Beartooth Pass

A herd of goats takes in the sights.
A herd of goats takes in the sights.

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.

This one is still leaving last year's coat behind.
This one is still leaving last year’s coat behind.
Baby goats on th erun.
Baby goats on the run.

A great place to cool off.

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Pekin Noodle Parlor Chop Suey

Wontons
Wontons

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.

Ambiance
Ambiance
Looks good.
Looks good.
Private booths with curtains makes me wonder what kind of deals have been made here since 1911.
Private booths with curtains makes me wonder what kind of deals have been made here since 1911.
Uptown Butte America
Uptown Butte America
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Bridge Developments

Mini-Mckenney me.
Mini-Mckenney me.

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.

It's so cute?
Isn’t it cute?
0 - 5 MP
0 – 5 MP
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Work Update

Heated Floor
Heated Floor. Job not done. That tail at the top was attached where wires were not crossed. Notice the cardboard bath tub model.

Last week I installed a heated floor. This was my third installation but we used a different style than the previous two jobs. This heated floor is built from one long loose wire that you weave between anchors to fill the desired floor space. The previous jobs used a mesh where the wire was embedded and the mesh had to be cut to fit the space without cutting the wire. It required solid engineering calculations and origami skills to determine how to fill an irregularly shaped space with a rectangular mat. The style we used this time was quite a bit easier to install but it left me feeling kind of empty. Anybody could have done this. I really enjoyed using my measuring and folding skills on the previous jobs.

As a side note, if you want one of these floors and aren’t planning a full remodel it will be a very pricey job. It’s not very difficult to install a heated floor if you’re down to the subfloor and have stud bays opened for the power and thermostat. It’s a whole can of worms to rip out existing flooring and not damage the walls and temporarily remove toilets and tubs (because all the flooring will have to be replaced) and route the wires up the walls to a thermostat, and then install and redo the floor. It’s also a high risk job. The wire needs to be kept intact and in position while the floor is retiled. If the wire gets cut the floor won’t heat then the whole thing has to be ripped out and started over.  It’s so risky there are current testers to use as you install to make sure there isn’t any unseen line break. Personally, if someone wanted me to install a heated floor in an existing bathroom I’d charge at least plumber’s wages. That’s $120 an hour here. On the other hand, if you’re a DIY homeowner and you are redoing your bathroom, I’d say go for it but skip the box store kits. Buy this style kit from an electrical wholesaler and plan ahead. At the start of the job you need to know where you’ll be sourcing power and placing the thermostat. If you forget this headaches will follow as you try to get wires up stud bays. And be very careful when you cover the wires with thinset.

The counters also came in this week. These are a cultured quartz. Manufactured stone gives a lovely, consistent appearance. Ground up rocks and pigments are mixed with polymer glues and then poured into forms. I prefer this more predictable finish. Granite tops always gave me the shivers. Ordering your dream kitchen from a 4″ x  4″ square that never shows the natural color and texture variations of a full counter is a high stakes game. I love how these tops complement the dark cabinets.

Undermount sink with half divider.
Undermount sink with half height divider. I like the square cornered sinks, too.
Counter install
Counter install.
This is a cultured stone. Quartz style.
This is a cultured stone. Quartz style. I really like it.
Installing a marble style tile.
Installing a marble style tile.
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Cramming in the work and fun

Kitchen
Kitchen minus the island.

The new kitchen is nearly done. The modern cabinets are installed and we are waiting for the counter and appliance delivery. After that it’s just a faucet and touch-up paint. Work continues in the master bathroom. This week we’ll install a heated floor and finish laying tile. Soon after it will be time for the vanity install and counters. After all that we’ll be on our knees for a few too may days installing the engineered flooring in the living room, master bedroom, powder room, entry, and laundry room. I’m going to need a tylenol.

Last night we hiked with a friend at Priest Pass just southwest of Helena. The pass is so named because 19th century Jesuits left behind a stone cross embedded in the hillside. I like going up there to see the remains of the narrow gauge railroad that served as temporary route over the continental divide while they built a tunnel. There’s also an old adit and miner’s shack. Mine and railroad spur were abandoned before the 20th century started. The trestle has stood strong for over 100 years but now time and beetle killed trees are conspiring to bring it down. Yesterday we found ripe huckleberries and whortleberries and a trio of through hikers. The through hikers had started at or near the border with Mexico and were only a week or so away from arriving in Canada. Our friend John shared some homegrown cherry tomatoes and pea pods. He works for Helena Food Share so he knows how to share food. I ate my snack of cold fried spaghetti and dodn’t offer a bite to anyone. That’s how I am.

I hope your summer is full of excursions and interesting people, too.

Range hood detail
Range hood detail
Continental Divide Trail
Continental Divide Trail
Through hikers enjoying fresh veggies John happened to be carrying.
Through hikers enjoying fresh veggies John happened to be carrying.
Flea bane
Flea bane
The three-spotted mariposa lily.
The three-spotted mariposa lily.
Juvenile red cross bill
Juvenile red cross bill
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Occidental Plateau

Occidental Plateau
Occidental Plateau

gNash living hasn’t been too hot for too long this summer. Ninety degree days haven’t piled up side by side and the nights are still sub-sixty. Aside from a dramatic increase in my nocturnal hot flashes it’s been pleasant. Speaking of hot flashes, I know you’re interested, how can one get so hot so fast and then suddenly be cold? I wish there was a magic blanket that would go on and off as needed. I could sleep through the night if I didn’t have to keep adjusting the covers. Mid hot flash I can’t tolerate a sheet on one square inch of my flesh. Then just as a fall back to sleep I get cold and have to get under the blankets. It’s very strange. Some people say hot flashes are psychosomatic. I say those people are idiots. I couldn’t make this up. I had no idea. My favorite way to describe them is like fifteen to twenty minute bouts of the flu. If I have one during waking hours I prefer to stop everything and lie on an ice pack. Mostly though I have to gird my loins and keep driving, holding up a cabinet, or some other tedious life event. Luckily day time flashes are rare.

The other day Burt took us up to the top of the Occidental Plateau just south of Helena. We drove some twisty, single lane roads through a part of the region’s historic mining district. A swarm of ATVs barreled by with no apparent caution. The penultimate guy came at us head-on and downhill in a hairpin turn with one hand holding a beverage, swerved, and flipped his rig. We were moving so slowly uphill we heard the crash and managed to stop within a few yards. Burt and approached the scene with dread. I was going through first aid protocols in my head silently hoping for no injuries or no chance. The guy popped up from behind the bend before we cleared the bumper of our Subaru. He seemed unhurt and he apologized for freaking us out. We were mostly silent with relief and shock. When his friends arrived (the last quad) and said they could attend the situation we left. I failed to take a photo. We were only too happy to depart as quickly as possible. I was sick imagining other scenarios and also wondering how this would have played out if the guy was seriously injured or dead. Would people believe we were not to blame with nobody to take our side?

Up top we found a gray jay and some horned larks. It was cool and clear. The peaks of the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Big Belts and the Elkhorns were all around. We wondered why it took us so long to visit this scenic spot just outside of Helena.

White pine beetle kill.
White pine beetle kill.
Elkhorn Peak and Burt
Elkhorn Peak and Burt
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Long loved the Queen

Mimi's last day
Mimi’s last day

We knew it couldn’t last forever. The Gypsy Carpenters are sad to share the news that our original feline companion has passed on to the great unknown. Our decision to leave jobs and house behind and try life as itinerant carpenters and musicians included Mimi as an after thought. That was nine years ago. Mimi was ten. Long in the tooth even then. No cat was going to get in the way of our great dream. We’d figure something out. Somebody, somewhere would want to take her for us. And that was true. Lots of people loved Mimi and another home could have been found but it never happened. Mimi surprised us all and adapted to life on the road as though she wondered what took us so long.

Nineteen years ago Becky Holmes and I plucked her from a litter of barn kittens. My recollection is that every cat in that barn was dead within the year. Predation, mostly. Mimi was a scrapper from the day she was born. At five weeks she was already supplementing mother’s milk with her own prey.  It took a year of living in my home for her to stop hiding full time. That feral part of her personality never left. Not one kiss in nineteen years. No belly rubs allowed. No holding. Mimi sat on me when she wanted and then I could scratch her ears. Burt called her a spook. She had nothing to say to him. Or Elvis. This was why we though she’d be happier in a new home.

But then life in the gNash changed her profoundly. Forced into close contact with Burt, Elvis, and me she learned to get along and engage. She wanted to sit with us and asked for attention. We had morning wrestling matches and Mimi kept the mice away. If the water bowl was empty Mimi knew how to get it filled while Elvis suffered in silence.

The last three years I’ve wondered daily how much time left we had together. She was restless and occasionally suffered seizures. This last year it became clear twenty was not within reach.  She was losing weight and starting to act funny. I worried constantly that she would decline rapidly and suffer because we were in some remote place without veterinary care. I wondered if I should pre-emptively euthanize her. I wanted to do best by her and feared I was really motivated by my own needs. Sometimes I wondered if I could smoother her if needed.

Last month Mimi was in respiratory distress. We took her to a vet and assumed it was the end. The vet gave her a magic shot and for a few weeks we had the old Mimi back. She was eating and exploring and resting normally. Then one day it all turned terrible.  She wasn’t herself. She couldn’t eat, the weight was melting away daily and, finally, her breathing was labored. We made special meals and tried offering food at all hours. It was no use. I consulted Becky, and Sue, and Magi and we all agreed Mimi was ready. Burt and I took her in and had her put to sleep. I sobbed. Burt cried, too. But it was the right time and the right day. As Becky said, “It’s better to do it on a good day.” Meaning Mimi could go while she still had some energy to walk about and look at things. And that was the last thing she did before we carried her to the vet. The picture above is Mimi sitting outside and enjoying the Montana sun just a couple of hours before she died.

SOmething horribly hilarious happened at the vet. I’ve been waiting to write this because I needed time to catch it. Mimi had just died and Burt went to pay our bill while I held Mimi in a box. I was wearing sunglasses. The receptionist greeted Burt with, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Burt stoically ignored the inane pleasantry. I stayed calm. Then she made another sunny inquiry and Burt says, “I have a dead cat.” Plain as day. New picture in the dictionary for awkward. It took a moment for the woman’s face to collapse. I watched the slow motion change of expression from smile to WTF-did-I just-do to OMG-I-really-fucked-up to sorrow. She was devastated. Now Burt and I were trying to cheer her up. We knew she didn’t know. She was just trying to be nice. She handed me tissues and I gave them back to her. I reassured her that we were not offended. Finally I said, “You are right. It wasn’t that bad after all. It was time.” And it was true.

Here’s what I said that day on Facebook: There will never be a cat as trailer ready as Mimi. Tiny, tidy, quiet, and an excellent mouser. She tolerated two dogs and two clumsy humans. Queen of the Nash.

I am grateful to so many that helped care for Mimi over the years. Just this year we had Dodie, my dad, SaraGay, Burt’s dad, Janet, Barbara and Sue all step in and keep her safe while we traveled the world. In years past Magi and John and Burt and others have lent a hand. I am also please beyond knowing that she went at a time where we could provide for her and that we are able to bury her in Montana. Montana will always be home.

Near the end
Near the end
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Dear Dearborn, I love you

Back in the saddle again.
Back in the saddle again.

I have a boat. Her name is Stella. Stella was my maternal grandmother’s name. I no longer recall why I named a boat after her. Rumor is little grandma was pretty tough. She had a mean fast ball but mostly my memories are of her lamenting the fact that she was still alive. The last few years my dad would take me over to visit mid-week and we’d find her sitting in the dim dining room with her hands clasped begging for the lord to end her misery. I must have been thinking of earlier days when I thought of christening my boat in her honor. Stella is also a fun name to yell and use regularly. See A Streetcar Named Desire. Stella has been in storage for nine years. She’s made four trips down the Grand Canyon (I went once without her and it was not a good trip). Together we’ve covered thousands of river miles and uncountable rapids. This 15′ Aire Puma cataraft is the bomb. I love this boat. I am captain on this boat.

This weekend we took Stella out of storage and after a test of her air holding capacity we took her for an overnight trip on the Dearborn River. Burt’s daughter and family friend McKenzie joined us. The weather was hot, the water high, and the grass plentiful. It’s a summer of lushness we haven’t seen in many years. Many people had the same idea but it wasn’t a problem. We launched very late due to a classic Mittelstadt mis-communication. People were waiting for each other at different bridges. There was no cell service. It all worked out. All the other boaters were gone and we enjoyed a calm evening float in solitude.

Olive and Elvis came along, too. They both has mishaps. Elvis tangled himself in the ours and was knocked from the boat. Olive jumped off once and was left behind on shore. I cat-grabbed Elvis and drug his sogginess into the boat. It was a tough lift. We made Olive swim for us. That would have been light work. That’s the difference between an accident and an intentional screw up. People are happy to help when you make a mistake but when you’re purposely rude people aren’t as amiable. Olive knows not to leave a vehicle without permission.

It was a perfect overnight outing, nineteen river miles and a sleep under the stars, family and friends with fresh trout on the side. I felt a little decrepit since it had been 9 years without rowing and my technique was sloppy. Stella took a few hits on the nose but it didn’t matter. Today I am a happy sore.

The only ugliness on this trip was an incident at the take-out that I feel compelled to share. I hesitate because I’m not sure I’ll capture the nuance of the interaction and I don’t want to complain just for the sake of complaining. Here goes:

Burt left the truck at a really steep take-out and the Missouri was flowing high so I suggested he get out and drive down to the next take-out while we three girls float on in our two rafts. The Mid-Canon take out normally has a wide beach and ample room for trucks and trailers and the scores of holiday boaters. We three ladies arrived at the campground just upstream of the designated take-out. I paused there to suss out the situation. In times past I’ve used the campground for a less crowded access point. There were no cars and we quickly deduced the campground must be closed due to the recent high water. We could see standing water in the road. We moved onward.

It is very important not to pass your take-out spot. Logistics become nightmarish if you miss the take out. So we crept down the shore and hugged the willows looking for a take-out I had not seen in 10 years. It should be obvious. Indeed, it was obvious. There was a large parking lot and a boat in the eddy. In the boat was a man. We said hello. He did not respond. I looked around and thought, “Wow, this place is empty. I wonder where everybody is?” I looked at the guy in his boat. It was empty of gear. He was obviously waiting to be picked up. This must be the spot. We started de-rigging our boats. I saw the guy smirking. I thought, “Is this not the spot? Wouldn’t he tell us if he knew this wasn’t the take-out?” Everything was off my boat and the lasses were about to start deflating theirs. Just as I was about to disassemble Stella Burt came running up. He was yelling. “Stop, stop, stop. This isn’t the take-out.” I looked at the guy who had been watching us from 10′ away. He smirked and turned away.  Jen, McKenzie and I shrugged our shoulders and started reloading the boats. Burt asked the guy and said, “Why didn’t you say something?” The guy averted his eyes. He already knew the entire normal take-out was closed due to road flooding and people were using a makeshift spot just downstream. It was a very crowded spot. He was waiting his turn. Since the dogs were in the truck and it was 90 degrees Burt ran back to the take-out and we finished re-rigging.

We three ignored the man. McKenzie was pushing off their boat when a second man ran up to the other guy and asked us to stop. He said, “Would you please let us go first? Our trailer is in the way down there and I’d like to get our boat down so we can move.” I looked at him and his friend. I was suddenly very, very angry. I said, “I’d feel a lot better about helping you out if your buddy there had been kind enough to tell us that this isn’t the take-out.” AWKWARD silence. Look up awkward and you’ll see Jen, McK, and I staring at these two mouth breathing men. I waved them on since this was a classic time to turn the other cheek. Just then the first man’s wife and very young daughter emerged from the willows. The men pushed off. We waited. Then this silent eye-averting SOB starts screaming at his daughter from the safety of his boat. He hadn’t a word for us and now he’s screaming at his kid. I couldn’t see the mother so I got off my boat to make sure the mother had eyes on the child. She did. I heard the dad make a derogatory remark about his child’s intelligence. I got on my boat and waited in silence.

After about five minutes Jen and McK floated down. I waited a few more minutes. I came in to the tight spot and made a perfect landing. These two men and several other giant friends were there. They all tried to help me. (An aside here, my cataraft cannot be lifted out of the river like a raft. These men would not have known that. But by trying to help me they risked seriously damaging the boat.) I still have some serious verbal defense skills. I said, “Do not touch my boat” and they disappeared. I mean evaporated. They were gone so fast I had to ask my people if they had indeed just tried to drag me and my boat out of the river. Jen told me this morning I was sending out some heavy DO NOT MESS WITH ME VIBES and I scared them all away. Fine by me.

So I asked Burt what he thought would have happened if Burt had been there as captain of Stella and I was away running shuttle. Burt agreed this man would not have ignored Burt’s greeting nor would he have smirked while Burt de-rigged, nor would he have failed to share valuable information with Burt.

So here I am again. I thought I’d be sharing a nice trip report and instead I’m thinking about the ugliness of sexism.

Some assembly required.
Some assembly required.
Cook fire.
Cook fire.
Burt listened to me. That won't happen again.
Burt listened to me. That won’t happen again.
The dogs got tangled a couple of times.
The dogs got tangled a couple of times.
Buddies
Buddies
Trout appetizer.
Trout appetizer.
Elvis loves water
Elvis loves water
Burt loves water
Burt loves water
Olive hates water
Olive hates water
I had some help from a friend.
I had some help from a friend.
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“Fall in Love”

Ruby and the Gypsy Carpenters
Ruby and the Gypsy Carpenters

There’s Ruby up above. She’s looking forward to her 97th birthday in a few weeks. Ruby has been in the US some 95 years. Born in 1921 she recalls crossing the Rio Bravo or Rio Grande (depends on where you’re standing which name is used) on her grandfather’s back.  But she was so young nobody really knows. It was a very long time ago and the details are lost in the mist. Warren G. Harding was president. Here’s what else was happening in 1921:

1. The Emergency Quota Act set immigration limits on eastern European Jews. This ban on Jews being allowed in the US resulted in a Jewish migration towards Palestinian lands. The ramifications are still seen today.

2. The first victim in the Osage Indian murders was discovered. This was a series of killings of Indians to get mineral rights. Estimates of sixty wealthy full-blood Osage Indians were killed during a several year reign of terror.

3. The Tulsa race riot, which should be called the Tulsa massacre or Tulsa pogrom, took place between May 31 and June 1, 1921, when a white mob attacked the wealthiest black community in the United States. The attack was carried out on the ground and by air and destroyed more than 35 blocks of the district. No accurate figure exists for the number of dead.

4. Sacco and Vanzetti found guilty. Italian and immigrant with unpopular political beliefs they were railroaded for a crime they did not commit and eventually met their ends in the electric chair.

This is one year of our racist US history and only the most notable racist events of that year. I read this and thought, wow, have the underlying causes changed? Has the fear of other in our society dissipated? Has the avarice and resentment gone? The answer is a resounding no. I also wonder why I only learned about Sacco and Vanzetti. Revisionist history harms all of us. It allows some of us to believe there’s a level playing field. It makes us think we’re all playing by the same rules. It is the root of entitlement and privilege. This is white supremacy and it runs deep. We must face it and resist it wherever we can. We must make restitution, too.

At the tender age of two Ruby entered the United States. Mexico was just finishing its revolution. Her father was working on the railroad in the southwestern United States, an area that was once Indian, Spanish, and Mexican.  Ruby’s father met a tragic end after becoming sick and dying in the railroad hospital only a few years late. Within a couple of years the family moved to Montana. Can you imagine Montana in the twenties? In 1920 half of Montana’s population was foreign born. That’s not including Native Americans, I presume. Less than 100 years ago this state was full of immigrants looking for opportunity. The Indians were all penned on their reservations by then. How quickly we forget our own history and our sins. The complications are important to hold in mind as we sit and try and decide what is fair and who is welcome.

Ninety-five years later Guadalupe (Ruby’s birth name) is still here. She became a citizen in the 1940s. She spent her career as a nurse. She marched for civil rights all over the United States. She raised a family. There are more Rubys out there hoping for a chance in this deeply flawed country because it is better than the situation they have where they were born.

A word on railroad hospitals. I remember when Ruby first shared the story of her father dying in a railroad hospital I was shaken. Her father had fallen ill with some kind of stomach ailment. He was shipped off to a hospital hundreds of miles away from his family. The hospital was owned by his employer. The family received no word until he was dead. These hospital were set up in the frontier areas of railroad expansion to purportedly aid workers. It was difficult finding workers willing to work in harsh and remote areas of the country. Most were, surprise, immigrants. The railroads hired doctors and built ‘hospitals’ to attract workers. Or did they hire doctors to control the workers? Here’s one take:

The very first medical subspecialty organization in the U.S. was the Railway Surgeons.  Unlike physicians of today who at least in theory are supposed to put the interests of the patient before the interests of anyone or any institution or company, the Railway Physicians gave their primary allegiance to the company, and viewed their major challenges as the identification of malingerers, defending the company against lawsuits, competition from unaffiliated physicians, and maintaining their access to the free pass. – RWM (aka Railwayman, I don’t know his real name so I cannot attribute correctly)

It’s safe to presume Ruby’s father didn’t have much of a chance at a railway hospital hundreds of miles from home. Perhaps,even, Ruby’s mother was forced to return to Mexico to give birth because the hospital wouldn’t help her.

Last night we sat with Ruby and visited. She lives in an assisted living facility. Her family is nearby. Ruby told us that someone had recently someone asked her advice on living life. Here’s what Ruby said, “Fall in love!” Ruby had a many decades marriage to Ed who died a few years ago but she wasn’t talking about that kind of thing.  She was talking about big love. She said first fall in love with YOURSELF. Then walk out the door and look around and fall in love with everything. Words to live by. The trees, the birds, each other.

Here's a map I used to explain to a ten year old friend in Mexico where we all are.
Here’s a map I used to explain to a ten year old friend in Mexico where we all are. It’s all connected.
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Families Belong Together

Todd and Burt
Todd and Burt

The time for staying out of the political fray is gone. I’ve never hid my views but I’ve also tried to limit my discussions here to things that effect us personally. I’ve tried to respect that reasonable people can disagree. I never wanted to hurt feelings. I’m done with that. The things being done in our name by our government make me sick. If you think it’s all fake news you are an idiot. Okay, maybe you’re brainwashed by FOX and company or your preacher. If that’s the case you’ve surrendered critical thinking to a machine that makes money from selling propaganda. It’s too late for me to reach you. I won’t be rude but I will be forceful. The direction this country is headed is dangerous. I will stand up and protect the people.

Yesterday Burt and I played music for the Keeping Families Together Rally in Helena, Montana. This was our friend Todd’s idea. Todd said, “Let’s do this.” We said, “Great idea.” So I called the organizers and offered our services. They did not say no. We showed up and they used us to hold the crowd while the normal event technical snafus were worked out. We sang Spanish language tunes and played Latin melodies. We sang “Mary Don’t You Weep” with the line “Pharaoh’s army got dorwnded” for inspiration. We must persevere.  Fear of the other cannot be how we govern. It is the worst way to live. Fear is a large part of my life. I suffer from anxiety. I face it every day. And I know that all good things are beyond the mists of fear. In my experience decisions made in fear are never the best. Strength, love, diversity of life, wonder…Push past your inner monologue of  fear of scarcity, immigrants, drug traffickers, black people, muslims, Mexicans, women and see the range of humanity out there. If I listened to my fears there would be no Burt and Susan, no Gypsy Carpenters, no Portal Irish Music Week, no life in Mexico, no music.

On the other side, the intellectual side, these actions of our government make no sense to me. Alienating allies, embracing oppressive regimes, making health care unaffordable again, building a wall that has been proven not to work? I could go on.

In summary, if you think separating families asking for asylum and sending those children only-god-knows-where is a reasonable approach to our border’s human rights crisis, then get the fuck out of here. There. I’ve said it.

George McCauley original

Good crowd
Good crowd
Singing for the crowd
Singing for the crowd
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