I love the train. Maybe I will just ride it all week long.
Back and forth from wherever. Makes me less nuts.
Less glitches than flying although last week the train I take hit a man and killed him just North of Hudson, NY. What was he doing on the track at night?
Someone killed a squirrel in front of my house. I felt bad. Who else will mourn Mr. Squirrel. Just me and Mrs. Squirrel. The vultures came and there is just a splat this morning.
Did your plane get delayed due to the “flight planning software glitch”?
Is that what happened to Mr. Squirrel? A car avoidance software glitched?
Or was it murder?
Or was he just tired of looking for nuts?
The winds had howled louder than any pack of coyotes and wolves put together. Those winds had taken the foot of snow that fell in the night and hurled it on to the last bit of road out of the ranch. As Daphne listened, the howling began to morph into yelling. Phrases like “Montana sucks in winter” and “You are crazy as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore, are you?” and, of course, “We gotta get out of this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do,” came screaming at her from outside.
Earlier in the day, she had got out and got back albeit with a bit of maneuvering. So she thought that 4 hours later it might still be possible to get out. Of course, there was always the “upper gate”. This is the gate next to the cattle guard which opens up into the North pasture that borders the frontage road. Once thru this gate it’s fairly easy to ride over the rocky yet level field and go out another gate on to the frontage road. This is never “drifted in”. However, for 20 years Daphne has complained that the “gate” is impossible for her to close. It’s really really tight. She can get it open, but then can’t get the darn post back in it’s wire hoop. Plus she can’t open the barbed wire gate without shredding her good coat. Since fashion is always more of a consideration that practicality, Daphne prefers to try to go out the main entrance.
But even Daphne had become practical in the last two weeks since the weather has been just terrible with snow drifting and temperatures in the teens and lower, demanding that she wise up. So, she took to carrying a Carhartt canvas jacket in the front seat just in case she had to open the upper gate. She still couldn’t close the thing, but the cows are mostly way down the other pasture and rarely come up to this gate, so it’s safe to leave it open for an hour or two.
Even so, as Daphne neared the cattle guard and seeing that Cowboy Clay had not opened the upper gate, she decided to plow her way through the drifts. Recklessly, she gunned the motor of the All Road and drove over the cattle guard and into the first drift which was a tad bit harder and less fluffy than she thought. Her heart lept to her throat as the car came to a dead stop in the next drift. Continue reading →
Woke up Monday morning to the news that two fugitives were holed up somewhere around Big Twig. They were on the run and had abandoned their car and headed into the hills. At around Noon, word was that they might be heading South on the Boulder Road. That’s a mile from the ranch.
My husband, to be mild, is not an alarmist. I’ve never seen him “jumpy” unless somebody comes up to him from behind. He is one of the most laid back dudes I’ve ever met. So when I saw him lock the door, I was a bit surprised.
“I don’t want to be alone here when you go out to feed (the cattle bales of hay),” I mewed.
With that he went into the other room and came back with the Colt.
“You can pull back on the trigger and it will fire. But it will be hard to pull. So you can also cock the gun and then pull the trigger, ” he said as he laid the gun on my desk.
Daphne had been laying awake at break of dawn because Mr. Robin Redbreast had started his infernal tweeting even earlier. She remembered listening to the rattling of the garbage trucks in New York City as they made their way down Columbus Avenue early in the morning when she had lived there many years ago. She had gotten used to them and they rarely woke her up. But Mr. Harbinger of Spring, was another story. She had to resort to ear plugs to get a good night sleep. She fell asleep wondering if the robin felt any ill will toward her or whether anthropomorphizing was ever a good idea.
But anyway it was time to get up and don her bathing suit, slip on a bathrobe and sandals, grab her beach towel and head to the 6AM water aerobics class in town. As she drove up to the city park, other women were getting out of their cars, also in long bathrobes, waddling their way up to the door of the tiny pool house like a gaggle of geese.
There were already a bevy of bathing beauties in the teeny pool. And soon the class of nineteen ladies would fill it three quarters full. As always, the usual gabfest was going on as they pumped their styrofoam dumbbells and did the Water Jog. (The gabfest was what really attracted Daphne to the class as it was a great source of information on all kinds of news.) The first topic was last night’s Jeopardy category of “The Simpsons” (way too hard unless you were a Simpsons’ fan or a crossword puzzle enthusiast) to the joy of eating hot dogs.
Daphne found the hot dog discussion particularly interesting. These tough rural and ranch gals wanted little to do with sausages that they had not made themselves, normally from the elk they had shot in hunting season. When Daphne had moved to Little Twig twenty years ago, she was surprised that her rancher husband ate every kind of meat except hot dogs and veal because he “knew too much about how they are made” to be comfortable with devouring those delicacies. And these women too wanted no part of mystery meat. Oddly enough, three of us had hot dogs yesterday for lunch.
Earleen said that she hadn’t had a hot dog in two years, but suddenly found herself buying and scarfing one down yesterday. Gail said that sometimes a hot dog is the best thing on a hot day like yesterday.
The water aerobics instructor, Sharon, yelled out (and she had to yell over the din of the class’s chattering hot dog talk), “OK, let’s switch to the Bicycle!”
As Daphne started to bicycle sideways and swirling her dumbbells, she said, “I bought some organic hot dogs at the Community Coop” and ate one yesterday too.”
Gail snorted, “Organic? A Hot Dog?”
Daphne said, “OK, it just says it doesn’t have anything too obnoxious in them and the cows are grass-fed.”
Gail said, “I’ll stick to my elk. We put up 500 pounds last fall.”
“That’s a lot of sausage,” Earleen replied.
Sharon yelled out, “Lawn Chair!” and the women started laying out flat and then tucking their tummies in.
Suddenly one of the Ospreys that live in the park swooped over the gals. She was carrying a twig in her mouth.
“Look, they’re building a new nest on that telephone pole,” said Becky.
Earleen looked perplexed, “What’s wrong with the old nest on the other pole over there?”
“I heard that they lost their eggs in the hail storm last week,”Gail replied sadly.
“Yes, and then a bald eagle decided to take it for himself,” Sharon said indignantly.
“Well, that’s just mean,” Earleen retorted.
For once, the pool was quiet and all that could be heard was the swish, swish, swish of mermaids and their dumbbells.
Daphne quietly paddled in the opposite direction and wondered if her robin also “was just mean”. “No”, she thought, “he just can’t help himself. It was going to be a beautiful day in Big Sky Country and he just had to sing about it.” And yes, what a warm and uncomplicated way to start the day. Paddling around with big- hearted gals and determined ospreys.
TAKE THIS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT December 27, 2014 (Revised May 2020)
It was now turning twilight and Daphne was bursting with cabin fever. So, she donned her fur hat, jumped in the car, and drove through the softly falling snow. It was dark by the time she arrived at the Best of Both Worlds Bar and Grill. The neon light sputtered on and off as she climbed out of the car and into a foot of snow. She tramped up to the door and entered. This bar was where literary devices and characters hung out like the space creatures in Star Wars. She loved this place.
A strange old coot, who was all ears, was sitting in his usual spot by the wood burning stove, rocking back and forth. In a booth in the back a prairie dog was making scribbling away like usual. He was busy working on his masterpiece *“Notes from Underground”. There was a two-headed creature sipping a drink at the end of the bar. Or was that a tow-headed woman? Daphne’s glasses had fogged over. Yes, of course, it was her friend Lara who seemed to have leapt straight out of the pages of Dr. Zhivago. She was dressed all in white fur and looked like a vanilla éclair. Daphne stomped her snow coated boots together to get the large clumps off as she walked into the room. She slid on to the bar stool next to Lara.
“What’ll it be tonight, Daphne?” asked Claudia, the bar tender who had eyes in the back of her head (which never ceased to amaze Daphne.)
“Oh, before I forget, here’s some fresh eggs. I put them all in one basket, so be careful,” she warned Claudia with a grin.
Claudia turned around and smiled as she slid a bourbon in front of Daphne, “Victoria is back in town and staying at the hotel. She’s upstairs.”
Daphne wrinkled her nose and said, “Oh, dear, she makes me crazy. She’s got that monkey on her back.”
“Oh, so what’s her issue?” Lara asked, ” She an Alcoholic? A Passive-aggressive? A Democrat?”
“No, no, no, she’s got a real monkey on her back. And he’s a pain in the ass. He’s got a big chip on his shoulder. ” replied Daphne.
“Ah, now I’m with you, exclaimed Lara, “The real monkey on her back has a real chip on his shoulder. How does he keep it from falling off?”
“No, the chip part is a figure of speech; an idiom. The chimp seems pissed off most of the time and that makes it down in the mouth which in turn makes it hard for Victoria to shake it off.”
“Maybe he was the black sheep of the family,” Claudia guffawed.
“Well, that’s probably the elephant in the room,” Daphne smiled as she meandered over to the front window.
[Sound of an elephant trumpeting and a monkey squealing.
A big blonde woman rushes in from the lobby with a monkey on her back.]
“I didn’t know the circus was in town, ” Daphne said as she looked out at the street.
“Are you talking about me or my monkey?” the blonde retorted.
“No, it looks like the circus has come to town. There’s an elephant in the street,” Daphne frowned. “Strange time of year for a circus. The dead of winter,” she muttered. “Of course, technically the dead of winter was December 21st so we are a week past that, but pretty close.”
Whenever Daphne started to meander it was time for somebody to jump in and switch gears.
“Speaking of winter, has everybody made their New Year’s resolutions?” Lara declared.
“No, I’m still working on what I am thankful for. I’m a couple holidays behind,” Daphne sighed.
Just then the door opened with a blast of cold air and Thor strode in. He dropped his hammer and cried out, ” Good evening and almost happy New Year to you all,” he cried. “What are we talking about?”
“Resolutions,” said Lara.
“Yes, I used to make the garden-variety kind of resolves such as quit drinking, exercise more…you know, the healthy deal,” Thor declared, “but now I don’t bother with it.”
“I was reading a blog on that very thing this morning,” Daphne said smiling. “One fellow said that he decided the best thing to do was bundle everything up into one command. His was “don’t be a dick”.
“Then that would be a dic…tum, wouldn’t it?” Claudia mused in order to get everybody back on track.
“Did you see the size of that elephant’s dic…tum?” Thor said with a grin.
“So it’s not my imagination. There is an elephant in the street,” Daphne declared.
“Yes, the circus is on their way south for the winter,” Thor replied.
“Maybe they could use my monkey and me,” Victoria reasoned.
Just then Curiosity came through the door.
“Well, I just killed a cat. I didn’t mean to but it was raining cats and dogs and one of those darn cats bounced off the hood of my pickup.”
With that Daphne decided to put her coat back on and downed her drink, It was time to call it quits before the Piper who had not been paid showed up and stole Thor’s thunder.
PLEASE CONTINUE WITH YOUR OWN LITERARY DEVICES. I’M ALL EARS.
* A bit of history: I stole this from Tim Monich who sent me a copy of a new translation of Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground” in 1997. The inscription read “Happy Birthday, Di! (No this is not a biological study of Prairie Dog City). Love, Tim.” There is a tourist attraction in Grey Cliff, Montana called Prairie Dog Town where Tim had visited with his family when filming “Far and Away”.
P.S. I wasted almost as much time on this little piece as I did making my cow talk using “My Talking Pet”. This is driving everybody nuts. Montana entered Covid 19-Phase 2 (like Phase 3 in other places) this week, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything much different except Daphne can sit at a high top instead of at a booth at The Grand Restaurant and Bar. She will be reporting on the evolution of seating arrangements soon. Oh and, as of Monday, everybody who comes here no longer has to self-quarantine for 14 days. But don’t tell anybody I told you.
Last night Daphne wriggled into her long johns and stretch corduroys; laced up her knee high boots; threw on her down coat; adjusted her trapper’s hat; chose the red gloves for a bit of color and finally wrapped her face in a long grey scarf. Thusly encased in wool, down, and fur and despite feeling a bit like a the Michelin woman, she briskly walked to the garage, pulled the car out and drove to town to meet Cowboy Clay at the watering hole.
Clay (clad only in an insulated shirt and a Carhartt vest) laughed at her get up. Gladys the waitress yelled, “Don’t pay him any mind. That’s the way I dressed up today too to walk to work.”
Daphne sidled up to Clay as Claudia slid a Pinot Grigio her way. She smiled sweetly and replied, “I enjoy feeling my feet, fingers, and face, that’s all. And don’t start with the “Cowboy Up” malarkey. It’s 5 degrees. It’s fricking cold.”
Just then Sonny breezed in and Claudia slid a Cab his way. “Fricking cold,” he announced, much to Daphne’s glee, “Looks like it might be a two dog night.”
Daphne knew this was a cue to ask Sonny to tell another tall tale as he liked to do. “So what’s a “two dog night?”
“Well, I heard a story from a friend of mine. A bunch of hunters went out hunting on this 200,000 acre ranch far from any town. By late afternoon everybody was back at the ranch house except two of their party and their dog. The rest of them looked for them until dark, but then there was nothing to do until morning. So the next morning, they set out and finally found them in their vehicle; alive but really really cold. The one hunter said, “It was a two dog night, but we only had one dog.”
Clay laughed and said he knew an old sheepherder. Clay had asked him what he did when the temperature dropped below zero. The old guy said, “I just pulled up another dog.”
“I wonder what a three dog night is?” Daphne mused as Daphne often did.
“Well, I know it’s a band,” said Sonny.
“From the Seventies,” Clay offered.
Everybody nodded and tried to remember any of their songs and strangely enough were all at a loss for words.
“Well, I guess it’s time for you to get out that I Pad and find out,” said Sonny.
This is what makes nowadays a bit different than the old days when you had to wait for somebody to walk in the door who knew the answer to the question. In this case it would be one of the music experts like Cal or Thelma, but they were nowhere near. So Daphne got out the I Pad and looked them up.
“Yep, formed in 1968 and had a lot of hits like “One” and “Joy to the World.”
“That was a b.s. song, said Clay, “Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea. What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Maybe they were influenced by the Beatles. You know since we all live in a yellow submarine we would want the fishes to be happy,” Sonny theorized.
“That’s funny,” Daphne said, “We’re having shrimp stir fry tonight.”
This is when everybody paused and knew it was time to go home.
“Says here that the name of the band comes from an article one of the band members read about how the Aborigines crawled into a cave and bedded down with a wild dog, a Dingo. But when it went below zero, they had to find three Dingos. Hence, it would be a three dog night, “Daphne related. So what would happen tonight as it is surely is going to drop below zero?”
“I guess I’ll take the dog,” Clay smiled.
“Well, then, I guess I’ll take the electric blanket,” she grinned.
The temperature was falling fast as Daphne made her way past a cow who had just had her calf and was munching contentedly on some after birth while her newborn shivered in the grass. Trying to get rid of that very natural, but let’s face it, gross image, Daphne high tailed it down the ranch lane and sped into town.
She entered the Saloon and threw off her coat and trapper hat. There was nobody at the bar except Glenn and Gwelda who were finishing up some dinner.
Gwelda: “Well you’re dressed for winter.”
Daphne: “It’s 25 f***ing degrees. It’s not Spring. I’m sick of the cold and sick of talking about the weather. Let’s change the subject.”
With that she opened up her Wall Street Journal and began to read.
Daphne: “Here’s an article on ‘Noah’ and building the Ark. I’m looking forward to it seeing it. Should be good.”
Gwelda: “Well I sure hope it’s accurate–biblical, that is. I know the Bible and those animals made their own way into the Ark. He didn’t gather them up. They came by themselves. So they just better tell it like it really was.” Continue reading →
(This is an ongoing series that takes place in The Grand Saloon, a kind of bar at the edge of the frontier much like the Star Wars bar in the first movie. There are the regular cast of characters as well as alien visitors from planets such as Hollywood, King of Prussia, PA, and Billings, MT. The first in the series is a piece called “Old Blisters”. The second one is called “Fun”. The third is “12 Churches and 5 Bars.” You can start there or read this one first. )
The days are getting longer and so the drive in to Little Twig at the end of the work day is no longer in the dark but in the waning hours of sunlight. This means the deer who love to ambush cars at dusk will be lurking behind the trees just before the bridge over the Boulder River. But Daphne is on to them. She slows down from the 55 mph speed limit and looks from side to side and, sure enough, three does come bounding across the road. The weather has been skittering back and forth for days between just above zero to below zero. The snow has fallen in large wet clumps unlike the usual powder that blesses Montana winters. Then it melts. Then it freezes. And for the last day and a half it’s now started to rain. And now it’s cold again. And so the road has patches of black ice.
Daphne glides to a crawl as the deer slip and slide across her path. All survive and she drives on past the neon sign at the Lazy J Motel that has just come on as night begins.
Daphne hitches the car up on small leftover pile of snow and sloshes through a foot of water at the curb. She straightens herself up and breezes into the saloon.
The joint is jumping because it is free pizza night. Each year from early February to the end of March, the bar serves free pizza on Wednesday nights to reward the locals for their loyalty and, well, to try and sell drinks at a slow time of the year. Of course, some people who rarely come to the place manage to take advantage of the free food. There was a bit of a kerfuffle years ago when they first started the free stuff because people would bring their kids and try to get away without ordering anything to drink. So they had to put the keebosh on that and make this an “adults only” kind of deal. Thelma and Will are in the middle of the bar. Cal and Carl are down closer to the table with the pizza on it. Sonny, Soot, and Clay are at the other end. Daphne slides on to the only bar stool left and throws off her puffer coat.
Claudia sets a glass of Savignon Blanc in front of Daphne.
It was another cold, dark, and howling night in Little Twig, Montana. No longer below zero, the wind had picked up again and slapped Daphne in the butt as she literally blew into the saloon. At the end of the bar in his usual spot stood Cowboy Clay with his Chardonnay. Carl nursed a whiskey a seat down from where Clay stood and Soot was to the right of Clay also sipping a whiskey. One bar stool next to Carl was open and Daphne slid in and threw off her long down coat. Claudia had already poured her a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and set it down in front of her. Daphne pulled out her cell phone and placed it on the bar.
Daphne: I waiting for one more call and then I’m done for the day.
Soot: I’m getting rid of my cell phone. We never needed them before. Why should we now?
Clay: Well what happens when you get stuck in a ditch?
Soot: Well, maybe I wouldn’t have gone anywhere where I’d get stuck with no way of telling anybody where I am. Maybe these phones just cause people to be reckless. What did ya think about that?
Carl: You could be right, Soot.
Clay: I don’t know. I think people are going to be stupid whether they’ve got a phone or not.
With that the first round of the Philosophy Club finished and it was on to the next round. Continue reading →