I should have started out earlier than I did. I woke up in plenty of time. But I was not looking forward to my long road ahead and was very content where I was. Under the cottonwoods on the mighty Yellowstone. There are worse places to pass a morning.
Digging through the journals of Lewis & Clark, someone or other has determined that Capt. Clark and his party stopped for dinner at or near the place I was camped. We may have peed on the very same tree. Or one of its cousins, at any rate. That's history coming alive!
Lewis was not with him. I guess they'd had a spat. I do not know all the details. One of these days I have sit down and read their journals myself. From what little I have read I know they are not nearly as dry as you might imagine. And that Captain Clark spelled like a chimp.
Back on the road, my road left the river and wandered high into the hills. The ranches got bigger and further between until there were just miles and miles of waving yellow grass. I was way up there and could see snow-covered mountains on three sides of me. I had that whole world to myself.
What I did not have was food and I was starting to weaken. It was in the mid-nineties today. I know I have bragged in the past that the heat doesn't get to me, but it sure sucked the life out of me this afternoon. I am carrying about 2000 calories of trail mix but my stomach was in a knot and I just couldn't choke it down. It is too blasted sweet; it stuck to my tongue. I guess I need something salty.
[BRAIN FLASH! I'VE GOT CORN NUTS! EXCUSE ME.]
[Mmmm. Corn Nuts. My first calories of the day. In the hot you don't really feel hungry, but you can tell when you're underfed. Most days I am probably taking in five or six thousand calories, including Coca Cola. I need 'em, I tell you, I do.]
Coming down from the top I was staggering. It was hot and I was weak with hunger and yesterday someone bit me on the ankle and it hurt like hell. Not just on the surface but down to the bone. A pox upon all things buggy. I passed a middle-sized herd of cows and rather than encouraging me like they usually do, they just stood and glared. A bull trotted over to the fence and looked like he wanted to start something.
It wasn't much of a fence, either. I was a little bit scared.
[I have TWO packs of Corn Nuts; small ones, but still. God bless America!]
Eventually and with great heroism I made it back down to the river and to the almost town of Springdale, Montana. There are a good half dozen neat little homes and a very nice little school. It has all of one room--no more than two--and appears to be up and running. It has a bell and a rope and is white with green trim, like a Washington State ferry. The windows on one side have been replaced with glass bricks, perhaps as a concession to the fact I-90 is running one hundred yards to the south. Around it was a beautifully maintained lawn with some climb-on toys and a single basketball hoop. It looked like a nice place to learn.
Not for me, mind you. For me school was a joke. I'd like to sue them for wasting my time. I would have learned more by staying home and reading and watching TV.
"But it ain't all about book learnin'," you'll want to argue. "You also learn social skills."
I didn't. In fact to this very day, I have yet to master a single social skill. Not a one.
At Springdale was another Fishing Access where I managed to rinse the salt out of my shirt and soak my feet in the river. I also had a nap in the grass which is a good way to get snakebit but I was too worn out to care.
A friendly local filled my water jugs and it was onto the frontage road. Man, what a stretch of pavement. It runs dead straight for miles and miles. You can see your bleak future before you. Not a tree, not a shrub, not a welcoming bush. Just miles and miles of hot. There was rumored to be another Fishing Access--one that allows camping, no less--some ten miles up. I tried but I couldn't make it. At about mile eight it was getting quite dark and I pitched my tent by the side of the road.
Find me now wedged under a droopy tree, next to a farmer's field. I waded through some very tall grass to get here and there is an irrigation canal five feet out my back door. It is, in other words, a mosquito paradise. And I am too worn out to care.
I DID MEET later some very friendly brown cows, when I stopped by their fence to rest. They all came over, one by one, timidly like I was some sort of movie star and they wanted to ask for my autograph. They were lovely animals. I honestly believe it is wrong to eat them.
I SPENT the best part of an hour this morning trying to identify a blue thing stuck in the top of a cottonwood tree. Turned out it was a patch of sky. A fellow in Livingston told me I should look for God in life's mysteries. In this case, at least, he was right.
BULLS are powerful, dignified creatures, but they have a ridiculously dainty walk. They have almost got to be self-conscious about it. I expect that's why they're so grumpy all the time.
CORN NUTS, for our international friends, are a popular corn-based snack food, not a medical condition.
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