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As Long as We Remember...

October 28, 2015

Learning a New Way of Life

Tom McLaughlin

Malta, Montana USA – We left Frederick after a whirlwind of activity, of visiting good friends, and accomplishing many necessary tasks. The storage locker was cleaned out and, as usual, it took much longer than I thought.


It seems everything I picked up brought back memories of long ago. I bequeathed all of it to my second daughter, with a tear and a smile.


We flew from BWI to Seattle to Great Falls via Alaska Airlines. I never knew the arctic concern flew to BWI let alone to Florida or other unusual posts. Hawaii made a sort of sense but still…. It was a good airline, as airlines go in the United States, filled to over flowing with the usual charges of $25 per bag and pleas for people to take a later flight because they were so overbooked.


We travelled the three hours across the Montana Prairie with its wide plains, hills in distance and black cows everywhere. It was a spectacular and welcome sight after the tropics of Borneo and forests of back east. The road was smooth and the gravel paths brought a sense of relief.


I have called this place the nursery of the cattle industry as the calves are born in the spring, put to pasture with their mums during the summer months and sold in the fall. My daughter and her husband had just sold their calves to the feed lots for a very high price, so be aware of exorbitant beef prices in the future. A good thing for them but a bad omen for the rest of America.


Rifle hunting had started for elk, deer and antelope and continues until after Thanksgiving. My son-in-law won a tag for shooting a male elk via lottery. There are very few issued for this animal. He shot an elk during the first day and was so proud of himself. I hate hunting in any form, but I had to keep my big mouth shut as it is way of life here on the Montana plains.


Two horses, Rocky and Duke ambled around the ranch. Rocky was tamed but Duke was in the process of being "broke." Cody would stand in the middle of a corral and run the horse around a circle clicking his teeth. Then he would reverse the horse and start again. The horse would argue and shake its head and sometimes rear up on his hind legs. However, Cody would keep at it for hours. The next step was to put a saddle on it and let the horse get used to something on his back. Then the trainer would climb on. The whole process took several months, or as time permitted.


I remember the old westerns of the 1950s where the cowboys would throw a saddle on the horse and ride the hell out of it until it was "broke." I guess they have more modern ways now and Cody is one of the best horse trainers in the area when he isn't working at the bank.


The bank is of the agricultural variety. People borrow money in the late winter to buy cows, have their cows put to stud or to plant their crops. They then pay it all back in early winter. Cows who need to be serviced by a bull can be quite expensive. Some bull services are over $1,000. The semen are called straws. I haven't figured out why yet, but I will let you know.


This week, we plan to visit the Gross Ventre and the Assiniboine tribes. I don't know how they fit into the scheme of the Native American population but will soon learn.


I want to know about their origins and to see if they compare with the legends of the peoples of Borneo since they came from the same stock. One part of the group went to Southeast Asia while the others went to America. A very, very long shot but worth a try. I will let you know next week.


...Life is good. . . . .


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