Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Good Time Was Had By All

A few minutes ago I waved good-by to friends from the west coast. I feel happy, because while they were here we had such fun. Sad, because they are headed down the road. Happy, because they love this country and its people like I do.

When friends arrive, I put on my tour guide hat. We discuss possibilities and make lists of things to do and places to go. Creating an agenda takes time. There are always critical components, which include drinking coffee, eating goodies hot from the oven, and catching up on life events.

Eventually we hit the road in search of adventure. One morning we head for Havre. But a Saddle Butte Smoked Meats outfit is parked alongside the highway in Chinook. Hey, shopping for essential elements of life is part of the fun. And this morning I had fried my last pound of bacon to accompany sour dough waffles. So I drive around the block and swing in alongside the trailer, buy bacon, chat about the selection of goodies, then pull back onto the road. My friends and I talk turkey. Smoked turkey. Why not? I turn around and head back into Chinook.

One more scenic detour to the tune of “I wonder what is down that road?” and we arrive in Havre. We buy books by Montana authors. We dent the inventory of threads and yarns at the Ben Franklin. We hang out at the train station to watch folks arrive and depart on the Empire Builder, a regular stop on the tour. But the crowning highlight of our day in Havre, is the auction sale of a fifty year collection of Avon . None of us use Avon . I am allergic to any scent. Turns stinky on my skin. I’ve tried them all. But the hook that pulls us in is the sheer incredulity of garnering these items for over fifty years. What was the attraction for the woman who did this? Who was she? We have to see.

We walk into the VFW hall and our jaws drop. Boxes fill the room. Six hundred boxes generously, fully packed. We browse products, collectables, crafts, and knick-knacks. We each choose a box of interest and memorize the number. We sit through an hour of the auction loving every minute of the action. Is this box really a bargain? Are these valuables? Should I bid on the next one? That man in the blue jacket bought ten boxes. What will he do with it? If I buy my box, how much will I end up donating to the Salvation Army? We leave with no loot to pick through. The experience is the gift.

Another day we visit friends at the North Harlem Colony, compare crochet techniques, eat June-berry pie and sip mint tea. Filled with pie, stories and comfort, we head north up the highway on the lookout for baby antelope. We see herds of antelope but no babies. Is it too early? Or are the young obeying mom’s orders—drop and don’t move? We note few houses but many abandoned homestead sites. We try to imagine the lives of the early settlers, their hardships, their joys, the isolation of these people in this place here at the top of the world.

We swing into Turner, drive around the grayed and ancient tumble-down buildings, admire the school, walk along the raised bed where the railroad spur was years ago, peer through cracks in the old station, the granaries. We land at the Border Bar in time for an early dinner. If you haven’t been there, go soon. Talk with the people who love their town of seventy-five citizens. Celebrate their vitality.

We drive back to the valley in awe of cloud shadows on the coulees, mountains detailed in the distance, the beauty of sunlight and antelope at play on the plains.

When my friends drive a thousand miles to visit me, they always help out with a project. Sunday we clean flower beds, perk up my old cabin in the back yard with bird houses and an original A&W sign purchased for a dollar at a different auction. And we eat smoked turkey.

There are leftovers on our list, things we did not take time to do or see. These are seed for their next trip, our next adventures. We part with reluctance and smiles. A good time was had by all.

Sondra Ashton
Havre Daily News: Home Again
April 9, 09

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