Mission Valley


Below the Bison Range

Three horses stood gallantly in the grass,
Two Magpies dancing atop one.
Shake as he might, the birds would not pass,
Why does he not simply run?

“Why is it that animals put up with so much taunting?” I thought to myself as I passed the above scene driving below the Bison Range this morning. It was eleven degrees. Animals work together in many cases, and I thought of the standard preening that birds do on the back of horses; however, this horse was clearly being mocked. He shook his skin to no avail. Perhaps he realized that even if he galloped off there would simply be other Magpies, so what was the point?  IMG_7232

Seth had ODP soccer practice today in Polson and I was the carpooler.  Is that a word? “Carpooler.”  Looks awkward. At any rate, I was driving Seth and his other little Hand.  I still wonder about soccer this time of year?  Todd usually wraps up high school soccer in late October and the spring club play ends in June;  however, now-a-days things go year round with ODP and Montana United and other state wide club programs in which two of our kids are participating.  We’ve found ourselves traveling to Boise, Portland, Las Vegas, Seattle and on and on.  I think Molly mentioned something about Phoenix at the dinner table this evening.  Seems like a pretty big change from the soccer circuit I grew up playing in West Virginia, though I do recall trips to Ohio and a couple of tournaments in Niagara Falls.  Have things changed?  I still see winter in terms of pointing them down the hill, I guess.IMG_7278

There was a noticeable chill in the air this morning driving north.  I started off with my typical routine, looking east beyond Mercer at the back of the ‘bowl and the top of Point Six.  I recall, while looking in the area, someone mentioning during a Level II Avy course I took a while back, that a Cat was almost driven off of the back side down the mountain one season.  It’s straight down on the Evaro Hill side in a few spots.  I think they need some snow on the hill. One of my favorite scenes is coming up out of Ravalli to drop into the Mission Range valley.  Given time constraints, I did not stop and take a photo of the range this morning when the light was better.  I took a few photos driving back to Missoula this evening, though. One year in the early nineties Molly and I did a three sixty driving her old Nissan rear wheel drive wagon up to Big Mountain.  This occurred right at the top of the hill above Ravalli, while I was looking at the mountains and not noticing the black ice on Highway 93.  It was slow going that day.  Can one notice black ice?IMG_7240It’s been quite a while, but I used to enjoy waterfowling on the Ninepipe Reservoir, which is a fairly popular venue for the locals.  One buys the Res permit along with the bird stamps and gets some access.  Pheasants too.  I mainly hunted the river, though got invited to a few private slews here and there as well.  In one section on the main river I almost lost a dog under a large slab of ice while she made a difficult retrieve.  Things worked out that day.  Ninepipe also is a spot where local retriever trial enthusiasts play their game with the dogs.  I have some pretty good memories in this area as well.  I mainly participated in a few derbies with our labs and picnic trials.  The field trial game is big money and a big time commitment.  So, I saw it as an opportunity to train the dogs to hunt and to meet some fellow local outdoorsmen.  I enjoyed watching the dogs and being in the field shooting the live pigeons or ducks. A trial dog’s intensity level is fun to observe when there are live birds involved and guns sounding in the distance.  Eyes bulging, tails thumping, a few jerking looks at the master and then back to area where the feathers were flying;  somehow, most remain at heel until they are released by their name. Then it’s an explosion into the water or through the field to the downed bird.  Imagine this under the scenic beauty of the Mission Range. IMG_7264People begin to take the mountains for granted, but I never do, always relishing their magnificence towering over the cattails and water on the valley floor.  Good dogs take a straight line, not running around islands or hither and yon.  They use their noses, but the amazing ones have a memory of exactly where they saw the bird land.  Not moping around the gunner in the field, running in circles.  Almost mechanized.  The hunt tests settled things down a bit from the rigors of the standard trials.  Gun dogs.  See Gibbons’ sThe Retriever Game if there’s an interest.  Again, time and money.  Wen sleeps on the couch now and I drive to soccer practice.IMG_7241The Jocko has a special place in my person.  It is the stream that flows out of the Missions. Most folks don’t realize it, but it’s an excellent fishery as long as one stays out of the Primitive Area. Grizzlies are around, but bear spray helps one keep his nerves while whacking through brush in search of large Cutts, which frequent the area.  Then, there’s the skiing.  I better not go there.IMG_7271

We had a nice drive to Polson and back today.  The kids practiced in the Middle School gym in the morning and then outside late in the afternoon. Seth’s foot cracked through a frozen pot hole as we horsed around the south end of Flathead Lake during their lunch break. We listened to some of the Cat, Griz game on the AM. Also on the break, noon to three o’clock, we made it to the library, trying to find something to do indoors. I flipped through Emily Dickinson’s poems and read a few papers. Seth had a wet sock for the second half of practice, but he did not seem to mind.

During the next day’s practice, Sunday, I took a few more photos and added them.  Kicking Horse with Wen, St. Mary’s and Gray Wolf area.

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