Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Musings from my morning walk in Grouse Creek

I must’ve hiked in the Rock Quarry in Grouse Creek hundreds of times. The first time I came to Grouse Creek was when I married my husband, and he took me there. The sandstone dugouts and formations were used to quarry stone for the 1910 house that belongs to my husband’s family, and the bigger house, they used to own when my husband was a little boy. The stone was used to build the school, and the church that was torn down in about 1983. When I first hiked to the quarry, I thought it was the highlight of an otherwise drab little town in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t know then, that the town, the church, the school, the people, the landscape, and the lifestyle would dig deep into my being and become a part of me. I didn’t know then, that I would eventually write three novels set in the town. (More to come—hopefully.)

This morning I hiked to the quarry once again and thought about the times I had hiked there with my children when they were only three and seven—and that was 27 years ago. My husband had taken a teaching job, teaching students from K-10 with another Carol(e) Warburton—not me—believe it or not. She is older than I am and taught with my husband for one year before moving away from this town. I already had a teaching contract, so waited until the next year to join my husband and take over for the other Carol(e) Warburton. (She doesn’t have an “e” at the end of her name.) I inherited her PO box because I had to wait for one to open up, so for the five years we lived in Grouse Creek at only twenty-eight years old, I got her AARP mail and everything else that the postmaster couldn’t forward. Now I get AARP mail legitimately.

The school kids called me the new Carole Warburton, and they called her the old Carol Warburton. Now here we are back. Mick is feeling the difference of his years this time around. Youth does have advantages when it comes to challenges and energy levels. But then again, I’m reminded of the many sturdy and courageous men and women who have at one time or another called Grouse Creek home. The town and the landscape and the difficulty of living seventy miles from a real grocery store, doctors, and other necessities make a difference. This morning as I made my way to the rock quarry, stumbling over stones, cactus, brush, and climbing up hills and through washes, I thought about one amazing woman, over ninety years old who just led this hike with two primary age girls in tow. Now that is brave.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Connecting at the Cabin

In 1960 our grandpa built a cabin one mile outside the North East entrance to Yellowstone. He's the one of the right side on the back row. Our grandma is right below him. I'm on the middle row on my mother's lap--third from the left. I'm blowing bubbles. My dad is right above my mom. He along with the other men in the family helped work on the cabin. My dad built the fireplace inside. A bunch of these great people died before they reached old age.
The Family
Grandpa and Grandma got to enjoy the cabin each summer for about seven years. Grandpa used to pile us into the back of an old jeep and bump down a dirt road to the edge of the mountain where there was an open dump. We would wait stock still and when the sun began to wane, bears would emerge from the trees to rummage through the discarded piles of food. It was wondrous. We often would walk to the Soda Butte and wade into the frigid water and I would attempt endlessly to skip rocks like my Aunt Carole showed me. She's the one with the cat on her lap. We played card games at night and roasted marshmallows.

Grandpa died in Yellowstone. He and Uncle Arky, his son-in-law (third from right back row) were fishing at the confluence of the Lamar River and the Soda Butte. Grandpa caught his limit, waved to Arky, and dropped over. Arky tried to do CPR, but to no avail. The cabin lost it's charm for Grandma, who only went a time or two after her husband's death. She lived over thirty years longer without him. I don't think he could have known at the time, how much his cabin in the woods would be loved for generations to come. Grandpa was 67. My dad died of cancer and he was only 56. My Uncle Richard (back row, first on left) died of a heart attack--not sure how old he was, but not old enough. And my Uncle Dick, next to Grandpa (his son) died in his 60's. Four cousins in this photo died before they reached the age of 50. The cabin helps me to remember experiences I've had with each of these relatives that are gone. If there's anything that can connect a family like this cabin, then I don't know what it is. 

I just got to spend a few days with two of my cousins that I barely knew as a child. They are both nearly seven years younger than I am. And though that isn't much now, it was a lot when we were young. I've probably only seen them in person only a handful of times, but it felt like I was with life-long friends who share common bonds, one of them being the love a cabin that grandpa built. Our memories of the place are different, but we reminisced about family times, our grand parents, the lost years, our philosophies, our different struggles, and dreams. Because of the nearly constant rain, we spent a lot of time playing games, talking and laughing. In fact, I don't know when I've laughed as much as I did in my four days with my wonderful cousins.
The cabin grandpa built with the help of my dad and uncles. 

We had to laugh because our ice cream matched our outfits. 

view from the cabin window with bison in the meadow

A big laugh to see the girl from Montana in the middle with only a T-shirt. 

Again dressed as we should be Montana T-shirt, Utah Sweater, and California parka. 

We thought it would be fun to post this so our relatives could guess who was having a great time.