GAYS MILLS - After leaving the Buffalo Bill Western Museum in Cody, I drove about 3 hours of fairly desolate but starkly beautiful highway up into Montana. My cousin, Tom Lemke, who I hadn’t seen in years is a retired wildlife biologist who worked for the state of Montana for his entire career. The plan was to meet in his backyard, masked up and keeping our distance. Tom’s wife, Clare was a nurse and these 2 scientists didn’t want to take any chances with the Covid pandemic. But....it was so dad-burned windy and turning colder that we met in their beautiful home instead.
I had no trouble finding their home on the extreme north end of Livingston and had planned to pull in and honk the horn to announce my arrival. I almost did that until I saw 2 Mule Deer bucks (with nice racks), 2 does, and 2 fawns right outside their back door. I quietly got out of the car and got a decent picture of the little backyard herd before they turned and strolled away. Tom’s specialty was studying large game animals, like, deer, elk, and bison, and it was a short drive from Livingston to Yellowstone Park but here were these deer right outside his door.
After a very pleasant hour with the Lemke’s I set off towards Missoula , 3 hours away on the way west. They counselled me to stop at Butte, 2 hours away instead. I got almost to Butte before it commenced to snow a wet, heavy brand of snow and I decided Butte was far enough for the day. In the morning there were 3 inches of snow on the car.
The further I drove the next morning the better the weather got. The snow was soon melted and the sun was shining so I made good time on to the Idaho border and quickly got across to the panhandle of Potato State and into Washington. I continued to be amazed at the distances and scenery of the mountains of the northwest. Mile after mile of gorgeous views which had to be absorbed at 70 MPH.
I got bogged down in Spokane and could absorb the city at a much slower pace. I missed a bypass around the city and stopped at every stop light for several miles amongst heavy traffic. I got to my longtime friend Craig’s house at about 4 o’clock. His was sitting on his picnic table waiting for me, the picture of serenity. Craig lives up what I call slot canyon, steep and narrow, and has for years. Craig and his wife Marjean are both architects and designed and built a great home that I think of as ship-like: snug, convenient, space and heat efficient.I spent 3 days with Craig, his visiting daughter, and her 2 kids, aged 1 and 4, great kids and it brought back memories of the pitter patter of little feet and just how busy the mother of young ones has to be. It was very relaxing being at Craig’s and not having to climb back in the car and make a few hundred miles every day. But soon enough it was time to move on to the next leg of the trip.