Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wondering Montana

Recently, in my copy of the Havre Daily News, I spotted a rare typo. An article about children choosing the name for the baby duck-billed dinosaur on display in the Clack Museum stated that the dinosaur “wondered Montana , probably near the Judith River ”. While I am sure that “wondered” was supposed to read “wandered”, I was struck with the infinite possibilities of both wondering and wandering. The more I entertained the idea, the more I liked it. I often wonder Montana . Every time I get on a gravel road without a map I wonder, as in why did I turn left after the barbed-wire gate when the right track had the deeper ruts, and I wander, knowing I will eventually circle back to somewhere.

As I read the article a whole new world opened to me; the notion of the little dinosaur eagerly wondering Montana . I could see this cute baby duck-bill, his eyes alight, ready to explore his new environment. His eggshell had given him no room to roam. Then I wondered why all the dinosaurs in museums around here are male. We have Leonardo and Elvis in Malta , Scotty in Eastend and now Melvin in Havre. So where are the girls?

If I had a duck-bill, she’d be a girl. I’d name her Dora. Dora the Duck-billed Dinosaur. I like the sound. While trying to imagine Dora in her pre-historic world, and wondering what her life would have been like, I felt a tug on my shirttail. I looked around and there squatted Dora, chewing a chunk of my shirt. I was speechless. She cocked her head and said to me, “I’m here to wonder in Montana .” And she took another bite of my shirt. “This has an interesting texture for an appetizer, but what’s for dinner?” Cheeky little thing, isn’t she?

“How’d you get here,” I asked.

“You wondered me.” She shrugged. “Is dinner ready?”

“The Milk River Valley isn’t exactly ferny, water-plant country,” I told Dora. “You will have to adapt. Let’s see what we can find for you in the backyard, but please keep to the shadows. The neighbors might object to you being here, you know. We have a livestock ordinance in town, although I don’t remember the ordinance specifically prohibiting dinosaurs. I suppose I could get you a collar and a license.” I realized I was babbling but nothing in my life had prepared me for this experience.

As I spoke Dora was munching down the great row of hollyhocks on the south side of my house and . . . “No, Dora, not the wisteria.” But I was too late. Then I realized she must be thirsty. So I dragged a galvanized tub from my garden cabin and filled it with water. Dora drained it, twice. She burped and settled by the bench under the poplar for a nap.

I sat beside my new friend, idly scratching the dry skin on her neck and worrying. How will I manage to feed her? I could see my yard devoid of its raspberry bushes, apple trees, the currants and all the rest of the vegetation. Then she’d probably polish off the neighbor’s twenty-foot high caragana hedge. That might keep her content for a couple of days. No doubt she’d next tackle the grove of lilac bushes at the house across the street. Then I would have a hungry, growing dinosaur plus two angry neighbors on my hands. I imagined Dora proceeding to gobble every plant in town. I pictured Main Street denuded like a war zone. Then she’d head to the hay fields in the valley. The farmers would form a militia. There would be open season on dinosaurs.

Dora woke up, rolled over and belched. My gosh, her breath. What will it smell like when she passes gas! I led her back into the house and turned on the tellie, looking for something to entertain her. She had no interest in the news, weather, wildlife, history, science, or old movies. Then I clicked on the perfect thing, re-runs of the Flintstones. With a bushel tub of popcorn between us, Dora and I watched four hours of the antics of Fred and Wilma, Barney and Betty, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm and, of course, Dino. Dora watched intently. She was fascinated.

The next morning, after ravishing my raspberries and bounding over my fence and eating all the weeds along the Burlington Northern right-of-way, Dora bounced back into my yard, leaned against my leg, put her head in my lap, and announced, “I appreciate all you have done for me, but I want to go to Bedrock and live with the Flintstones. I want to play in the sandpit with Dino. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could go to Hollyrock. I could become a star.” She picked a piece of dangling greenery from her teeth. “On the way I think I’ll wonder along the Judith River and then through Yellowstone and then up to Glacier and maybe swim in Flathead Lake . When I get to Bedrock I’ll send you a postcard. You’ll miss me, but we had great fun, didn’t we?”

I waved Dora off as she wondered north to go south. I understood her internal GPS. I went back into my house, feeling strangely empty, and saw that all my houseplants had been devoured.

Sondra Ashton
Havre Daily News: Home Again
August 13, 2009

No comments:

Post a Comment