in the lake. Barely. This float was a weed choked quarter mile row to a deep spot hemmed in by more weeds. I’m not sure if these weeds are the plague of the invasive weeds choking Montana’s rivers and lakes I’ve read about or a native phenomenon of endemic plants and late season low water flows. There was barely enough water to float and the vegetation was so thick we couldn’t use the putt putt motor. Another no-water boating adventure for Burt and Susan. I rowed us out across the green mat while Burt and Jack aimed for some open areas and tried to catch fish. Strings of water logged weeds weighed down every stroke but the boat moved across the daintily flowered top easily. Eventually we reached a deep pool with room to cast. Burt gave me the rod. First cast I hooked a large northern pike but lost it at the boat’s gunnel. Next cast I landed a biggie. This guy swallowed the hook so deep we had to chop off his head to recover the lure. Things were looking good. The rest was downhill. Over the course of the next hour I landed three in all. One was released due to it’s paltry girth and two more shook lose the hook. I used a fish shaped lure called Power Bait Burt had been carrying around for 6 years in his tackle box. I casted across the deep water towards the shore and reel in fast from the weedy edge through the pool. Burt and I took turns steering the Sea King in circles while the other fished. Neither of us wanted to row across more weeds so we motored around in this spot for about an hour. With our tummies growling and Olive begging for a chance to roam the shore Burt rowed us to the boat ramp. I took Elvis and Olive ashore and Burt and Jack tried for a few more casts. Burt finally landed a fish and we could head home. Three fish for dinner.
Burt has a lot on his plate right now. We’re parked in his daughter’s yard. His dad is visiting. He’s helping build a room. His wife is his wife. She’s trying to help but stay out of the way. It’s a delicate balance. There are a lot of activities. Cards, fishing, building, eating, laundry, shopping, driving. Many miles of driving. The building project is a half hour away. Jen’s job is a good twenty minutes away. Robin drives over an hour to his job everyday. Two days ago we toured Glacier National Park. That’s where Robin works. At 87 years old it was Jack’s first visit. He deemed it worth the effort. Neither Burt nor I had been there in the last two decades so it was fun for us, too.
Robin has a 1992 Lincoln Continental. We borrowed his powder blue land yacht for the tour. Those Lincolns are so smooth on the road I could hardly keep my eyes open despite the dramatic scenery. All of us but Burt fell asleep at least once during the day long tour. Most notable during the excursion was our meeting Robin and his pack of mules. Robin is a U.S. government packer. He runs mule trains into the national park backcountry. The mules carry food and tools and other supplies for trail crews, fire lookouts, back country rangers and whatnot. There are no roads into the backcountry. His horse is a bit jumpy. She seems grizzly bears under every huckleberry bush. Robin is a steady hand and keeps her calm. I just looked at her and she jumped. Then I jumped and then we both kinda yelped. Two jumpy gals startling each other for no apparent reason.
In other news the robins have departed the nest. The great fledling disaster of Whitefish happened during an evening round of four handed Pinochle. Five dogs and three robin babes are not a good mix. By the time we made it outside one robin was dead and another covered in saliva. The third was still in the nest but only until I reached up to replace the slimy second one. A game of one in and one out ensued. Whack-A-Mole came to mind. Mother robin was squawking and dive-bombing the entire time. It was all hands chasing robins and dogs for a madcap five minutes. Finally I realized I could hold my hand over the nest and keep one in while I replaced the second. Jack suggested we capture them and assume feeding duties for a day or two. None of us were willing to take on further duties so we left nature to take its course. With both robins in the nest and all dogs in the house we resumed our card game. I contracted an infestation of bird mites for all the effort. No good deed goes unpunished. Bird mites are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Maybe smaller if you are using a big font. They don’t want to be on human hosts but they sure are irritating while they crawl around trying to find another bird. They are so small that soap and water does not easily remove them. I waited them out and smoooshed them as I found them. I also pondered the likelihood that the robins were carrying bird flu. The birds fled the nest again when we left for bed. That’s the last we’ve seen of them. Hopefully they made it someplace safe. If not that mother robin perpetrated a grim Darwinian event by building a nest over the door of a house with 5 dogs. Her DNA will not be passed on in this generation.
Team Mittelstadt also made two fishing excursions. Tally Lake is the deepest natural lake in Montana. It is also deeper than any human made lakes, too. Well, maybe not. I just did more research. Depending on your source it is the second, third or first deepest lake in Montana. Let’s just say it is very deep. Somewhere around 450′ deep. One charitable description I just read says Tally lake offers “less than spectacular fishing” in a beautiful environment. I can vouch for this. Since the lake is so deep and vast and cold we left our two dogs home and boated with only Spinner and Lupita. No need risking everyone’s lives with a dump into hypothermia inducing waters. We caught no fish but it was beautiful.
The morning after the evening out to Tally we hit Smith Lake. Smith Lake is across the street from Jen and Robin’s Kila abode. The place under construction. The Sea King was launched with four adults and four dogs in all 12 feet of its boat. Someone call the Fire Marshall. Smith Lake is shallow and warm and the shore is always reachable so we figured the more the merrier. Other fisherpeople did not appear to take us seriously. Most averted their eyes when we putt putted by. The bird watching was good and Jen caught two fish. We only got to eat one because I muffed the landing ‘so-called’ assist. The dogs enjoyed themselves. All rolled in something dead. Olive with her terrier hair managed to sustain her aroma for days. Today I gave up on the smell dissipating without intervention. Three days after the roll I gave her a bath. We are mighty tolerant of the disgusting around here.
The gig at On Broadway is done. I only wiped out on two too fast tunes. Nobody notices when I bail out when there’s a fiddle and accordion playing, too. Despite the rough spots it was a lot of fun and reignited our desire to perform. Expect to hear us near you soon.
We are back up in Kalispell and working pro bono for Burt’s daughter and her boyfriend. These guys have a little cabin in the hills above Kila. We’re helping them add on a bedroom. Burt’s dad Jack is in town visiting as well. Not much new to report. Bridge, birding, walks. I’ve been on the beta blocker a month. I’m doing okay but I’m less energetic than usual. Hard to imagine. On the upside I don’t really care. The positive side of an mellowing drug. I think I’m adapting. We’re going to give it another month.
This morning while Burt and Robin worked and Jack supervised I walked off into the trail-less edge of the Smith Lake Wildlife Management Area. Deep hummocky grasslands guard the water’s edge and I could not get through to the water fowl. I set course for a cottonwood tree I could see over the grass seed head. The grassland was pretty vast and I used the tree as my north star to reach my destination. Near the tree I found the footers of what I came to learn was a log hook in the middle of the lake. Rather than continue on through head high grass with thoughts of hidden moose or grizzlies I climbed up and took a seat and watched for birds from there. From my perch I could see a variety of vegetation and hopefully different bird habitats. Back in the day timber was flushed down Ashley creek and every spring they would blow out the log jams and the logs would accumulate in Smith Lake. The hook would be used to pull the logs from the water and place them on the dikes. Now the lake is heavily protected by reeds and marsh but you can still see the dikes and other remains of the timber industry. My wait was rewarded with a new bird ID. I scored the willow flycatcher.
After lunch and this post I am driving around the lake and going to sit under some ancient aspen right on the water’s edge. We’ll see what I find.
I planned to write yesterday but the day got away from me. I woke up to a call from my friend who happens to be my doctor. I was momentarily happy to see my friend calling and then I realized he never calls. It was my doctor on the line. My mammogram needed to be redone. Don’t worry, it happens all the time…
Well, hard not to worry about suspicious spots on mammograms. I know the rate of suspicious but benign breast things is very high. Still impossible, really, not to worry. This is how it begins with good news or bad. The space between the tests and the results, the unknowable. The suspended animation of life while you hope for good news and remember all your friends and relatives that got bad news. Too many women gone just around my age. Two aunts, a close friend, co-workers. Lucky for me I was seen for the follow up the same day I got the news. Between the morning call and the retests we headed to Boulder and renewed our vehicle tags. Fun. Then we went up to the ghost town of Elkhorn. More on that later.
At 3:00 PM I had my mammogram redone. Burt got to see for himself the odd and painful squishing of the breast. The reshoot revealed suspiciousness so I was taken in for an ultrasound. Don’t you wish people could tell you what they see right then and there? But they can’t and don’t. Then we were sent on our way. By this time I was much calmer. I told a few homies (thanks, y’all) and had reached some conclusions on how to manage our life if we had to stay tied to an area hospital. I also came up with a list of what I’d call my consultants. These aren’t the supportive warm fuzzy types you might be thinking about. I came up with a list of whip-smart hard core data analyzers. People unafraid of authority and well versed in looking at research. I have to tell you realizing I know some incredibly smart people made me feel better than realizing I had some nice friends. The thing about these kind of health scares that I worry about is making good decisions. In the heat of the moment with life on the line it is hard to make a good decision.
Burt and I went off for mussels and cocktails to celebrate the end of the day. Both of us felt better with my mental list of consultants. If your freaking out, calm down. My doctor woke me up this AM and all is fine. Just another of the tens of thousands of women temporarily freaked out by a dense boob.
Below some shots of the Boyd Cemetery in Yaak. Check out Red? Looks like nobody knew his given name. My favorite is the guy and his band. The decedent is on the drums. And, Burt shows us the latest in hiking wear and how to carry pepper spray.
Now we are off to bird Spring Meadow Lake and maybe play some Bridge.