As a child of the Fifties and Sixties, summer vacation in the family car was a hallmark of growing up as an Indiana girl. My father would decide where we would go…the Henry Ford museum and surrounding sites in Michigan, the Wisconsin Dells, old forts stretching from Detroit to Fort McHenry, Gettysburg, and the finger lakes of New York State. My mother stocked the car with sandwiches, saltines crackers (in case anyone got car sick), and wet washcloths for sticky hands. But no summer adventure captured my soul more than when we ventured West to the Tetons, Rocky Mountains, and finally the Bob Marshal Wilderness area in Montana and southern Canada. The best summer of my life was when we packed into the Bob Marshall for three weeks. Except for one Forest Service agent, we saw bear, moose, woodchucks, horses, mountain goats, and fished for dinner every day.
I grew up surrounded by fertile Indiana family farms and had never seen anything as stunning as mountain tops that held snow in the summer, the pine needles that changed scent in the warm afternoon sun, where you would awaken in your sleeping bag with a dusting of snow or frost on the ground and be stripping down to a t-shirt by the afternoon. The wide-open spaces, the stars, the kindness of strangers, the gifts that came in the forms of wild animals, new smells and the sounds of coyotes and the stillness of the night. The West was the richest tapestry I had ever experienced. Cattle roamed the prairies and open pastures and cowboys fixed fences, branded cattle, and had a beer at the local saloon at the end of the day. This was where I learned how to really ride horses, where I literally fell, brushed myself off and learned to get up again. I fell in love with the West and Montana in particular and knew somehow, someday I would return.
So now, fifty years and two careers later, I am back. Montana is home. I now live in the town of Big Timber, a place steeped in Native American and Lewis and Clark history, a place where neighbors know each other, where pick up trucks and John Deere tractors outnumber fancy cars, a place where the sunrises and sunsets remind you every day to stop for a moment and just be. I live just outside of town in the foothills of the Crazy Mountains….a small mountain range that is close to but independent of the Rocky Mountains.