Friday, July 1, 2011

Westward, Ho! Day 5

June 30

This day started like all the others. Up at 7:30 wishing we’d been able to go to bed earlier the night before, staggering into a restroom to freshen up, checking our load, and listening to a Lewis Walton sermon for worship as we drove down the road.

The night before ended about like you'd expect, too, with yet another commodious adventure. Staggering into the restroom late at night, and barely more than sleepwalking, I just wasn't prepared for what happened. It was one of those automatic toilets, so I had my eye on it, but it lulled me into a false sense of security by not flushing automatically. Until the very instant I stood up.

When I awoke fully a moment later, I found myself pressed flat against the metal door, my feet still running in place. How I miss my own bathroom! (I may have mentioned that before.)

Anyway, driving through the mountains, we were amazed by the profusion of spring wildflowers that blossomed in what really should have been summer. Jack stopped at a little scenic circle and allowed me to take a profusion of photos. As he said, “After all, it’s your birthday tomorrow.” That became his excuse for everything today. Unwanted leftover food or drink? Hand it to the wife. “After all, it’s your birthday tomorrow.”

Approaching the borders of Yellowstone, I reminded him (ok, borderline nagging) that if he saw a bunch of people pulled over, he should stop and let me take photos of whatever they were looking at. After all, it’s my birthday tomorrow.

That reminded me of what our friends told us yesterday. During a trip through Yellowstone, their family stopped beside the road so the father could get something out of the trunk. An eager carload pulled up next to them. “Whatcha looking at?” they asked excitedly. Silently the father thought to himself, My Fritos, you morons! Aloud, he said, smiling, “Oh, just getting something out of the trunk.”

There’s not too much else to tell. We’ve been headed for home like a barn-sour horse. Since we have done so little adventuring ourselves, let me share a few excerpts from an interesting free Forest Service resource, “The Great 1910 Fires of Idaho and Montana: Day Trip Guide to Historic Sites in Idaho and Montana”. Catchy, I know. You could almost make a song out of that title. Anyway, it had some interesting stories. You can read the rest when you get your own copy.

On August 21, 1910, R. Engle’s crew was working the Tuscor Fire, one of the many fires of 1910.

“This fire was up Swamp Creek about 10 to 12 miles from its mouth. Ranger Kaufman, who was in charge of the fire, was working with a crew along the Clark Fork River at the mouth of Swamp Creek. In the afternoon of August 20, a strong wind sprung up and scattered the fires in all directions. Realizing the dangerous position of Engle’s crew, Ranger Kaufman sent a messenger to Engle, directing him to come out at once with his crew.

Engle got this word late at night August 20 and started out in the morning of August 21, following the trail down Swamp Creek. Getting down within four miles of the river, they met a fire coming up Swamp Creek. This was a fire which had come over the divide from Idaho the previous night and was, up to this time, entirely separate from the fire on which the crew was working.

When Engle with his crew met this fire it was too large to pass through, so Engle took his crew back up Swamp Creek from whence he had come, expecting to cross over the burned area through the fire on which he had been working, but on reaching a point where he had expected to pass through the fire line, he found that the wind had fanned the fire into a raging furnace.

Finding that they were cut off from the valley, Engle took his crew on further up Swamp Creek hoping to reach a large body of slide rock located there. They were soon overtaken by the fire coming up the creek and made a stand on an open slide rock side hill, several of the party digging holes in the slide rock for further protection.”
                ~ 1942 Elers Koch,
                   Lolo Forest Supervisor in 1910

All but four men of the 25 man crew survived. Some were burned and nearly all blind from smoke and heat by midnight on August 21, 1910.

Bull River Guard Station was built in 1908 by Granville “Granny” Gordon the first ranger of Noxon District located then on the Cabinet NF and now part of the Kootenai NF [National Forest]. The cabin was home for the Gordons and their daughters who had a reputation for their gracious hospitality.

When the 1910 Fires roared thru the country, Mrs. Gordon prepared for the worst by soaking gunny sacks in a tub of water. If they had to escape the fire, they would wrap themselves in the gunny sacks and race to Bull River to wait out the fire. As the fire closed in on ranger station, it shifted direction and swept up Pilik ridge sparing their home.

All peculiarities in grammar and punctuation, as well as omissions of articles, have been faithfully reproduced. After that announcement, even if I did have a small typo of my own, you’ll never know, will you?

We turned out to have one more incident. I guess it could be called an adventure, if by adventure you mean working really hard, getting filthy, and not having any fun. Jack had two pallets that had arrived for delivery on the 28th. Ironically, although people all around the world know what I was doing the 28th, our delivery driver had no clue, nor did any of the townspeople he asked.

Today the pallets were in Glendive, and the driver was just going off shift when we passed through. What could be more perfect? (A lot of things, let me tell you!!!) We had to offload the back half of the trailer, slide one pallet on, unwrap the other pallet and stack the little boxes all over, and then figure out how to fit all the other stuff back in. Not to brag, (ok, to brag a little), I could have fit in even more stuff, if we had more stuff to put.

We ate supper, and Jack drank a whole root beer (Henry Weinhart’s, no less), but only saved me one tiny sip. “Because it’s your birthday,” he beamed as he handed me the empty bottle.

Two hours from old,
Noni Beth

PS We just got home, and they burned down the town while I was gone. 

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