Burt and I had to sneak into Helena for a day so I could get my night guard followup checkup. Back in May dentist convinced me it was time to protect the many thousands of dollars investment I had made in my mouth. Gold crowns that I’ve had for twenty-five years are still secure but my subconscious habit of gnashing my teeth all night long (and some days, too) had made some serious grooves. Dr. K said it was only a matter of time before I broke something. I agreed to have a custom guard made and I’ve been using it for about a month. The guard slips right in and I fall asleep fine. I even imagine it has helped me relax my throat muscles and made singing and swallowing easier. My jaw muscles aren’t as tired as they used to be but sdon’t expect me to turn into a Chatty Cathy.
After the dentist we took a beating in Bridge and then headed up to the annual Dearborn Picnic picking party. I’ve written about this destination many times in previous posts. This year we enjoyed moderate temperatures, a remodeled stream bed, and the usual fine mix of friends and music. The children of the founders and their friends now greatly out number the older generation but the music moves perpetually with the people. We can go to bed early knowing the ‘kids’ will take the all night shift and sing to the gods of the dark.
And this just in: It’s a new school year in Pescadero. Here’s the neighbors in their spiffy new uniforms. Burt and I miss them so much. It’s not the same without our gang of minions. We’ve been mostly working and playing some music. The last two weekends we camped out with musician friends and got some hiking and fishing in with the tunes.
My mind is moving towards Mexico. I’m wondering what type of things to bring back for the kids. I’ll have to hit the back to school sales here and collect some fun supplies. Anything pink will be popular.
Guns are a hot topic. I used to be of the mind that regulating them would be ineffective. I own a shotgun. Burt has several shotguns and a rifle. We have no hand guns. Hand guns are for killing people. I think they are too dangerous to have in my home. But time and experience have caused a shift in my thinking. I now favor tight regulation with registration, education, and insurance requirements just like we have for motor vehicles. The incidents of mass shootings in the United States is one reason I favor these changes to our laws, another is the lack of care I’ve seen in managing guns by owners. Add in our Stand Your Ground Laws and it’s just way to easy to shoot somebody for no good reason. You can get away with murder just by claiming you were scared for your life.
Here’s the scenario that I keep reflecting on: Burt and I have had more than one client that left loaded handguns out on tables in their homes at all times so they were ready. Ready to defend themselves with deadly force at (supposedly) all times. First, I’ve got to say, why would anyone chose to live in a state of constant readiness to kill? If you’re so scared you need therapy or you need to move. Fear is a horrible life companion. Secondly, a gun in the open can be mishandled by anyone in the home. Say your friendly carpenter just happens to pick it up and accidentally shoot themselves or you? Kids come by for a surprise visit? And, P.S., a gun on the table when you are taking a shower or dump will do you no good if somebody breaks in and gets to it first. You need a holster for constant readiness. A gun on a table is a constant threat to its owner and their friends and neighbors and trusty carpenters. We do not work for people make a habit of leaving loaded weapons on their kitchen tables. I do not take it as a sign that you trust me. I read it as a sign you are willing to shoot first and ask questions later which leads me to Stand Your Ground.
Too many people are being killed by scared persons for no good reason. The numbers for Montana are sickening. It seems juries here are willing to believe it’s okay to shoot a fleeing robber in the back when the purported robber is in the front yard. How do we even know the ‘robber’ was even a robber? I quake at the thought of a disgruntled client refusing to pay us and the ensuing altercation as we approach their home seeking payment. A raised voice and suddenly we are assailants and the shooter was afraid we meant them harm. (Just a side note: we’ve never had anyone refuse to pay us).
So the other day when we came across an unattended weapon in the back of a golf club’s maintenance vehicle all of these thoughts were churning in my head. This was the Stillwater Golf club in Columbus, Montana. Here was a person that most likely was thinking about something else and forgot there was a firearm in the vehicle. Maybe it’s always there and it sort of feels like any other tool of the job. Gophers tearing up the golf course are managed with a quick shot from the .22. Upon first seeing the firearm I was shocked. Then I was scared. I was scared because I didn’t know what to do. There was a loaded weapon without a human sitting in the bed of a golf cart at a campground adjacent to a golf club. Children play nearby. Vagrants frequent the free camping areas. Joe Schmos like us walk by. We did not see the driver of the cart. Should we wait for the person to return? Would they be amenable to our feedback? Would the situation escalate? I took a picture because I knew I wanted to report the situation to the club’s manager. I was too frightened to do the confrontation in person with the gun there. Then we left as quickly as we could. Cue the music of bad decision making. Something in a minor key. This I have decided was not the right thing to do.
A while later I realized we had become complicit. We had abandoned a loaded firearm in public. By leaving this gun in public the owner made us responsible for anything that might have happened in between our seeing it and their return to take control of it. What if it had been picked up by a kid in that gap of time? In hind sight Burt and I realized we should have waited with the gun until its owner returned. In addition, we probably should have called the police. I guess. Then I started thinking what if the owner felt like we were threatening their job by confronting them about the lapse in judgement? What if they were carrying a sidearm and caught us trying to secure the gun? What if the police arrived after the gun’s owner had returned? Burt suggested we could have waited a safe distance away to make surethe guy came back. But what then? A safe distance away means we wouldn’t be able to stop a child from picking up the gun before we got to it. The moral ramifications of what might have happened are astounding.
What would you do? I’m making this public because we need a real change in how we think about guns in this country. Look how we all can become complicit in a situation when they aren’t handled properly.
My efforts to hear how the situation was managed by the club were unsatisfactory. I had to post to social media before they responded to my notifications. They only said, “This is unacceptable and it will be addressed.” I presume they meant the abandoned firearm and not my complaints.
This year’s Musician’s Rendezvous in Columbus coincided with a spike in the local temperature. Sitting under the cottonwood trees while playing tunes with your buddies is a great way to spend a summer day. The campground where we all gather is on the Yellowstone River. If you want to cool off you can take a dip in its chilly waters. The Gypsy Carpenters had been looking forward to this weekend since last winter. Sad to say gNash life and an erratic heart and temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit do not mix. So Burt and I came up with a mix of music and alternate cool activities for the weekend.
Day one we arrived at Itch-Kep-Pe park and found a spot with some shade. It was Wednesday and all of the really deep shade was already occupied in anticipation of the weekend’s activities. Musicians come from all over Montana and the best spots fill early. Burt and I played a few tunes with each other and went to bed when the bugs started biting. The next morning we took a walk and did some birding before the day warmed. We found the nest of a Cooper’s hawk and watched the recently fledged youngster fly all about and beg food from a parent. We also found an unattended firearm in the bed of a maintenance cart for the nearby golf club. I sent a few emails and posts around about the gun safety problem. Burt and I thought in hindsight we probably should have called the authorities instead of walking away from a loaded gun. Ethical dilemma. Personally I was afraid to confront the owner face to face. Stand Your Ground is a bad law. My fear of being shot for having harsh words with someone overrode my desire to stay and make sure the gun was properly handled.
After our walk we did what all smart people looking to avoid a hot day do…we drove to Billings and played Bridge. An air conditioned day of cards. What could be better? That evening we headed back to our superheated trailer and pondered the next day’s survival plan. We debated simply leaving and heading to the high country but the lure of tunes was strong. People we only see once or twice a year were on hand and eager to play. Luckily, Montana still cools off over night. We decided to play music until noon then get in our truck and head for the hills for the late afternoon and evening, come back after dark, sleep, wake up and play more morning music. It worked out perfectly.
Friday we played tunes in the morning and then drove an hour and a half to the Beartooth Plateau. We looked for the black rosy finch, a high altitude bird, but only found white-crowned sparrows, solitaires, and gray jays. The altitude (10,000′ or so) was easier to take than the heat. Burt and I and the pooped poopies returned to the gNash at 9:30. Things were just starting to cool down. Burt took a dip in the Yellowstone while I lay on an ice pack.
The next day we decided to head to electricity so we could run our air conditioner for the 104 degree spike. So after a few hours of fiddling with Barb and Zondra we pulled up and headed to Emigrant to do some maintenance on the client’s property we built 6 years ago. We arrived safe and sound but we have also learned our truck has sprung an oil leak. We fear it’s the end. She’s got a gusher.
It’s August. In Montana we’re expecting to break 100 this week. The birds are quiet. They’re resting up after the hectic breeding season and they are molting in new feathers for the long migration next month. It’s not an easy time to bird. I kind of want to rest up myself. All year I’ve been participating in eBird’s citizen science challenges trying to earn myself a free pair of binoculars or a spot in an online bird course. So far no luck. August’s challenge is to provide eBird with fifty photos or recordings of birds. I am not enjoying this challenge. I find it bothersome. The birds are hiding, I am hot, I can barely take a descent photo when I’m not trying to count birds and fifty is just a lot of birds. On the upside it doesn’t have to be fifty different birds. So I came up with a plan to make this as productive as possible. I take photos at the bird feeding station every few days.
A native Helenan has a new movie out. It’s called Dark Money and it is about the effects hidden powerful donors are having on Montana politics. The movie has been met with enthusiastic reviews. Helena will be hosting several events with the director/producer Kim Reed this weekend. Sadly, we’ll be out of town otherwise we would be there to show our support for this hometown hero.
Just a few days ago I heard some tennis players making vulgar comments about a person they happened to know that had transitioned from a man to a woman. I heard of few details that made it clear this was someones they all knew. Famous or local, I wasn’t sure. They were laughing and saying disrespectful things about a person that had bravely and openly changed their gender. I was offended. I could have pretended not to hear them. I could have ignored their ignorant and hurtful comments but I didn’t. Hate breeds in these situations. Bigotry must be called out. I don’t want anyone to think they can spew racist or sexist or xenophobic comments around me. Silence is complicity. I cut through their laughter with the following comment, “So you’re all transphobic bigots? Charming.” They cut the crap and got down to playing tennis.
Yesterday, I heard that Kim Reed was coming to town and I put it all together. The tennis players were former classmates of the Helena High School star quarterback and valedictorian Paul McKerrow. Paul was voted ‘Most Likely to Succeed.” Paul is now Kim Reed. There’s a documentary that covers her return to Helena after she transitioned to a woman. Check out Prodigal Sons HERE. I think Kim is living a very successful life. True to herself and, with her new documentary, telling truth for all of us.
Meanwhile, if transgender issues make you uncomfortable I suggest you read a few things on the natural occurring diversity of gender in nature. Human genetics are very complicated. Gender is a spectrum. If you feel all there is in this world is male or female and nothing in between or that genitalia defines who you are you’re seeing the world through your own eyes only. As my life goes on I have come to know many people in many places on the gender spectrum and I feel lucky to know them.
Butte’s Pekin Noodle Parlor deserves a visit for the simple fact that it’s been in continuous operation since 1911. The interior design is essentially unchanged in these last 100+ years. Gone are the days when smugglers used adjacent tunnels and whores lived downstairs but you can visit and enjoy the private, curtained booths just the same. Waiters pop in and out from behind an orange curtain to serve. I wanted to ask for a Do Not Disturb sign to see what we could get away with inside our tangerine dream womb.
The food on the other hand must be approached with the right frame of mind. The wontons and egg rolls were just as I remembered eating at Chinese joints in the 1970s. The noodles were tender and spike with a mere morsel of pork. The egg rolls were stuffed, hot, and crispy. On the other hand the wonton broth was flavorless. It was the epitome of dishwater. I added soy sauce, salt and sweet and sour sauce to try and enhance it. My entree of chicken chow mein featured pressed chicken (cold cut style) served over a soggy celery stew. It tasted like Chun King from the can. The chicken was cold and draped in strips over the pale green gelatinous celery. That said, I liked it. Think elementary school hot lunch ala 1973 and you’ll see why I ordered the tuna sandwich every day. Burt had a mixed plate with pork, egg foo young and rice. The egg foo young was tasty. I would gladly order an egg foo young entree if we get a chance to go back. There’s a full bar and prices are very reasonable. I’m willing to take my chances and come again to find the dish that delights me.
You can read more about the history of this place HERE.
This past weekend was the Lewis and Clark County fair. The 4H animal exhibits always draw me. This year I swore I would take a spin on the rides but I was wrong. After visiting all the chickens, rabbits, goats, pigs, cows, sheep, and horses and looking at the quilts, knives, pies, and photos a thunderstorm moved in and even though the rides were still whirling and swirling I decided to take a pass while the lightening struck neighboring hillsides.
Burt and I also thought we’d eat some food truck food but the selection was uninspiring and nearly as expensive as a restaurant and it was raining. We headed to town where we had a mediocre meal in a loud and crowded restaurant. Good idea, wrong place. Most notable about our choice of restaurant was that there were no less than 9 people in there that we knew. All summer we’ve been going about doing things and have hardly popped into a friend or acquaintance from the past and in the span of forty minutes there were nine people wanting to catch up. Too many, too fast. Overload for this introvert.
I wish I had chickens. Maybe even a goat. The goats made an impression. They were very affectionate.
I accidentally shrank the pictures. Oops. I’m going to run with is for a moment. Yesterday Burt and I popped down to Butte to play Bridge with our home club. It was our first time playing in Butte. When we joined the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) we were in Virginia. Our friend Kevin O’Brien recommended we join. In Virginia membership gave us discounted and even free games because we were beginners. They know how to groom new Bridge addicts in some areas. So we signed up under Kevin’s club but we weren’t under his unit. The ACBL uses our Clancy, MT address and it would be normal to assign Clancy residents to Helena but somehow we got Butte. So Butte became our club of record. I never paid it any mind.
Burt and I have gone on our merry way playing Bridge hither and yon for almost two years since Kevin signed us up. Most games we play are in Mexico but for new players we have a lot of mileage. So far we’ve in addition to our Todos Santos unit we’ve hit California, Oregon, Washington, South Carolina, Arizona, Montana, and Virginia. We tried to find games in Spain and Italy but language barriers made the internet sites indecipherable. Then came the phone call. Last year I received a call from a person asking me why I was signed up as a member of the Butte 406 Unit. I said (this is true) I had no idea I was a member of the Butte unit. This person was peeved. How could I not know? I told her the ACBL must have put us in Butte because our address is in Clancy. She asked me to consider switching to Helena’s club. I told her we never played in Helena either and so it wasn’t worth the effort. I explained we traveled full time and it wasn’t worth picking a different club. Click. I was stunned by the short, terse conversation. What was the big deal? Butte gets a portion of our dues. I figured they’d be happy to have money from absentee players.
Now I know why this was so touchy. I was winning the local points race for my skill level and nobody knew who I was. I’d edged out the locals in a masterpoints race. The Mini-McKenney is an intra-club stratified competition. They who earn the most points for their strata in a year win. The local Mini-McKenney prize was going to a mystery lady that had never played a hand in their club. I wouldn’t like that much myself. In my defense, I had no idea I was in some race for points. I found this out when I met a Butte player in the local regional tournament here in Helena a few weeks ago. This woman was very happy to make our acquaintance when I said, “Hey, we’re members of your club.” She lit up and said, “I know who you are!” Bev took out her phone and called up the ACBL web site and showed me I was the winner of a points race in Butte for beginner players. She thought they gave the prize to someone else. I said, “That seems fair.”
Yesterday was the once a month Sunday game in Butte. After Bev’s warm welcome and a follow-up email with an invitation to come play, Burt and I decided it was time to meet our people. We took the hour drive to Butte and arrived just in time to sit down. We tried to get there earlier but road construction slowed the trip. I wasn’t in my chair two minutes when I was awarded the medal for the 0 to 5 points Mini-Mckenney. No ceremony, no words, just the draping of the medal around my neck while I sat at the table. Butte saved the prize for me. What a shock. Thank you, Butte. Thank you, Burt. And thank you Todos Santos Bridge Beauties for all the excellent games this winter. With all of your support I’m in the lead to win the 6 to 20 medal this year. I better knuckle down and stay focused.
Yesterday’s game was a nice round for us. We came in second in our flight and fifth overall. We both know what went wrong and were pleased to not embarrass ourselves our first trip home.