Big Sky

P1010193Black bears and porcupines are common yard pests on Chicken Ridge but Aki has never had a chance to bark at a deer walking past the house. I saw at least one deer each day of my visit to Montana wheat country.

P1010242A fine-boned whitetail doe spied on my sister and I while we wandered the ruins of an old brick factory, now pottery center, near Helena. I biked past a grazing mule deer and her sister near Missoula. On our last evening at the family ranch near Geraldine, we finally saw the little doe that had broken trails through the ranch’s shelter belt of Russian olives and other draught resistant plants.

P1010412The Montana prairie, so yielding to a wide sky, provides a good retreat place for rain forest dwellers but you have to dress in layers. It can rain hard or burn you during a heat wave.

P1010367In August, after harvest time, it’s all monochrome, stiff stubble. But last week we had sunny, warm days spiced up with afternoon thunderstorms. The still green wheat pushed to harvest height and the leaders of a tribe of prong horn antelope shepherded their young across the summer fallow.

P1010286In Fort Benton the old cottonwood trees along the Missouri River released down that floated across the red brick facade of the Grand Union Hotel, then gathered into drifts when the wind dropped. We saw deer there and along the two lane roads that climbed from the river to rolling wheat lands that appear to break like surf around Square and Round Buttes.

P1010267A porcupine scurried along the road as we drove away from the ranch our last day. I expected him to rise up and ask for a ride to Juneau, where the water rich plants in our yard would offer him a welcome break from the August drought to come.P1010458


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