Tales of Archaeology, 97% true.

Go! Go!

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The Ridge

I recently was doing a survey in Montana and needed to visit a small valley and a spring surrounded by some formidable slopes.  The best way in was up a creek bed running through a coulee.   Problem was, after several hours of knocking on doors and talking to locals, I couldn’t find the landowner or anyone who knew (or more accurately was willing to share) anything useful.   Regardless of legal technicalities, folks in Montana generally disapprove of people on their land without permission, and my client certainly does not like to upset the neighbors.  As late afternoon approached, I decide to go ahead and walk in.  While there was a field road, walking in is not quite as aggressive as driving in (and opening and closing multiple gates).

The walk was about a mile and a half, and after a bit I came to the top of the final ridge before descending into the coulee.   Looking down I could see two boys ahead, about halfway between me and a cattle trough.  The older one (maybe 9) was on foot, and the younger (maybe 7) was driving in circles on an ATV.  They looked up and saw me on the ridge.  I must have been a sight with the sun at my back, hat on my head, a backpack covered with lots of pouches, one trekking pole held horizontally in my hand (it was easy walking so far), and another pole attached to my pack, sticking up above my head like an antenna.  As I got closer, the older boy stood still, watching me.  As soon as he could see me clearly, he yelled “Go! Go!” to his brother, and took off running to the trough.  The younger boy quickly followed and passed his brother with the ATV.  So far, so good. . . .

A few minutes later I was close enough to see 3 people at the trough.   Sitting on a stump was the boys’ mother, each child wrapped by an arm and pulled close to her sides.  As I approached her I said, “Sorry to bother you, I’ve been looking for someone to ask for permission to walk through here to the spring.”  The woman looked at me and the sweat and the dust and said, “I’m not alone.  My husband is right over there in the brush.  You can’t see him, but he is there.”  This clearly was not going well.   I dropped to one knee about 8 feet away so she wouldn’t have to look up to see me.  I explained what I was doing, that I had visited the neighboring ranches, and asked who I might talk to get permission.

She said, “It’s my brother’s land, but you have to ask my husband.”

“He’s up the trail in the brush?”

“Yes he’s there.  You can’t see him from here.”

“Thank you. Sorry to bother you and the boys.   I’ll go see him.”

And so I wandered up the trail, and found her husband.  As I was talking to him, his wife came up the trail with both boys on the ATV.   She asked her husband if he had found the bull.  He said “not yet.”  I shared that when I was on top of the mountain earlier I could see a bull hanging out by the spring.  That changed the tone, permission was granted, the wife told me it’s not safe to be wandering in there alone, and she asked three times if I was sure I had enough water.

Another successful venture, and no more excitement, until I met the Pale Rider farther up the trail.  Maybe I’ll post that story next.

The Trough


Written by Richard Rothaus

September 28th, 2011 at 2:00 am

Posted in Children,Montana