Did I ever tell you the one about how I got here? I mean how I actually ARRIVED here in a physical sense? Danish Cowboy and I crossed paths in Missoula on a perfect December evening. Come January, he had convinced me to make the trek from the peaks to the prairies to get a glimpse of his lifestyle. I obliged. After all, he owned a horse. How bad could he be? As I sat in my Missoula apartment daydreaming up the mountainside, he proceeded to give me directions. "Just get on Montana 200 and follow it east forever. And be careful in Great Falls. They have stop lights there. Be sure to stop if they turn red. Keep driving forever through Lewistown and then keep driving some more. Then, turn right at the tree."
"Yeah, you can't miss it."
"You mean like A tree? THE tree? Just one tree?"
"Yes, turn right at the tree."
Clearly my knowledge of prairie biology at that time was minimal.
(No, this picture is not upside down. I was looking up, up, up!)
This should have been my sign, my hallelujah moment if you believe in such things, the initiative I needed to end this ordeal. Guess what? It wasn't! So, during one my stupider moments in life, I packed up my little pick-up and drove 450 miles across a state that I had only lived in for five months, in the middle of a Montana winter, on icy roads, to spend the weekend with someone who was technically still a complete stranger. But if you recall, I had discerned in one of my first questions to him ever, that he had a horse. He couldn't be all that bad, right? I mean, horse owners aren't serial killers or anything, are they?
It became fairly crystal clear to me as I was driving along that evening that I was about to experience a whole new world. Yes, the trees dimished greatly in number due to soils and climate as I proceeded east and yes, I cherish the few trees that surround our our farmyard and am in a constant state of tree planting come April of each year. However, when I stepped out of my pick-up that first night and the words Big Sky Country came to life, I knew this was where I belonged, trees or no. The stars, oh how the stars shone! I'll never forget standing under that sky for the first time with a complete stranger and feeling so at peace. So if you want to experience this beauty and this grandeur, just turn right at the tree. The prairie is waiting.