Koda in an Old Haunt
‘Why John, I see you’ve decided then to go ahead and eat’, said the grizzled one. As the bachelor spoke the words he spat a gob of brown juice into the circular brass spittoon. John watched the ripples gently roll back and forth beneath the foamy yellow and brown surface.
‘Yep, what’s a couple of burgers, right? I’ve been eating a lot of fish lately, so let it go. Fish is spendy, by the way. At any rate, one would think that today, Steve, of all the periods one can fathom, things might have changed but honestly all the modern era has accomplished is to give one greater headaches than might have been the case ages ago when man did not wrangle with the grandiose technology morass that haunts our beings each minute of each day. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the benefits of the internet in my workplace. We are able to do more work more efficiently, but one may as well eat and be merry too, Steve. That’s my general take. Enjoy the kids while they’re still in the house and then let things run their course’. As John spoke he watched Steve’s grey eyes roll back into his head, the aged brow wrinkle and the cracked lips grin a faint hint of consternation.
‘So you’re enjoying burgers due to the culture of the day? What are we discussing here, John? Headaches. Are we talking about your relationship with Milly, or the office environment, or river conditions, or, well, where exactly are we going with this conversation, John? Let’s focus on the latter part of your remark, bud’.
‘Where’d you get that old spittoon, Steve’? John interrupted.
‘Echidna’s on First Street. It’s a great old shop, but don’t change the conversation, John. Not too long ago it was the artist who fought the battles of the day. You understand, John. Today, matters are played out in the social media arena. I mean, I hate to use the term artist with such broad application but the reality is that each of the available mediums, name the one of your choice, well, they’re all the same, John, each utilized by all walks. “All walks” being today’s artists who express their thoughts, each being channeled to their cadre of fellow wonks. Society is filled with photographers, writers of prose and poetry, musicians, artists, John; experts in one fashion or another and in most cases, honestly, pretty creative wonks at that – quick learners. Beauty has become more broad today. Harder to pin down. “Express yourself” has all new meaning, Old Shoe. Most folks are not looking to make a buck through ads, right? Simply expression. Truly, John, consider the avalanche. I’m talking about the gradual demise of old media, one example. This is old news. Modern expression is vast, propriety altered. Remember when it was simply the big three anchors on the tube? Well, John, and I suppose this is a haughty attitude, a shade contra to my former remarks, but as you know, I’m in retirement and my experiences are fairly vast. At any rate, haughty means high brow, looking down on others, correct? Well, I maintain there are many creative types out there who never knew they had it in ‘em. It’s like the athlete who suddenly discovers later in life that he has a big engine. Who’s to say what’s to be read and enjoyed and what not? Right? If many people want to follow some bloke who the two of us agree seems off base or has the world all wrong, are we really one to say, “Hey, what the hell is wrong with people”?, or, “What do they see in this fellow or lady”’? Steve bent back in the rocker placing his hands behind his head, silver hair flipped back along the temples below the stained Chapo.
‘Well, that’s quite a bit Steve. You’re not much older than me and lucky to be retired at such a young age. You know my take. I’ve just wrapped up a nice meal and am trying to enjoy the sunshine this evening; right here from your porch’s dilapidated wooden boards. Most of the matters in this conversation are immaterial to me, Steve. I’m going against the grain. See, look at the planks and see the rocking motion of this old rocker. The only thing I’ll say is that I think kids should still learn to write cursive and not be so subjected to education by images. Much of what kids take in today outside of the classroom is of little value. Beyond this little matter, I’m indifferent, Steve. Let the world spin as it will. After all, in the past people always grouped together given some bonding element. You know, newspapers, plays, music, whatever. Today, it’s more in one’s face and it’s our neighbors and friends who are doing the educating and influencing. “Neighbors” has all new application today, right? The internet has brought a new perspective. Are the vulgar of less value than the well educated, the establishment, the elite? The trouble is when the herd latches onto something someone puts out there from left or right field and it circles the globe and, well… something most often immaterial becomes relevant. Might this be “art” today’? John put his fingers in the air making quotations. ‘The two of us agree we’re much better off spending our time with an old hardback or bamboo rod than reading the ads among the scrawl. I just like sitting here having a beer and eating burgers as the sun gradually fades in the West, Steve. Note just below the horizon there, the beams glimmering through those stands just in the distance’.
Following a swig, Joe, an aged English Setter, rolled over beneath John’s feet. He gently scratched the dog’s belly as a Meadowlark sounded in the Cottonwoods above the gentle brook south of Steve’s property. It was a fine old place Steve had inherited from his uncle about a decade ago. Ernie Jackson had died following a short bout with kidney cancer. At the time, Steve had taken his uncle’s tragic death quite hard, leaning heavily during the dark times on his long time childhood friend John who each subsequent year had helped Steve get through the long Colorado winters. Steve never married though he lived with Melissa Miller for many years. Following Ernie’s death, Melissa had been a steady hand for Steve. The two, however, finally separated a few years back given the typical tendencies of lengthy relationships with limited commonality. Initially the two had fished together and spent days often in the field during autumn pursuing mountain grouse. Gradually their enthusiasm appeared to wane and the two were no longer noticed spending time together in their pursuits.
The property, about fifty acres with timber and open glades, was situated about a mile or so downstream from the small town of Dunbar. It was located just above the fractured banks of the Shaver, a well established trout fishery. Ernie, who had been an avid fisherman, had picked up the place on the cheap during the real estate decline and recession of the early nineties. Moss covered much of the slate roof and the old exterior had faded to a mocha like brownish grey. Steve had maintained the place well, especially for one living on a school teacher’s salary.
‘Well, I say just Tweet a photo of ‘ol Joe about every other week and you’ve got things pretty well covered, John. That’s creativity. That’s plenty, really’. Steve laughed as he got up to visit the kitchen for another beer.
‘Nope. I’m good for now thanks,’ returned John. Nearing fifty, John Sedge had spent his life initially living in a large east coast city where at one point he and Milly finally accepted that the urban environment was not for them. At the time John took his lead from his friend, Steve, who had gleaned the same sentiment at a much earlier age, choosing in youth to follow his dream to be in an area where he could both teach and fish, not being obstructed daily by four lane traffic, work commutes and the typical big city annoyances. John and Milly decided to follow the same route, though John had to patiently wait for a job to surface in the field of petroleum engineering. John eventually found an opening with a smaller oil concern. Milly found work in the region as a part-time bookkeeper, working with small businesses in the Dunbar area. Over the years Milly had principally focused on time with Maud and Will, the Sedges two teenagers.
‘I tell you, John. Have a look at that’! Two Ravens had made their way into the Lodgepole and were now cackling between themselves as Ravens are inclined to do. Joe’s ears perked up as the birds carried on.
‘I love those birds’, Steve remarked, while petting Joe who had re-positioned. ‘They really should be the state bird. Ravens and Magpies are everywhere in the Rockies’.
‘They are quite clever, Steve. The times when I most notice Ravens are when I’m walking alone, typically in mid-November when it’s silent in the alpine snow fields; one of our ski or elk sites; all of the sudden the shadow of the overhead sable aspect drifts across the soft landscape below. Ravens seem to want to know, you see. “What is that guy in the plaid doing up here? This is not his environment; he belongs in the city, not the alpine”. The birds just know, Steve. I think they know’.
‘Know what, John’?
‘Well, they are pretty clever birds, John. How does Milly feel about “indifference”’?
‘We’re ok. Her wits are a notch or two above my own, but I wonder some days if she too is not reaching a similar junction. Maybe there’s equanimity? I don’t know, Steve. Raise the kids, enjoy the meals and time together and, well, that’s really our calling, right? Man’s principal end and that sort of thing. She’s quite dedicated to Will and Maude. If ever a mother shepherded two youth.’ As John spoke he lifted his shoulders and lightly shook his head.
‘It’s surprising you’ve been together for so long. I know the kids as you indicate have had a big part in that; but you two have seemed to make things work. I think you just need to stay the course focusing on getting the kids through college. I assume all of this business on your mind relates to your relationship. Not to sound like a preacher, but you’ve said to me often that when you had the kids, they were your investment. Thus far they’ve turned out pretty well, bud. You’ve spent a lot of time together floating the rivers, skiing and taking advantage of all Colorado has to offer. Hell, those two, they’re practically like my own kids, John. God knows I’m not an expert on relationships. Just settle into some books and back off of the work schedule. Detox from the internet. Other than the creeks, to hell with the politics. Keep enjoying why you moved to Colorado, John. Don’t assume the stars control whether or not the fish bite. Go fishing, full moon or otherwise. Fine, Selene affects the feeding patterns, but what’s new in this, John? They’re still in the creek’. Steve spat and took a swig of the lite beer. The Ravens lifted, taunting one another in small circles, then glided over the mossy roof, drifting serenely in the July breeze high above the valley floor.
‘Sound advice as always, ‘ol Steve. Actually, I’ve been pulling a bit back at the office, simply maintaining; something similar to my exercise routine. Dick has a liberal policy when things slow in the patch. We are not drilling much and certainly not exploring lately given the commodity decline. Things are pretty quiet. Work’s going well. Gratitude is always in the background, Steve. I’m just waddling along, keeping matters on an even keel. The fact that we’re in Colorado helps; the laid back land of legalized weed. Maybe I ought to take it up, Steve? What do you think’?
‘Well, Coleridge and De Quincey went for bigger medicine, John’.
‘Can’t really say it’s for me or I’d a been there a long time ago, Harry’, John laughed while observing Joe’s greying muzzle. Steve’s impromptu crack was immediate and fluid as always, part of the reason John enjoyed Steve’s company. ‘I’m glad they legalized it, really. You know how I feel about that, all drugs. Legalize, tax, regulate’.
‘Well, just stick to those occasional steaks, John. That never hurts. Hell, I don’t know. You’re a bright feller. Fish more’.
There is a pleasant snow falling this morning in Missoula. Other than the salt truck doing its loops around Southridge Drive, the morning is ghostly calm, the visibility low. I for some reason still call the large orange plows salt trucks (the typical Eastern US method employed when I was a kid), though in Montana to protect the fisheries the standard spread is a blend of dust, sand and cinders. There are many rock chipped windshields out and about. The wind is evident as the flakes are fluttering down in a uniform slant. The weather has been a bit atypical of late with warmer temps over the last few weeks coupled with rain. The restoration of the standard February aspect this morning is quite welcome. Well, it being a long weekend and my having not written a post in quite a while, I thought I’d take part of the morning to update the ‘ol blog with a brief blurb.
As one might gather from the surrounding photographs, we’ve been up to some of our standard winter activities. This winter, however, we’ve had a welcome guest visiting with the Thayer household. Mariana, from San Fernando, Chile, has been with us since latter January attending classes at Sentinel High School with her ‘sister’ Erin, and attending a few classes with Todd at the University of Montana as well; at the University Mariana and Todd recently sat in on a two hour art lecture. Mariana indicated during an evening meal the same day that in the US it seemed there was more emphasis on grasping art history and attempting to understand art’s often deeper symbolic aspects. One student’s perspective following a US lecture… Mariana’s mother is an artist; perhaps this will be something to discuss when Mariana returns to Chile.
Erin and Mariana have been taking advantage of all that Missoula has to offer, going out frequently with Erin’s senior high school friends to local coffee shops, movies, book stores (there are many in Missoula), and restaurants. We’ve done some trekking with Ajax and Koda in the Rattlesnake and other popular sections in the valley. The Bitterroot, Blackfoot and Clark Fork are each layered with ice at the moment, though as mentioned above we did go through a warm spell for a week or two. This weekend we spent some time north of Missoula, visiting Glacier National Park and staying at the historic Izaak Walton Inn. The Izaak Walton is in Essex, Montana, situated just downstream of the bridge and Running Rabbit Mountain where Todd and I like to put in the Rogue canoe and float the Middle Fork of the Flathead. The Rogue has a whitewater keel and is a blast on the local rivers and streams. We’ve not floated the Flathead in quite a while, however. The last time doing so, we saw numerous bears and caught quite a few Cutthroat Trout in the pristine water.
Glacier’s Lake McDonald was mostly frozen over, though where McDonald Creek drains along the Apgar Village to the south, the water was free flowing and not iced over. We took a few photographs while in the area, but stayed away from the section near the creek. Saturday it rained consistently throughout the day limiting visibility; but people were still out and about, including numerous who were ice skating along the Apgar shore. When we returned on Sunday, much of the overcast had cleared and we managed a few photos where the mountains were evident; Mariana was able to take in more of the Park’s splendor. McDonald Lodge was in hibernation, though people were in the area cross country skiing the Going to the Sun road. One fellow clad in a sable aspect decided to relieve himself almost under our noses. I took a few photographs of the snow covered cabins and of a pesky, almost obscure Raven lingering in the Cedars and Firs overhead. The portentous bird blended in quite well with his environment. I needed a better lens. Do we really need better lenses? Or, are things simply there, as evident as the air we breathe? I thought of Poe’s work as I snapped the photos.
My smartphone (one of the old style with a keyboard) recently quit accepting my password. I would reenter it, but for some reason it stayed stuck on the 3rd of 5 attempts. I relented but decided to downgrade to a flip phone. The kids think it’s pretty cool their dad has a flip phone. It works pretty well, though the pictures are subpar and email is an issue. Yet, it works well as a phone, sends and receives texts; there’s a browser, too. What more does one need? We’ll see how long the flip phone lasts, I reckon.
Life at the Izaak Walton Inn was first class. Izaak Walton was a 17th century English writer who wrote the classic work, ‘The Compleat Angler’. The Inn at Essex, Montana, was built in 1939 to help serve the wants of the Great Northern Railway, about which one can learn through the link to the Historical Society. There were many historical photographs, cartoons and stories on the wooden walls throughout the place. Surrounding the lower tavern room’s pool table were many photos exhibiting the travails of the Great Northern dealing with typical winter conditions along the drainage. Mud slides and avalanches were common as they continue to be today. There are many photographs of trains being led by an engine with a great shovel on its mouth to plow the large drifts off of the tracks. There are other photos exhibiting derailed cars scattered among the mountainside and lying in the Middle Fork.
There were many people cross country skiing on the groomed trails. The Inn offered trails with the principal three difficulty levels, black being expert, blue intermediate and green for beginners. My kids have grown up primarily alpine skiing (downhill). Some of us have done a bit of back country skiing (where one skins up the mountain and locks in the heels and skis down), but cross country skiing has generally not been our principal winter choice. That having been written, however, I’ve posted numerous posts of myself XC skiing with Seth and Erin off and on over the years (usually with the dogs). This trip we kenneled Ajax and Koda. Cabins were available in the area and we saw one fellow there on the porch with his dog. The Inn had gear available for rental, but we took along much of our own as well. Todd and Seth rented snow shoes and walked around as the balance of the party XC skied. Though this was her first time, Mariana quickly figured it out and was soon walking along fine and managing well on some of the downhill sections. A large, red snow cat came by at one point grooming the trail. I visited with the driver in an area where he refueled. Nice fellow.
Saturday evening it rained off and on consistently. We managed during a brief dry spell to walk on the trails under the lights. Many of the trails are lighted at night. The kids brought along a small computer which they plugged into a box and used for evening entertainment. Molly and I read books in the opposite room. I’ve recently been reading Dickens’ last book, ‘Our Mutual Friend’. It’s a long tale with a murky cast of characters ‘from all walks’. The Thames looms large in the story. An excellent work. The end notes in the Wordsworth Ed. of the book are well done; but, Marcus Stone’s illustrations are even better. For this little weekend jaunt to Walton, however, I brought along Knut Hamsun’s ‘Pan’. Actually, I’ve picked up a few of Hamsun’s works recently. Some of the psychology in ‘Pan’ is of interest. Glahn, the main character, is a Norwegian outdoorsman who desires the solitary life, spending time with his dog Aesop; but, he winds up in difficult situations governed apparently in some cases outside of his control. At one point Glahn shoots himself intentionally in the foot, but the Doc simply encourages him along. Hamsun, like Dickens, is familiar with the darker aspects of life. ‘Pan’ unfolds during the era of the Crimean War. It was a short, quick read. The artwork on the Penguin cover is of Munch’s ‘Jealousy’. Hamsun, like all writers, is unique; but, he reminds me a bit of London and Hemingway.This afternoon in Missoula the falling snow has turned to a steady stream of rain. Todd’s on the local ski hill with Kevin and Thomas, two of his buds. I’m glad I’m not skiing today. I will walk the dogs. Ajax is barking.
‘What do people do with them’? I asked the store attendant. ‘They put them in their wills,’ she replied. Earlier this afternoon we were in a local pet store and I was quizzing a clerk. I was amazed about how long the lifespan of a Macaw was. The store only had Parakeets, but for some reason the subject had switched to the larger birds. In fairness, when I was a child, we owned a blue and gold Macaw named Clarence; but at some point he was given away as he was fond of the lead pane in the windows in the solarium.
Chopin’s ‘Nocturnes’ play beneath the external distractions. Calm. Another fine 19th Century figure, Chopin. What is the appeal of the 1800s? Emily Dickinson’s poetry has been at the forefront lately as well. Fine writing, music and artwork – 19th Century.
It turns out ‘Brenny Bren’ (my mom) and Mariana share the same birthday. This was pretty nifty. Bren and Tom gave Mariana a nice UM Griz sweatshirt. It is nice that we’ve all been able to spend some time together between the traveling and the kids’ school and work schedules. Mariana likes books so my gift was a book of her choice from a local shop. Among the other b-day gifts from all of us, I gave Mariana a Missoula Sheepheads lid (some readers may recall these from the mountain bike racing days- I still have a few).We recently visited the Elk Foundation and the kind attendant took our picture. As locals know, there are many Not-For-Profits in Missoula. The Elk Foundation raises funds through local banquets and other methods to provide habitat for elk and other animals. The facility’s displays are educational. In the past, the facility has hosted the local youth hunter safety programs. Erin and Mariana hope to visit the Art Museum before Mariana heads back to Chile.The computer is acting squirrelly; therefore, good reader, I believe this will be a wrap for what’s been going on of late. Oh, I’ve been dabbling in painting with ink (calligraphy). What the heck, something different to go with learning a few Kanji characters.