wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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The Used Cow Lot

I posted this a few years ago and happened to come across it again. For new followers, I hope you enjoy it, and I thank faithful longtime followers for their patience.

Here goes:

Montana has miles and miles of ideal cattle grazing country. I did a “drive-by shooting” (with my camera, of course) of these cows…do you call them cows if they’re male too? I never know what to call them. There’s probably a lot of bull here too.DSCN4485

Whatever you call them, there were a lot of them dotting the scenic Montana landscape between Helena and Garrison. As we pulled into the tiny town of Drummond to fuel up, I played tourist while the Captain topped up the gas tank. I got out to take a picture of the “Used Cow Lot” across the street from the gas station.

Notice the sign beside the building advertising “Mentzer’s Livest”? It says: Overnight fees, Cattle $3, Horses $5. Shouldn’t the price be the same for all? That’s just plain discrimination if you ask me. And what do you think goes on in that animal hotel? Mentzer’s Livest? I know the animals must go in there naked, but what are they doing in there to make this the livest show around? Your thoughts?

I’m not sure I’d want to stay there. You can see what happened to the Grim Reaper cow that didn’t get past the doorway. But with those long horns, maybe it’s bull once again.

A used cow dealer renting out a cheap shack for naked customers, advertising the livest show? I bet they’re all in there sleeping together and acting like real animals.

DSCN4494

Oh no! Wait! I’ve got it figured out. I found another photo that explains it all. Three letters were missing on that first photo. It’s not Mentzer’s Livest, but Mentzer’s Livestock.

DSCN4495


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Mystery Building – Church or House?

This church looks so old that it begged to be photographed. It sits on a lonely rise (to call it a hill would be exaggerating) in northern Montana. I don’t think it gets much use anymore, judging from the boarded up windows, but at one time it must have hosted a fair-sized congregation.

In eastern Washington, I saw another old church. I had noticed it on several other trips through this area. This building, too, has seen better days.

But what is different this year is the new structure that has been built beside the old one. At first I assumed that it was a church, because of the steeple and the wide stairs going into the double glass doors. Possibly my thinking was influenced by the wrought iron fencing.

I think now, that I was wrong about it being a new church (just because it was built next to an old one).

My reasoning?

Here is a close up of the sign (a bit blurry) that is attached to the right of the gate.

It can’t be a church and say: Private Property – No Trespassing.

And now I’m even questioning whether the second photo from the top is really of a church.

What do you think?

 


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Endangered Missouri Sturgeon

In the tiny town of Fort Benton, Montana, we like to stay at an RV park that is close to the rodeo grounds beside the Missouri River. Last year, after a long day’s drive, we took a walk to the river. At this point, we are about 200 miles from its headwaters.

The sun was slowly setting, and so was the moon. See the evidence? The cliffs along the riverbank are warmed by the last rays of the sun and if you look hard, you may see the moon sinking  in the sky, amid the branches of the tree.

Geese are honking from the direction of the grassy islands in the river. Later that night we would hear the coyotes howling near the same place.

 

The Missouri is a powerful river in places. It is the longest river in the U. S. flowing for 2,341 miles before joining up with the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis, Missouri.

I had been so focused on the geese flying along the river, I hadn’t given much thought to what might be under the water. What a surprise to read on this poster, that there are sturgeon in the Missouri.

If you would like to read about the two kinds of sturgeon and how to tell them apart, you can click on the photo above and it will be easier to read.

I have to confess, I had known nothing about these sturgeon, not even their names (pallid and shovelnose). The pallid sturgeon is endangered and lives mainly in this river system. It grows to a length of five or six feet and can live to be about 40 years old.

On the picture I thought it looked a bit shark-like, but that mouth on its underside is mainly for feeding on the river bottom.  Whew! Otherwise I wouldn’t be putting my toes in that river.

Who knew that these creatures lurk in the depths of the river!?


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In Another Time

In another time, pioneering farmers lived in these houses and kept them cozy and inviting.

Hard times and the elements have changed the sheltering homesteads to cold windswept shells. In some cases, after the original farmers eventually died, their children, having seen their parents’ hard work, opted for an easier life away from this lonely prairie.

On a previous trip to Montana, the Captain and I saw many old homesteads.

“Let’s skedaddle,” the pheasants cluck. “I think these might be hunters. The locals welcome them, but I find them downright annoying, if not dangerous.”

“Did I hear you say the ‘H’ word?” the white-tailed deer asks. Then he shakes his head and goes back to his browsing. “It’s birds they’re after. I don’t think they’re here for me …  are they? Hmm, maybe I’d better run too.”

“You’d do better to be careful, Whitey,” the Harris sparrow warbles. “And by the way, watch your step.”

“The prickly pear isn’t named for its smooth skin. Those spines can really hurt.”

“Oh, what a fuss,” the robin sings. “I was enjoying the last days of autumn sunshine in this Russian olive tree. Why did they have to talk about hunters? They don’t bother me! Mrs. Hunter just wanders around with her camera. I show her my best side, and she goes home happy.”


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Lookout Pass

Still dodging ice clumps that may or may not have rock-like centers, we are nevertheless, making progress in leaving the snow behind.

We pass the small town of St. Regis, near our Exit 16 refuge, where we will stay the night again.

Then another climb awaits us up into the hills to the Montana/Idaho border at Exit 0, Lookout Pass. The good thing about this pass is that it is about 2000 feet lower than that last one we went through, and less likely to be snowed in.

By the way, notice that “Lookout” is spelled as one word, as in “viewpoint.” I had started to think of it as two words (look out) like “watch out,” but its elevation is not nearly as high as MacDonald Pass so I must get this two-word definition out of my head. It’s just a pass with a gorgeous view from the top. The photo below is from 2015 (no snow). We didn’t stop to photograph the view this year.

Sure enough, the roads are fairly clear, in spite of snow hanging onto the trees right down to the level of the road.

Once we were over that hump, the rest of the crossing of the Idaho panhandle brought us ever closer to fall weather as we knew it.

We felt as if we were truly getting closer to home. Our next stay would be in Omak, Washington. I want to call it “Oboy!” instead of Omak because of the mini dramas that happened to us there. I’ll tell you all about it soon.


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Winter’s Frosty Breath

It’s only October, but this farm scene would make a perfect Christmas card.

The shrubs in the distance have a frosting on them that is making the little ground squirrels living under them shiver.

Here is plenty of fuel to keep someone warm – someone far away, wherever this train is going.

The clumps of sagebrush and other grasses have been coated by winter’s frosty breath, giving them a designer look.

Did you ever mix up powdered laundry soap and water with an egg-beater and then dab the “snow” you made onto your Christmas tree? Then the decorations would be hung once the soapy snow had dried. These trees reminded me of doing that as a child. (I apologize for mentioning Christmas so early.)

The wintery air brings out the elves

They wait for dark or fog

So they can better hide themselves

Behind a nearby log.

The head elf orders laundry soap

The powdered kind is best

They spit in it and then they hope

That this will pass the test.

The soapy snow must be so thick

That it won’t dribble down

It must be right so it will stick

And give the tree its gown.

With sagey brush, like tiny brooms

They paint each branch with snow

The night is short, a new day looms

And all the elves must go.

If I’d been passing by last night

I’m sure I would have seen

But I’d have given them a fright

And I can’t be that mean.

And so I’ll just admire their trees

That look so pure and white

The elves are happy when they please

And know they’ve done it right.


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Giving Up – Part 5

There comes a point when, no matter how badly you want something, you know that it’s wiser to give it up. Going ahead with our trip to eastern Montana, after negotiating three snowy weather systems in two short weeks, would have been pushing our luck.

So with high winds and snow still coming down on the way forward, and snow settling on the road behind us, we reluctantly turned homeward.

The tires had sat frozen and immobile for two bitter cold nights, so we eased ahead a few feet and held our breath. So far, so good. We could have cried, turning back, but it was a relief not to drive into more snow blowing sideways.

I could have cropped this photo so the antenna wouldn’t show, but the icy snow on the forward side of the antenna says something about the chilly air.

Here is one of the many views of the Clark Fork (one of my favourite rivers). It is visible flowing beside or under the highway off and on for many miles.

On our drive eastward, little snow covered these lower elevations. Now it made for scenic winter postcard material. In some areas, the water was warmer than the air, resulting in fog along the river.

You can tell where the river goes.

Snow had covered these hills that were bare when we had driven through a few days earlier.

Some snow was still on the roads. As the day warmed up, big transport trucks lost clumps of ice that had collected on them. In the stretch of road below, the eastbound lane is closed and the westbound lane is taking two-way traffic. You don’t want to catch an edge or a clump of ice. The one in the photo below is one of hundreds of clumps we had to avoid.

I wondered what these cattle were “grazing” on. Not much grass poking out from the snow. Winter is hard on many animals.

As we neared the upcoming MacDonald Pass, my knuckles gave the snow some competition for whiteness. I knew I had a good driver beside me, but with so much construction and lanes restricted by cones and ice (and I don’t mean ice cream cones), I was nervous all the way to the top of the pass.

 

And relieved to be going down to a lower elevation right afterwards. Only two passes left to negotiate before we got home.

 

 


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A Cool Trip – Part 4

The snow kept coming sideways and we talked about cutting our day’s drive short. We had planned to go as far as Fort Benton where a friendly RV park always awaited us, but Fort Benton was down a big hill along the banks of the Missouri, and we had seen pictures of how the town had fared in the September snowfall a week earlier. Did we want to be trapped in this valley town with snow covering the steep roads in and out of town? For that matter, could we even make it that far if we wanted to?

We had to get off the road or end up in a lonely prairie ditch. But where to go in Great Falls?

I remembered a Wal-Mart across from the town’s famous smelter and refinery, and that’s where we pulled in.

Wal-Mart Customer Service told us we were welcome to stay for three days. They had all the groceries we might need, a water supply, and a relatively safe place for us to stay. Three other rigs were already parked there and would remain there until after we left.

Wal-Mart even had Wi-Fi but it didn’t reach out to the parking lot.

Generally I prefer to be in an RV park or a place like Exit 16’s park, since public parking lots can be a bit risky if you’re camping overnight alone, but we had no choice by this time and were thankful for the relatively safe haven as the snow began to cover us up.

It would have been foolish to continue traveling, as the many accidents that day proved.

However, we were quite frozen in this place with -17degrees Celcius, feels like -23 (1 degree Fahrenheit, feels like -9F). In the morning, the windows had about a quarter of an inch of frost on them (on the INSIDE!), and the holding tank was frozen at the outlet, as we found out when we tried the next sani-dump we came to. We also tried to add water to our potable water tank – to no avail. The pipes leading to the tank were frozen.

We had a furnace, but running it all night might run our battery down and as luck would have it, the trailer battery was very low in the morning. The Captain ran the Honda generator and brought it back up. Everything was a struggle, and we were getting worn down.

The second night, some drug-crazed kids did a kick boxing display near our rig on the parking lot (yes, in that very cold temperature)! The driver even kicked the lid of his own car’s trunk. (The Captain said, IF it’s even their own car.) Then they tore out of the parking lot at 90 miles an hour.

After two nights there, if we continued north and then east as we had planned, we would be driving into more blizzard and heavy fog in extremely cold temperatures. We were only one long day’s drive from our destination, but there didn’t seem to be any point in going on, even if we could have done that safely. But could we safely go back?

 


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A Cool Trip – Part 3

From Exit 16, it’s not far to Missoula, one of our usual stops, but we pushed on this time and took a lunch break at Drummond, a bit farther east. Drummond is a tiny, tiny, tiny town, but it has a lovely community park, just past the sheep in this field.

While I made our lunch, the Captain let the dogs stretch their legs. They’d been very good about riding in their straw-filled crates in the back of the truck, but they were ready for a romp. Emma’s flying ears tell the story.

Then on we went, on our way. We took the shortcut to Helena by crossing on Highway 12 at Garrison. This meant going over MacDonald Pass at 6312 ft. It is on the Continental Divide, and that makes it seem special to me.

Going through Helena was uneventful, now that we have discovered the easiest route through it, turning onto Highway 15 North.

We tootled on happily until I said, “Oh, look at that fog up ahead.”

“Sure is thick, and we’re driving right into it.”

And then there were those dreaded orange and white barrels, forcing traffic into one lane for construction work that wasn’t even happening.

“That’s not just fog.” The Captain stated the obvious. We were heading into a blizzard.

See all the white stuff?

At one point, the orange and white barrels seemed to indicate that we should go into the right lane, and moments later we realized that we had exited I-15 and were on a little by-road with no place to turn back to re-enter the highway.

Being a little lower down, the visibility was better, but the winding road was narrow, and traffic was two-way. Not so much fun for a truck pulling a trailer. (You can see the highway above us to the left. So close and yet so far away.)

We came to a sign that said we had 8 miles to go to Wolf Creek, where we could rejoin the highway.

Oh joy! We were back on the main drag at last. With every mile, the air got whiter, and so did the fields, and the trees, and the road.

At this point we were feeling a bit of anxiety creeping in.


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A Cool Trip – Part 2

After leaving Washington and crossing the approximately 70 miles of Idaho panhandle on I-90, we arrived at the Montana border at Exit 0. From this point, high up  (4,710 ft.) in Lookout Pass which is in the Rockies in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains of the Bitterroot Range, we began our descent into Montana. At Exit 16, the Silver Dollar Casino is a main attraction.

We don’t gamble, but we patronize the restaurant in this establishment, and we always fill our gas tanks there, both coming and going. Behind the casino, free RV parking with electricity is available. It makes our one-night stay there very comfortable.

Last year at this place, we saw wild turkeys just behind our rig. They were very daring (or stupid) because it was close to our Canadian Thanksgiving. But to give them credit, they were American turkeys so they wouldn’t have known that – American Thanksgiving being much later.

This night at Exit 16 was to be our last pleasant night for a while to come.