Category Archives: Low Places

Stories from the saloon in Montana.

Bad Dudes

IMG_0935Woke 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.

I just stared at him. Continue reading

That’s Just Mean

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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.

“Yup”.

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.

 

“It Was a Two Dog Night…”

DSC00082 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.

Fun

(This is the second in “The Grand” series.  The first one was “Old Blisters” that introduces the cast of characters.)

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It is another cold and windy night in Little Twig, Montana. The temperature had been below zero for almost a week, but with the rise in temperature to above zero, the wind had picked up again.  You could hear it howl and it made the sign outside the saloon bash against the bricks.  It was the usual cast of characters at The Grand sitting at booths and at the bar.  Daphne is sipping a Sauvignon Blanc.  She is dressed all in black with a jaunty grey cloche on her head.  Cowboy Clay with a Chardonnay in hand is next to her talking to Carl who is nursing a micro brew when Sonny breezes in and sees a spot next to Clay.  Claudia pours him a glass of Merlot.

Clay: How’s it goin’?

Sonny: Not bad.  Just came in from Idaho and it’s really dry.

Clay: Is it like California?  I hear that’s bad.

Sonny: Well, those Californians are just going to have to decide whether they want to take a shower and flush the toilet or eat.

Daphne chimes in:  Is that really the choice?  Flush or starve? Can’t the Ag business use less water?  I mean it’s not like they are a bunch of small family farms growing enough for themselves and the people in their towns.  Don’t they export most of the lettuce, tomatoes, pomegranates, almonds?

Sonny: Well, they are family farms, just really big ones.  And they have the long water rights.

Well, the discussion went on for a few minutes about who owns what and how water rights came to be through mining rights and taxpayers rights versus corporations rights and Beverly Hills farmers and manifest destiny and survival of the fittest before a truce was called and they went back to talking about the weather.

Clay:  Some trucker said his temperature reading went from 20 below to 60 below for a few miles past Reed Point.

Daphne: What shall I play on the Juke?  Lorde or Alan Jackson?

Clay: Whatever you want, Darlin’?

Daphne: Oh and I brought some pears if anybody wants some.

Sonny: I’ll take two.  I like to drizzle a little balsamic on them and sprinkle with a little  blue cheese.  Thanks!

I had fun last night.  Different people have different ways of having fun.  And most people have various ways of having fun.  But one of my favorite ways of having fun is a lively discussion of something or other.  In that respect, I should have been born French where I could go out to a cafe after work and philosophize with friends over a nice bottle of wine and some oysters and good bread.  We could talk about anything but the weather unless it was about how the weather might influence our moods or our art.  We could talk about who could call themselves writers and who couldn’t.  Or who was an artist?  Or was all life and thus all art futile? Continue reading

Year of Horsin’ Around

Year of Horsin' Around

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My Inner Froggie

INT:  AT THE BAR IN A WESTERN SALOON – PRESENT DAY – NIGHT

                                    MAN

“Howdy Mam, You’re not from around here are you?

                                                               WOMAN

                         “Well, yes I am.  I live three miles East of town with my husband and raise Hereford cattle.

She smiles and takes a sip of Pinot Grigio.

                                              MAN

Yeh, but you weren’t always from here, were ya?

The woman swivels around in the bar stool, unwraps a gorgeous large scarf, and faces her inquisitor square in the eye:

                                             WOMAN

“Well, Pardner, you got me there.  It’s a long story, but let me buy ya a drink and I’ll try and give it to you short and straight.”

This exchange happens about every week.  Some stranger at the local watering hole in Little Twig, Montana asks the woman, that is, me, those questions.  Not sure whether it’s the hat I’ve got on, or the cat’s eye glasses, or the designer scarf, or what, but I get spotted for an outsider right away.  Oh, and, before we go any further most people don’t talk in Old Timey kind of jargon.  That’s just how I hear it in my head sometimes.

I could begin my story by telling the tale of how I met a rancher while visiting a movie set in Montana and soon after got the boot from a Hollywood talent agency and ended up moving to the ranch.

Or I could begin my story when I stopped working on my doctoral dissertation on “The Actor’s Studio’s Influence on Film” and flew the coop to try and act and direct plays in New York City.

Or further back yet to watching “Smilin’ Ed’s Gang” that I called “The Buster Brown Show” because it was sponsored by Buster Brown Shoes. “Buster Brown, he lives in a shoe.  Here’s his dog Tige, he lives there too.”  When Ed died,  Andy Devine took over and it became “Andy’s Gang”.  “I’ve got a gang.  You’ve got a gang.  Everybody’s got to have a gang.”  Both shows featured Squeaky the Mouse, Midnight the Cat (a very creepy black cat with a real head and fake paws), and most memorably for me, Froggy the Gremlin.

2013_12_08_08_47_29.pdf000Sister Deb and I getting ready to watch Froggy.

Each week Froggy would be summoned by Andy with a strange command: “Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy.” And Froggy would appear in a puff of smoke on top of the grandfather clock and greet the kids with a deep gravelly bass voice, “Hiya kids, hiya, hiya, hiya.”

He would do something horrible to an adult each week.  Then he would hop up and down and say, “I promise to be good, I will, I will, I will.  For example:

                                      MONSIEUR BON BON (with French accent)

So you take zee noodles and mix them with zee red tomato sauce….

                         FROGGY (who appears on top of the clock)

 And you pour it on your head.

                                                     MONSIEUR BON BON

And you pour it on your head.

                        (and he pours it on his head)

Oh noooooo!  Look what you have done.

FROGGY (hopping about)

Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry. I am, I am.  I promise to be good.  I will, I will, I will.

 The next week, the guest is a scientist.

                                                SCIENTIST (with German accent)

   You take de tube of sulfuric acid…

                                                FROGGY

   And you pour it in your ear.

                                                SCIENTIST

  And you pour it in your ear.

                         (And he pours it in his ear and smoke comes out of it)

 OOOOH NOOOO!  Look what you made me do.

                                                FROGGY  (Hopping about)

  I promise to be good.  I will, I will, I will.

Froggy stirred things up and every week proved that adults were a bunch of boobs.    Also, Froggy liked to say to Andy, “You big square!”  So Froggy had more than a bit of beatnik in him too. That was some cool gremlin.  Be bop a do.  No wonder I dreamed of being a real hip cat and blowin’ each current pop stand I was inhabiting.

When I think about this show that encourages defying authority and at the same time preaches the importance of solidarity as in being part of a gang, it’s no wonder some parents viewed this as wicked and subversive.  Well, because it was…subversive that is.  I especially liked the subversive part at the end of the show when Andy would tell all the kids after they had watched Froggy do his magic, “Remember to go to church this week and Sunday school.”  Oh right, that’s the ticket.  Sin all week and then make sure you go to church to even the odds.

So with family runaways like Aunt Dorothy in fox furs and Grandpa who stowed away in a ship’s hold to get to America as role models and a mentor like Froggy, how could I not become a little anarchist with a tendency to try to escape the cage called adulthood?  Hey, I’m sorry, I am, I am, I am!

IMG_0839Froggy and Aunt Dorothy

Further study on Froggy and Friends:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFpzTaICKQU

And the creepy Midnight the Cat and Squeaky the Mouse do Three Blind Mice

Midnight and Squeaky on a Tropical Isle

Old Blisters: Cracking More Bar Codes

MEMO0006It was a cold, dark, and icy night as I made my way into Little Twig, Montana from the ranch.  The sun had set at 4:30 PM and there was hardly a sliver of moon to light the way into town. The sign on the bank read -2 degrees. The outfits in front of The Grand were all running with nobody in them as I pulled up beside them.  I turned my outfit off since I was just coming in for a quick one.  Daphne entered the bar in her customary below zero regalia that consisted of her sister Deb’s mink coat, a trapper’s hat and knee high boots.  (There is no reason to forsake fashion in sub zero weather; none whatsoever.)

Daphne would imagine herself in an old 1930s Klondike movie on nights like this (like “Call of the Wild” with Clark Gable and Loretta Young.)  The saloon is at the edge of the frontier and there are the usual assortment of patrons that at times also reminds her of the bar in Star Wars where all kinds of aliens from all kinds of different planets meet, rub elbows, and occasionally get into a scuffle.

Over there in the corner sits Ed who sticks to himself and is eating an oyster poor boy special.  Jingo John sits in the rocking chair by the fire singing a old-timey tune to himself.  At the bar sit the regular happy hour duo of Cal and Carl who are just about to leave as it is a little after six and the drinks go up a buck.  Behind the bar is Claudia, the sultry Mexican bartenderess writing up a ticket for Cal.  Daphne sidles up next to Carl.  Just then a blast of cold air ushers in Sonny Stevens who sits down at the end of the bar and orders a Cab and a blackened chicken Caesar salad to go. Continue reading