I and my husband moved in the summer of 2008. Our children had graduated college and had wandered away on their own paths of life. So we were empty nesters looking for a place to land. And in his promise to me when we moved away, my husband brought me back to the place I called home as a child … Montana.
I’m not sure I was born in the exact place where we eventually settled. But I was born in Billings Montana and my family was still in Montana. In fact my mom and dad were both born and bred Montanans from the get go. They were both born in the vicinity of Ballantine and Pompey’s Pillar Montana and both were raised in the area. They were married at the young ages of 18 and 15 respectively and pretty much raised our family around the area. We wandered a bit as a family but we never left Montana. My mom even pointed out one day where the old homestead that she lived at was. Of course the house or barns weren’t there anymore. But I could imagine it as I gazed at the bucket that sat out in the middle of that big empty pasture. And my dad lived just down the road from her place. She and dad have told me many a story about their child hood and courtship from the day they first met and dated to the houses they lived in when they were first married. And that is a whole book in itself, which I hope to write someday.
And as fate would have it,the new home place is just down the road from the old places. My sister found it for my Mom and Dad almost 25 years ago. The place had been dry land, and thistles when they first came to look at it, but years later when they gave us the opportunity to settle across the yard from them at the home place, it was full of apple trees, choke cherry trees, pine trees, aspen trees, elm trees, roses, flowers, gardens, grass, cows, horses, goats, pigs, dogs, cats chickens and people. Just a few people. Our families. And all of this was there from the hard work my mom and dad and my sisters and families had put into that thistle ridden spot of empty land.
When you drive up the hill to our place you realize the hard work that must have gone into making the land what it is today. Most of the apple and choke cherry trees that are planted there were grown from seed by my dad. Mom said that when Dad was finished eating an apple he would bury it in a small pot to see if it would grow. And did they grow. At one time I am sure they had over thirty small apple trees growing in pots. And you can see the results to this day. There are apple trees all over the place. And the apples we get each fall from them are delicious. Our road drives through two rows of pine trees, hand planted and hand watered by my folks. By hand watered, I mean carrying buckets of water up and down the hill for every tree. I have experienced it first hand since that was what we did when we first moved here. Planted trees and watered them by hand. So I can appreciate the beautiful pine and aspen trees that stand as proud guardians of the place.
The home place started out as a pig farm. My folks had almost 600 pigs at one time. My mom loved pigs. Dad…well he tolerated them for the sake of my mom. Now that is true love! He was farmer and a cow man through and through. He he loved his plants(trees, flowers, grass, garden and crops.) To this day he grows the best ears of corn on this place. And he loved his cows. But he helped my mom raise pigs. The pigs pretty much paid for the place until the year they didn’t. It was a lot of hard work for my mom and dad. And even though my mom loved her pigs, it was just too much to handle. So the pigs were sold and Dad kept his cows. He and Mom still have around twenty-five to this day and each January or February there are little calves wobbling and running and jumping in the corrals heralding in the coming spring. I have the wonderful opportunity of seeing this, since my house is across from the corrals where it all happens!
Our house is that last place before you look out at all the landscape of grassland/dryland/prairie. There are miles and miles of rolling hills full of grass and rocks. It’s hard to believe that the home place was once like that. I’ve seen coyotes and wolves run by. A few antelope trot by. The Canadian geese love to rest out there. In the fall the birds gather out there in large flocks and we watch as the murmurations ebb and flow over the landscape like large dark shadows. Sometimes in the winter you see a large snowshoe hare hopping around out there. And every spring we see three or four sand cranes strutting around. And I am sure there is more than my eyes see when I am not looking. We have watched dark storm clouds roll in on the horizon on hot summer days and have gazed at the icy crust of snow packed tundra in the cold winter months. But mostly I see the cows grazing. It is such a serene scene and something I will never tire of looking at.
I never realized how much I loved Montana until I moved out of it. I do have to put in a good word for Wyoming though. It was my home for twenty years and it was a good place to raise a family, but my heart still longed for Montana. I missed the fields and fields of corn and beets. I missed the smell of fresh-cut hay in the spring. And nothing compares to that smell of a field of hay after its been cut. I love watching the beets being dug and the corn being chopped. I love seeing the hay and straw bales out in the fields and the stacks covered with snow in the winter. I love watching the tractors till up the dark earth in the spring and fall. And I love watching the small calves, horses and goats being born in the spring. I love gathering eggs from my happy chickens each day and waiting and watching for my garden to sprout in the spring.
I know, I know you say that can happen any where. But Montana was where I was born and raised. It was where I lived most of my life. Montana was where I gathered my first egg, where I hoed my first beet row, where I stacked my first bale of hay, where I first learned how to feed cows, and where I first learned how to fall off a horse and drive a tractor. In Montana I canned my first quart of beans and actually plucked my first chicken. I started first grade in Montana and graduated high school in Montana. I first rode a bike down a dirt road to take my dad lunch out in the field in Montana.I fell in love in Montana, got married in Montana and had my first child in Montana.
That is why I love Montana. I was born and raised and grew up in Montana. It was and always will be my home and I am more than happy to grow old with Montana.
For as John Steinbeck once wrote: — ‘I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love.’
Montana Winter by SKV
Lonely days of cold nothingness.
A chilled wind blows over the snow packed hills, whistling an eerie sound as it ripples over the icy crystals.
Its winter on the plains of Montana, when every creature shudders in bone chilling numbness and the trees stand in icy stillness.
Snow crunches under my boots in this winter stillness, as I walk out to feed the chickens.
Plumes of wood smoke dot the horizon and stream upward to mix with the winter clouds.
My warm breath mingles with the cold air causing icy puffs of vapor to rise and float away in the icy breeze.
My dogs peers out from their snow covered house not so anxious to come out and and greet me on this cold winter morning.
I glance before me, across the snow covered landscape and see no track left behind.
The snow..untouched, sparkles in the morning sun like a million tiny diamonds in a crystal maze.
And in this cold icy stillness of a Montana winter, I see the promise of
warm Montana spring days I know are soon come.