Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sharing the Shade

The thing about Montana is that horses are the animals that teach you everything. I am still trying to decide what that animal might be on Cape Cod- maybe dogs, maybe fish, maybe squirrels. Dogs are always looking for fun, fish know when to go south, and squirrels know how to put food by.

Horses know how to share. I whipped my camera out of the glove compartment today and took this shot on the side of the highway of horses sharing the shade. They are herd animals. They want nothing more than to hang out with their buddies. They might carry you around on their backs for awhile, but at the end of the day, it's their horse buddies they want to see, along with their dinner.

As I was driving south on Route 93 today from Kalispell to Bigfork, about the same distance as Hyannis to Eastham, I was noting the differences between Cape Cod and the Flathead Valley. One notable difference is the speed limit. I had to learn how to drive fast again, because the speed limit is 70, and you have to keep up, or get off the road.
Out here, you can see miles ahead of you up the road. Miles and miles over to the mountain ranges. True, you can also see for miles on the Cape when you are at the bay or the ocean. I've always loved those forever views. I didn't know if we could move to Montana, I knew I'd miss the ocean so. And so it was with this in mind that we decided Bigfork was a good location, because of Flathead Lake, which has the reputation of being one of the largest natural lakes west of the Rockies in the Continental U.S. It is long, it is wide. It is as long as Cape Cod Bay. You can see the opposite shores because of the height of the mountains circling the lake. It is beautiful, the water is still clear, so far . I'll talk about the "so far" soon. But for now, lets just say on this last day of September, the weather is fine, the hay is in, the lake is beautiful, and winter is coming. There are two seasons in Montana; eight months of winter, and four months of company. (This is not so different from Cape Cod, in many ways) The last guest has left.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Far far from Wall Street

Some people say that we came out to Montana to escape the stresses of East Coast civilization. Looking at the news today, I don't know what is so civilized about our East Coast. The hornet's nest is buzzing, the headline Dow Takes Record Fall after House Bailout Failure doesn't tell the half of it.

But out here in Montana, my horse- a Tennessee Walker who is the sweetest mare to prance the gravel road I live on- needed some dental attention. Her teeth needed to be "floated." That means filed down so the bit won't bother her by hitting in the wrong spots. The vet came out to the house, and he is one of the finest vets in Montana, I have done my research! His name is John Erfle and he is affiliated with a great equine hospital in Kalispell called the LaSalle Equine Clinic.

I decided to watch the teeth floating procedure, and must say I learned a lot. Dr. Erlfe had a wonderful assistant along with him who knew just what to do, and when. I just stayed out of the way.

Several items are absolutely necessary: a horse sedative, a metal mouth brace to hold the mare's mouth open, a pair of ear protectors to block the noise of the drill, and. . . the drill. Lily was VERY GOOD. She didn't even think about struggling. She was too tired from her sedative. And so, one more piece of absolutely essential equipment is a crutch. Yes, a regular crutch with a cushioned top. The crutch was placed under her chin to help hold up her heavy head as her dental procedure was performed. She came through just fine. A little sleepy and wobbly. But all in all, she did far better than I do at the dentist.

Next, Dr. Erfle administered her various vaccinations and wormers and checked her hoofs for me, and then he gave me the bill, which was less than $200. Much less than an office visit when I show up at my dentist. And Dr. Erfle came to my barn! So, there is still something of good value in this country. You just have to know where to find it. And it's far from Wall Street.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

After the Debate

Time out here. We have to note that the debate between Obama and McCain happened. I have to be clear, even if the country wasn't in a speck of trouble financially or involved in a war that was based on falsehoods, I'd be for Obama. I'm for Obama for reasons they have not even begun to discuss.

As a woman, I am not interested in allowing the US Government be in control of my uterus, or the uterus of any female I know, and McCain seems to be hell bent on making walking incubaters of us. His record of voting against requiring health plans to cover basic birth control and his statements that Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision demonstrate he is totally against reproductive freedom. Apparently, all women should get pregnant as much as is physically possible. Further, he has voted against the Equal Rights Amendment, while Obama is a co-sponsor of the Women's Equality Amendment. Pulling himself off the campaign trail last spring, Obama flew into Washington to vote in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. McCain didn't show up for that vote, but told reporters he would have voted against it.

I have to ask, why does this man McCain insist that women don't have the intelligence to make up their own minds as to whether they should raise families; why does he think women should not be the equal to men, when each man wouldn't be here if he didn't have a mother; and why does he think that women should receive less pay then men (after paying the same college and university tuitions, I don't see any breaks there for being born female)? Unfortunately, the former beauty queen Sarah thinks the same way. Go figure.

OK, that's just part of the reason why I am for Obama. The other parts have to do with intelligence, poise, consideration of all sides of the issues, understanding of the middle class experience, and restraint and cool-headed analysis in times of crisis.

Out here in Bigfork, there is an Obama campaign office. Although most people from Montana would voice the opinion that this is a free country- a democracy, Obama signs are frequently pulled down and destroyed. Or stolen. My bumper sticker has been torn off my car.

Well folks, we can continue to stay at war, we can continue to be a fear driven nation, we can continue to borrow from China to finance the war, we can continue to put the war before the economy, we can continue to dishonor vets by not having enough coverage on the news when one comes home dead after having made the ultimate sacrifice, we can continue to be told that health care should not be socialized while bail-outs to greedy lenders continue, we can continue to be losing our world standing in our education systems, we can continue to run the country on oil rather than develop new jobs and technologies, we can continue to pollute the planet by not enforcing our existing regulations, OR we can get used to the fact that a black man is the best person for the job this time around, and soon, he will be living in the White House with his wife and two daughters. It's time. That's my opinion. And please, leave my bumper stickers alone, they are for your own good.

Oh, one more thing. Montana people are concerned about guns; they need guns. Obama never said he wanted to take guns away from hunters, as the NRA would like to have you think. He would like to take machine guns away from killers in the city, yes. He would like to take guns away from criminals. How can the NRA argue with that? Don't look now, but the Patriot Act, which should have been called the Loss of Freedom Act, has taken away from us far more than what the NRA is worried about. So do your research, and check the voting records, and register to vote NOW (there's still a bit of time), so you can make your mark on election day.

Now, I am done.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

And so, I think I have to go back to 2005, our first trip out here, and explain that not only was the scenery gorgeous, as it still is, but it just sort of reached out and grabbed us.
Here is the hubby enjoying an hour of fly fishing up at one of the lakes in the Jewel Basin. He had to hike there past the huckleberry patch, and no, he wasn't alone. His buddy is taking the picture, and preparing a little cooking fire for the fish that was caught and eaten.
The water was a clear blue, and hopefully not as impacted with acid rain as the clear blue pond water back on Cape Cod. Having lived on the Cape for so long, we had witnessed the slow toxification of the ponds due to the effects of acid rain to the point where it was unhealthy in some cases to eat the fish. Mercury from the sky, carried on the wind from the coal burning plants further west on the Jet Stream. Yes, we thought we had escaped all of that polluting scenario. But maybe not.
Anyway, it was nice to forget (temporarily) about all those issues and just be on vacation, because as intense community activists on the Cape, we were tired. It was time to relax, if we could, with all those animals around. And I don't mean squirrels.
OK, I promised to note differences. Well, one of the differences is that out here, you could say that you actually NEED a gun just to have good manners. Because speaking of squirrels, there are so many deer out here, that they run across the road as frequently as squirrels do back on Cape Cod. No, more frequently. It's rather jolting when you first arrive here to drive down the highway and see dead deer on the right in the ditch, and a few miles down the road, there's another one. A Montana gentleman told us that, well yes, there was a dead deer that had just run out into traffic that morning. Pretty soon now, the authorities would be along to pick it up for the food pantry, if they could get to it soon enough. And if a deer happened to come out of the woods or across the fields and hit us while we were driving, then the best thing to do, and the polite thing to do, was to take your gun out of your glove compartment and shoot the deer and put the thing out of it's misery. If we were still in one piece, that is. Because deer kill far more people every year than the bears do, didn't you know that, pretty lady?
And this is all happening in an area where there is town about the size of Hyannis called Kalispell, with an international airport and everything. Unfortunately, I've had the occasion now to visit a body shop because of a traffic mishap, and there sure are a lot of cars out in the back fenced area that have been totaled due to deer. And so, you know what? People don't drive much at night, comparatively speaking. At dusk, the deer really come out, and you just don't want to be intersecting with one, and taking a gamble on which one of you is going to end up in the ditch. Although there is a lot of gambling going on out here (read: poker is played as a cultural right, openly and legally), you don't want to be gambling on driving with the deer.

A fish out of salt water

I arrived in the Flathead Valley of Montana in 2005 for the first time, in September. My husband and I were tourists, visiting relatives who had recently moved out. We had to come see why. It was beautiful, of course. The hay fields were golden and dotted with round bales of fresh hay, the air was clear, the sky was blue. My husband and I were energized by the craggy mountains surrounding Flathead Valley. We were frightened of the bears, although we didn't see any. We bought bear spray at the drug store.
Now, right away, that was an experience. In Massachusetts, you have to have a license to carry pepper spray. And in Montana, you could buy BEAR pepper spray and carry it around like nobody's business. That felt pretty good, although now I was deathly afraid of the bear SPRAY. What if it was manufactured at the end of a Friday shift, and the lemon of a spray mechanism went off in the car? Could we die of bear pepper spray? Apparently we could.

All this courage was necessary to move about in Montana. Courage to walk up the trail into the Jewel Basin when the grizzlies were collecting huckleberries. No, don't wear bear bells, our hosts said. The bears know that means Knapsack with Food. Well, we didn't know if our hosts were joshing us flat landers or not- we who lived at sea level and fished from Cape Cod Bay. So we didn't wear bells, and we did bring bear spray. Well, my husband did, with our host. I stayed back at the cabin, anxious and worried, and very relieved when my husband came back alive, to relate to me the experience of being snorted at from the bushes, and coming upon steaming bear scat on the trail. And as I was saying, it is necessary to dig out the courage when you move about in Montana.

In June of 2006, we bought a house out here. In June of 2007, we said a tearful good-bye to our Cape Cod relatives, neighbors and friends, and moved on out. Living in Montana had been on my husband's bucket list for years, ever since A River Runs Through it was published.
Yeah, yeah, heard that before, right? And as we arrived, all the astounded people who we had met out here, and who had known us for a short period of time, asked the main question of us: Well, hell yeah, the scenery is outstanding, but you can't eat the scenery! What are you going to DO?

And that's what we Cape Codders have been trying to figure out ever since, along with the rest of the country. In the meantime, there are notable differences between living in the great US of A on Cape Cod, and in the Flathead Valley. And so, that is what I will be noting here for you- the notable differences. And surprising similarities.