Friday, June 26, 2009

June 26, Chinook Mountain, 6 p.m.

(As we awakened in Hingham) --- The sun arose to a clean sky and once above the horizon, pushed light through our camp casting long shadows from the ash trees crowding our tents. In these trees, mourning turtle doves sang mournfully, but beautifully, as they do. Mother loved watching and hearing these birds in her last few years sitting on the back porch in Boyce. Hearing them sing seemed a requiem for her and these dying towns. We could see it, and the people said it was so. Rural America dying here, fading away. The barber in Chester told us of closing motels, businesses, car dealerships. “There’s nothing here anymore for the young people. They’ve got to leave.” He had cut hair for 22 years. Charged $10 apiece for a buzz cut of two of our cycling friends. We left our mournful camp, though in a good mood, and rode here to Chinook where we camped at the city water works. It is free and has a shower. And there is a rodeo in town at 7 p.m. which I will report on later. There are also mosquitoes, deet-resistant mosquitoes. But you can never have everything your way. The Milk River runs near enough to see and hear, and we are beneath a grove of old cottonwood trees, worth by themselves, the price of admission.

Today’s ride was downward over rolling plains, sufficiently similar for long periods that the eye began to seek change and variety. A tree along the landscape could capture and hold your gaze. Dead things at roadside became objects of curiosity, if not concern. A snake, a skunk, a porcupine, an antelope and the ground squirrel. Those little guys seem to have been born to die to a blacktop road. They are everywhere in various stages of decomposition. Freshly hit, they puff up and round out, get real cute and look like they should be for sale at the children’s store. With a little age, they become flattened, desiccated skins that remain identifiable. I think if you took one of these and added water like you do with freeze-dried food, they would reconstitute. Ted Williams’ family should have tried this method to preserve him. It would have been cheaper. There are many of these little creatures. They go out on the highway, bouncing, tail held high, like they want to get hit - like little Jihadist; death on the highway, the highest form of existence they aspire to. I saw one snake, too -- a diamond-back something or other. We were gong 18 mph, it was dead, but it still caused diarrhea, vomiting and all the hair on my body to stand up and threaten to fall out. That was at Mile 378 on Hwy. 2. It is recorded in my lizard brain as a deep neuronal rut. I will never forget it, and therapy will not help.

We continue to leap frog with our friends. Stuart of lives after his concussion, and he and his buddies did a century yesterday. The Bellingham 7 also were spotted.

Pat Sewell

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