This is part 3 of our trip thru Washington, Idaho and Montana. Pictures by Paul and Pat de Anguera. Click on any picture to see a larger version of it 8)
Low clouds and drizzle greeted us this morning for our drive north on Highway 93 to Missoula. As we were leaving Salmon, a big yellow snowplow with a blinking light on its top pulled out in front of us. We’d left our tire chains at home, never dreaming we’d be crossing such high passes. We decided we’d better stay behind the snowplow in case the going got tough. Soon we were surrounded by steep, rocky mountainsides. At length the snowplow put its blade down, sending up sparks as it scraped fallen rocks to the side of the road.
We were hoping to find a short hike along the way. We missed a trail called Wagon Hammer that we’d learned about in Salmon, and we were too discouraged by the rain to go back and look for it. But, after we crossed into Montana, the rain stopped. We took a side road to Painted Rock State Park to see whether it had hiking trails. There were none. But, on our way to the park, Pat had noticed a small “Hiking” sign; so we stopped there on our way back.
The sign was at the entrance to a narrow dirt road that angled up the mountainside. This split, and we continued up a rougher, narrower road signed “Boulder Point Trail.” It ended at a turn-around in a patch of bear grass at 5,800 feet, three miles from the highway. We found the unsigned but obvious trail beyond a bulldozed vehicle barrier. It led steadily upward to the spine of the ridge. Here was mostly open meadow, covered with recently-bloomed wild flowers and giving a wide view of the valleys below. The cloud ceiling was low, filtering the sun and misting now and then. We had a snack on a cluster of mossy rocks, fending off ants. Continuing up the ridge, we found that the higher meadows were blooming like a garden.
We tore ourselves away, returned to the car and crept back down the steep little road. A few minutes later, at a tight spot where the outer edge of the road was eroding into a gully, Pat squeezed the car against the inner embankment. I saw a big angular rock pass under the right side of the car. There was a loud bang, followed by a whistling noise that faded away.
“What was THAT?” Pat asked.
“That was a puncture,” I told her.
“Are you kidding?” She knew perfectly well what it was; she just didn’t want that reality. But denial wasn’t working; the right side of the car sagged and shuddered. “Now you’re driving on a flat tire,” I pointed out.
So she angled the car as well as she could to make space around the front right wheel. I collected rocks to block the other tires (we were on a hill). She took all our luggage out of the trunk, and covered it with a tarp in case rain set in. Next out were the doughnut spare tire and the tools. I’d never changed a tire; but Pat had done it once, and the car manual had good instructions. The job went smoothly. We washed the grime off our hands, reloaded the car, and carefully continued down the mountain to the highway, feeling pleased with ourselves.
We couldn’t find a garage that was open, so we limped 45 miles to Missoula at reduced speed. Ginny Riggleman (Dorothy’s sister) was waiting for us, along with her son Kim and daughter Sandy. We had a big chicken salad dinner while Ginny reminisced. A family story that’s often retold is the burning of John and Dorothy’s house three days before Pat was born.
The year was 1949; Dorothy was 17 and pregnant with Pat. Ginny was visiting her. The house was unfinished, and Ginny first saw the fire through an open wall in an upstairs room. The sawdust insulation was burning, perhaps due to a short.
They recruited an older man who was walking by to help get the refrigerator out of the house. They snatched a few other household goods in a panic. Ginny threw the baby clothes down the stairs, and saved John’s guitar. Nearly everything else was lost. Ginny had been storing most of her things in the basement; and they too were lost.
Ginny went in search of a neighbor who had a telephone (not everybody had one in those days). She found a black woman who had a phone; she had been baking, and the wonderful smell made a strong impression during Ginny’s first visit to a black home. She called the fire house; but it was across the county line, and the fire truck didn’t arrive until the fire was almost burned out. They poured water on the ruined house anyway, spoiling the things that were left inside it.
The carpenter’s union built the little family a new two-bedroom house on the foundation of the old one. A church collected a box of clothes for them. In a postscript to the disaster, the oil stove in the basement caught fire and filled the new house with soot.
The five of us played Polish Poker. It’s a good memory game.
The objective is to end with the lowest score. Aces are worth 1 point; number cards are worth their pips; and face cards are worth 10, except for jacks, which are 0 (free). The dealer gives each player four cards, puts the rest in the middle facedown, and discards one face-up. Everyone’s cards stay on the table. Each player looks at two of her four cards and puts them back facedown.
Each player in turn either draws the top discarded card or draws a new card. She may replace one of her cards with the drawn card. Then she discards the replaced or drawn card. If she replaced a card she hadn’t looked at, or one whose value she’s forgotten, it’s at this point that she (and everyone else) finds out what it is. (Another good name for this game would be “Regret.”)
When the deck is exhausted the round ends, and players’ scores are added to their previous totals. When somebody accumulates more than 100 points, the game ends.
Kim made us a fine breakfast of scrambled eggs, ham, pumpkin muffins, grapefruit and pineapple. Kim and I tried to clean Ginny’s fireplace glass, using the Krud Kutter soap that Pat and I had used on ours at home. It’s supposed to be good for tough jobs like cleaning barbecues. We washed a couple of times, and then left it to soak. But it didn’t work at all. We guessed that the glass has become etched. How disappointing!
In the afternoon, we picked up Sandy and went to see her daughter Stephanie’s house. She and her husband Sean live on a 20-acre former horse breeding ranch. They obtained it as the result of a foreclosure. When the previous owners were forced out, they had stripped it of everything they could, taking even the Franklin fireplace from the master bedroom. The place was then vacant for four years.
Steph and Sean have worked hard to clean it up and refurbish it. Steph manages an Eddie Bauer store; she recognized Pat’s bag as one of their models. Sean is a police officer. We noticed that the walk-in closet of the master bedroom has two racks on which Steph’s clothes are hung in color groups, like a rainbow. The outbuildings include a seven-car garage, a greenhouse and a stable. Five horses frolic in the pasture below the house. Later, Steph and Sean arrived (both had to work although it was Sunday), and we all had a fine dinner at Victor Steakhouse.
We visited Corky Blackler, another sister of John Ledford. She had Her niece Judy Bailey come over; then she took us all out to dinner. Later, Judy’s brother Art and his wife Carolyn joined us for coffee and conversation. Art had worked as a logger, and later in lumber mills. He loves hiking, and he recommended several trails and drives to us. He told a story about a hike.
Art was walking up a trail when he saw prints on the ground in front of him. They were big and wet, bringing bear to mind.
He settled down to eat a sandwich (tho he admitted that getting food out in this situation wasn’t very foresighted). The meal made his hands sticky. So he left the trail and went to a stream. He was kneeling down to wash his hands when a hulking black shape rushed toward him. He almost lost his balance and fell into the stream. It was a Labrador, jumping up and licking his face.
We drove east and south to Anaconda to visit Pat’s brother Tim. We stopped along the way to see the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site near Deer Lodge. The ranch had been a trading post and a base for raising open range cattle. We explored its outbuildings, some of which had their original equipment on exhibit. We went on a tour of the main house; it was surprisingly luxurious as well as practical. Our guide explained that it was known as a trading post by people of that time because it was two stories tall with green shutters by the windows, like a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post. Afterward I watched a lady blacksmith demonstrate her skill, while Pat looked at the collection of carriages and wagons.
We went on to Tim and Cathy’s house in the mountains west of Anaconda; but we missed them. A big moose was standing in their yard. Pat tried to take pictures of it from the car. After a few minutes it slowly disappeared into the trees.
We said good-bye to the Rigglemans and drove east and south to Philipsburg. Unhappily, after we turned off I-90 to Highway 1, our car’s malfunction indicator light came on again. We’d supposed that the Snoqualmie Pass incident was due to the exhaust of trucks around us confusing our car’s emission control system. Not so!
Philipsburg stands at the head of a lush little valley. It’s an old west mining town with many restored buildings and some modern ones,. We strolled around the town, keeping an eye on a storm that was making its way toward us over the mountains. We found the Grant County Courthouse on a hill overlooking the town. Behind it stands the jail with its peculiar four-turreted tower. Built in 1896, it was Grant County’s first public building, suggesting that lawlessness might have been a serious concern. It’s Montana’s oldest jail that’s still used as such.
Tim and Cathy came to meet us for dinner at the Sunshine Station Restaurant. We had a
wonderful visit. Tim told us that two moose come to their house regularly. One is gentle; the other is aggressive and will sometimes charge a short way toward him. They look identical, except that the aggressive moose has a slit ear.
Tim cheerfully admitted that he’d been quite a nuisance in his youth. One story he told was “Painting the Boat.”
John had just finished working on a boat in the Missoula Flats area. He was going to drive to Bonner, where he could use a telephone to notify the customer to pick up the boat. 3-year-old Tim wanted to go to Bonner with John, but he wouldn’t let him.
After John was gone, Tim decided to work on the boat some more. So he found a can of paint and a brush; and he painted the boat, including its windows.
When Tim saw John running across the field toward him, he ran for it. Tim’s position as the apple of his father’s eye ended that day. John scooped him up by the scruff of his shirt and paddled him.