Tag Archives: Montana

“Well, Not Exactly”

2013_12_01_08_29_05.pdf000 “Ready to Run”

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

12 Churches and 5 Bars


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


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


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

Do Overs – An Evie Taloney Movie Review

There are quite a few lines in the incredibly visually rich movie “Nebraska” that resonated with me.  Though the characters speak few words, when they do, you listen.  It’s funny how most of us don’t think too much about our parents’ inner lives until we are much older and when it’s almost too late as they “can’t remember” when you ask questions.   But David “Davey” Grant gets to have a few exchanges with his father, Woody, that move this story along emotionally.  One such exchange is when they are looking out on to  Nebraska farm land with the round bales of hay lying across the horizon and the pasture dotted with black Angus cows.

David asks his father:

“Did you ever want to farm like your dad?”

Woody replies:

“I don’t remember.  It doesn’t matter.”

In the script David asks again if his dad had it to do all over would he have stayed here and farmed.  Woody replies that you can’t “do it all over”.

But people try to “do it all over” in many different ways.  When I was an actor and director in New York City in the 1980s, I directed plays by a wonderful playwright Jack Heifner.  Jack’s play “Vanities” held the record for longest Off Broadway run for quite a few years.  It is what made Kathy Bates a star.  I directed a one act play of his called “Twister”.  It was about a small plain town in Texas that is wiped away by a tornado. It looked a lot like the desolate town of Hawthorn in “Nebraska”.   There are only two people left, Betty and Roy.  When they find each other after the storm, Roy says he wants to  find their stuff  like her stuffed animals and a mattress and then bring them to where their house used to be.  He wants to rebuild it exactly like it was.  Betty doesn’t want any of the “stuff” because it’s just junk.  She wants to go away and have a brand new  prettier life.  She wants to be born again.  At the end she leaves and Roy is left alone with the rubble.

Jack returns to this born again theme in several of his plays.  There are many times that people want to reinvent themselves and be “born again”.  Sometimes it’s as simple as going off to college or moving to another town or state.  Sometimes it’s getting a divorce and starting a supposedly new life.

More often than not no one can do a complete do over of themselves unless they are actually making it all up like a grifter or con artist or someone mentally ill like Cate Blanchett’s character in “Blue Jasmine” who announces “People reinvent themselves….I met someone. I’m a new person.”   But for most people, you don’t really reinvent yourself, but you can come to terms with who you really are.  Carl Jung called this process “individuation”.  It’s “getting to know you, getting to know all about you.”  It’s accepting the quirks that make you an individual while at the same time seeing what makes you part of the whole of humanity.  In the Bible, Paul says that we are “all of one body, with gifts differing.”  We each have different gifts but together we make a whole.  Good marriages and partnerships work that way.

In “Nebraska” “Davey” Grant  finds out a whole lot about gifts and giving on this road trip with his dad.  He has inherited his Dad’s kindness and sense of humor and that’s the payoff.  Is it better than a million bucks?  Doesn’t matter. It’s a great story.

Old Blisters: Cracking More Bar Codes

MEMO0006It was a cold, dark, and icy night as Daphne made her way toward Little Twig, Montana.   The sun had set at 4:30 PM and there was hardly a sliver of moon to light the way into town. As she pulled up Main Street the sign on the bank read -2 degrees. The outfits in front of The Grand Saloon were all running with nobody in them as she pulled up beside them.  Daphne decided to turn her outfit off since she was just coming in for a quick one.  Making her way through the exhaust fumes, she entered the bar.  As usual for this type of weather she was wearing her sister Deb’s long mink coat, a trapper’s hat and knee high boots.  (There was no reason to forsake fashion in sub zero weather; none whatsoever.)

On nights like this, Daphne liked to  imagine herself in an old 1930s Klondike movie like “Call of the Wild” with Clark Gable and Loretta Young.  Her real life saloon was very much like those movie saloons that sat at the edge of the frontier.   It was also very much like that bar at the edge of the galactic frontier in “Star Wars”.  And like that outer space bar, all kinds of aliens from all kinds of different planets  would meet, rub elbows , and occasionally get into a scuffle.

She stopped and cased the joint.  As usual Ed who sticks to himself  was sitting in the corner eating an oyster poor boy special.  Jingo John sat in the rocking chair by the fire singing a old-timey tune to himself.  That’s mostly because nobody wants to talk to him as he is not endowed with much for imaginative talk and usually has his underwear showing underneath his overalls.   At the bar sat 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 Claudia, the sultry Mexican bartenderess, scribbled down what they owed.  Daphne sidled up next to Carl.  Just then a blast of cold air ushered in Sonny Stevens who sat down at the end of the bar. Continue reading

“Look to Your Betters”

This morning I was discussing rich people with my husband; specifically the rich who own and race horses.  My husband likes to bet on the ponies.  A few times a year I join him in the action.  Yesterday was “The Breeders’ Cup” where rich people bring their best horses from all over the world to try and win gobs of money and get lots of prestige in a win or two.  One rich guy rented a whole 737 to transport just one horse.  This in the same week the satraps in Congress refused to extend the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program of 2009 aka food stamps for hungry people.

In yesterday’s comments there was a link to a video called “The Four Horseman”.  In it a scholar mentions that one of the marks of the end of empire is the raising up of the chef to celebrity status.  That happened in the Roman empire.  And yesterday, as I watched chef Bobby Flay interviewed about his race horse, I commented that the end might really be nigh.  I like Bobby Flay, by the way, and use a lot of his recipes.   He’s really good at what he does and came from the working class, so I’d rather see him with a fancy schmancy horse than some rich fracking heiress.  But the whole bread and circus aspect of it coupled with poor folks betting in the hopes of sitting in the box seats is just too much for me to enjoy the day. Continue reading

Looking for Trolls and Finding Common Ground

IMG_0751Saturday  I went down about 3 and 1/2 miles into the center of a mountain.  My husband has a friend who works at the local palladium (used to make catalytic converters) and platinum mine (one of only three in the world) and we got an invite to the annual Employee Appreciation Day  tour.  How could I pass up a chance to go into the kingdom of the trolls, workplace of the 7 Dwarves, and inspiration for the dark kingdoms in Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy?

The bus ride from downtown up the Boulder River to the mine took about an hour and we got lucky.  We were hit three days ago with a very early winter snow storm with 8 inches in town and 3 1/2 feet up in the mountains and at the mine.  Saturday was bright and sunny and the roads were clear.  The ride is always gorgeous but it was a winter wonderment yesterday although it was hard on the cows, horses, elk, deer and turkeys that we passed as they pawed and scratched to find some grass or grain to eat.  With the temperatures already rising, tomorrow would be much easier for the critters.  And most ranchers were spinning out some hay to tide them over.

On the hour ride a safety film was played and a safety instructor went over the basics of how to conduct ourselves in a hard rock mine.  “”Oh boy what have I got myself into?” I thought,  as my mind started plotting a Bruce Willis movie where he has to save a bunch of tourists who were trapped in the Escape Chamber at the bottom of the mine.  It didn’t help that I’m working out a deal for a client of mine to do “The 33”, a movie about the trapped Chilean miners who in 2010 had to spend 69 days a half mile down in the earth.  They were a half mile down and  we were going a lot further down. Yikes! I looked around at who to cast as the a**hole who drives people nuts and steals the last Coke and energy bar when nobody is looking.

IMG_0749 - Version 2Once we arrived at the mine, we entered the administration building and got our protective gear; hard hats; impenetrable gloves, flashlights, eye protectors, and metal toe shields.  Oh, and ear plugs.  Each person also has access to an individual device like a airplane oxygen mask that converts carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide, if, for example a fire breaks out.  It gives a person about an hour of air.  Time to find one of those escape chambers.  If there is an emergency, there is a  “Stench Warning” in which  a gas is emitted that sends a rotten stench through the air since miners may be working in the dark with ear plugs on.  Not sure I got all those instructions right, but then I’m still not sure about how to inflate those life vests under the airplane seats.

IMG_0743The journey down was in a long train made up of individual small square cars with room for about 4 to 6 people in each.    It was pitch dark and chilly  as we rumbled along with nothing to see but light bulbs, wires, and tubes.  Not quite a Disney World ride; no pirate ghosts but at least no annoying speaker system playing “It’s a Small World” although I started humming to myself, for some reason,  “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash followed by “16 Tons”.

Once we arrived about 17 minutes later, we were shown around the shop area and also shown different types of machinery.  There was one massive machine that bored the holes into the rock for the sticks of dynamite.  I asked where it was manufactured and turns out Sweden makes a lot of these hole making machines that can cost a million dollars.  IMG_0733 Tasmania makes some of the underground bulldozers they use to scoop up the muck from which the precious metals are extracted.  They run around a half million dollars.

After an hour or so tramping in and out of different tunnels and watching guys operating heavy machinery, we loaded back into the train to take us back up to the top.  The journey home was much slower as we were going up.  They also admitted they were going slower on account of not wanting to possibly get derailed with a bunch of tourists on board.  It was at least 30 minutes and it was pretty darn chilly.  I was glad I brought warm gloves and a sweater and jacket, but many of the people had just worn sweatshirts.  The girl next to me looked kind of miserable, but the miner across from me was catching some shut eye. I passed the time reading “Econned” by Yves Smith on my I Phone.

We arrived at the top and got a great lunch of spaghetti and salads.  Then we piled back on to the buses and headed down the mountain and back to town.

Some of these miners come from over two hours away every day on the buses, work their shifts, and ride back home which leaves as little as 6 hours sleep.  But the pay is good and the work is “honest” as they say.

So no trolls.  No pick axes.  Just some lean looking regular  guys in yellow hats and plastic glasses.

As a footnote, back in 2000 the Stillwater Mine and the citizens of Sweet Grass and Stillwater Counties brokered a conservation deal.  It is called “The Good Neighbor Agreement”. Called ground breaking, it has become “a model” by the NY Times and “a testament to how people can find common ground,” by the Billings Gazette as it seeks to create jobs while at the same time protect the rivers, streams and agricultural land.

I was here when the discussions began about how to  protect the river where they shot “The River Runs Thru It” and it was highly contentious. (There was a doofer element that yelled loudly that any kind of interference with the company would cause the mine to go out  business, but that’s another whole chapter.)  But thanks to the hard work and common sense of some thoughtful rancher conservationists, they hammered out an agreement and to this day regular monitoring of the operations at the mine continue.  There is also  no man camp and so no “company store” that Cash lamented about.   It is also considered one of the safest mines in the world and the supervisors are continually looking for ways to improve safety.

For the local miners, this is for many, if not most, their first exposure to unions and the idea of government mandated safety rules.  It has been a long time since the Anaconda copper mine made Butte, Montana, “the richest hill on earth” while at the same time creating the nation’s largest super fund site with the toxic Berkeley Pit as a lasting reminder of corporation bad practices gone amuck.   Montana mines were also the most dangerous in the country. But many of these young miners are the grandsons and granddaughters of dairy and wheat farmers and cattle ranchers and not the kin of the rugged Fins and Irish men that wrestled minerals out of the earth a hundred years ago.  They are new to the idea of solidarity but you can hear it in their voices as they describe with pride how they look out for one another each and every day.   So no whistling while they work or “Hi Ho, Hi Ho’s”, but as we tourists settled in for the night in our warm homes  in town, somewhere deep below the mountains the  sounds of 1950s rock and roll are keeping a weary miner going.