Our trip from Glacier National Park, Montana to the Triangle X in Wyoming was supposed to include a three-day visit with friends near Bozeman, Montana. What intervened was what I am now calling graduate-level instruction in surrender and patience for living on the road.
It started with the little check engine light on the dashboard. When Ford dealers in Helena and Townsend delivered what Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers from CarTalk called the mechanics dreaded trio: “Humph. Hmmm. Humph” we knew it would be complicated. We headed directly to Bozeman Ford.
It was complicated. The short version? One of the valves had buckled and one cylinder was not holding pressure. Big deal. Long repair. All warranty work. We camped at our very generous friends’ home and waited. For the mechanic’s time to take the engine apart. For the diagnosis. For the OK from Ford. For the 6 pages of parts to arrive. For putting it back together. Three weeks of instruction in patience and surrender and just being.
We promised each other that we would look at each day with openness. We discovered great gifts of grace in the surprises that presented. Friends of our hosts welcomed us to their homes for a pot luck cook out and a wonderful dinner featuring dishes of home grown veggies and wonderful conversation with native Montanans. We joined our hosts for a barbecue and evening Vespers service at their church. We went to a barn dance, and I jumped in for a line dance lesson for the iconic 1970s “Y.M.C.A” by The Village People. Remember? It was awesome.
We traveled up the Gallatin Valley to Big Sky where Peter has come snowboarding in years past. This time, we visited the lovely Soldier’s Chapel where our hosts were married nearly five decades ago. One Sunday, Peter and I dropped into the local Episcopal church and the kind people there offered a blessing to us and to our truck for a full recovery (not a QUICK recovery, note). We had lunch in one of the many wonderful little restaurants in downtown Bozeman with one of the “kids” from our years at the Triangle X Ranch. Sarah is my son’s age and the two were first kids, then teenagers together, in the 1980s and 1990s when our families vacationed together in Wyoming. We got to enjoy the culinary delights of Ted’s Montana Grill where Peter indulged in bison burgers and onion rings.
We toured the Museum of the Rockies where the Pompeii exhibit we first saw in Ann Arbor had arrived. It was wonderful to see more of the exhibit since the space here is much larger than the space in Ann Arbor. We saw much more of the Villa A and Oplontis treasures in the larger exhibit hall. By the way, the last stop in the U.S. is at Smith College in Northhampton, Massachusetts later in the year if you are interested.
We spent a wonderful day baking pies in our hosts’ kitchen on Sunday in preparation for a Labor Day cook-in (weather changed the plans!) at some next-door friends. In another small world story, these folks live in a post-and-beam home built by one of our former clients, Bensonwood Homes in Walpole, NH; with floors from Carlisle Lumber in Stoddard, NH. A week later on a rainy Sunday, when we were alone in our hosts’ home, we made another couple of pies, some cookies and some cinnamon twists while watching the Patriots on their big-screen TV. Just about a perfect day when the Pats won, making the pie-eating part of the day particularly delightful.
We re-visited the Madison Buffalo Jump, which we had toured in 1988 with two of our children (then 11 year-old Joshua and 19 year-old Elizabeth). Yikes! The Palisades Falls up in Hyalite Canyon was a wonderful way to watch the later afternoon light splash across the canyons of the Gallatin National Forest on a late Friday afternoon of cool, Montana early fall weather.
Peter got to ride in a combine with one of our hosts’ friends who is farming 1500 acres. He got to spend a full hour with this Montana wheat farmer and hear his well-crafted thoughts. The man had a great deal of faith in his own abilities but expressed frustration over the variables – world market prices for wheat, for one – that are beyond his control. He has diversified his activities into cattle and sheep and begun raising Gypsy horses – small, well-behaved work horses. On one afternoon, the skies darkened and a thunder storm blew through the valley. Just as quickly, the clouds began to clear to the west and to the east, a spectacular rainbow appeared. Peter and our hosts marveled at the wonder as I snapped a quick picture of a moment that will live more vividly in our hearts for all we were given during this unexpected time.
Our truck was fully repaired exactly three weeks to the day and after a thorough test drive, the dealer returned it to us. We headed to our hosts’ home, hooked up T2 and after heartfelt goodbyes, early on Saturday morning headed south to Wyoming and the Triangle X ready for the next adventures that no doubt lie ahead.