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Pryor Mountain Camp


This is what I look like with a toothache.

August 17, 2017

Camping in Pryor Mtns on federal land is legal everywhere except the Big Ice Cave picnic area.  I had phoned the District Ranger who said there were no fire restrictions.  Actually, I spoke to a nice young lady who advised us to have a good time.

Those who particularly love the Pryors ask us regular people not to drive around looking for a campsite.  P. and I had driven up a couple times in the last couple weeks to scout things out.  We found a much used (and loved) primitive site in a couple acre stand of lodgepole pine some distance from the main road, yet near enough to walk to the road to play stickball with lodgepole pinecones pitched to Todd and Sus’ preteen boys.  If they hit the cone to a distant place a fielder could take a cone from her pocket and throw the runner out.  The boys did all the batting, Todd did the pitching, Sus and I did the fielding.  Our Brussels Griffon, Gunther, did the chasing.  He had an excellent time, judging from his body language.  P. preferred to cheer us on.  Until I got tired and joined her.

We spent a chilly night, the six of us, crammed into a Kelty® four-person tent.  I had a toothache and nobody brought any medicine, except the wine, which I drank copiously.  There were seven of us in the tent, counting Gunther.  Most said they slept poorly, but after Cyrus read to us, everyone was quiet.

It was dark.  The slight breeze was cold, me trying to pee in the wee hours against a tree.

Todd gave up his place in the tent early, asleep about 10 feet away.  He was the last to sleep and the last to rise.

We ate hotdogs and hamburgers for supper and farina for breakfast.  Then we packed up for a day of hiking.  Cyrus and Roland wanted to scale Big Pryor Mountain, a trail up a couple thousand feet of more than a dozen switchbacks.  P. and I lagged behind and, losing courage, started back down perhaps 500 feet from the top.  (P. felt nauseated, I had that toothache, the excuse I used.)  The real reason: I was tired.  Gunther, ever the optimistic one, scampered to the top with the youthful Struckman-Gaunt contingent.  They investigated Crater Ice Cave at the top and the boys managed to climb out of the cave through the crater.  Crater I.C. has two entrances, one to the side.  Sus took photos.

Back down, Gunther crawled under a car for shade after drinking water and eating a carrot, a favorite snack.

We checked the fireplace where we camped to make sure the fire was completely out.  It was.  Then we returned the way we came, on Sage Creek Road.

In Bridger we stopped at the Arcade Bar, Grill, and Ice Cream Parlor for cones.  Cyrus had a root beer float.  Gunther had a drink of water.

The boys wanted to play at the park when we returned home.  I was too tired to unpack the car.  I was five minutes late calling the dentist’s office that closed at five.  P. still felt ill.  Heather and Olivia Struckman arrived in the night.  They simply let themselves in and went to bed.  This morning Cyrus made Finnish pancakes.

Today my toothache was much less and P. felt well enough for a trip to the fair with the irrepressible youth.  Last time I looked all the camp gear was in the garage.

In search of Buddy


A person my mother called “Buddy” was a sort of faceless presence to me, a five-year-old, at bedtime with my mother perched on the edge of the bed to help me say my prayers.  Buddy was a mystery, but mother said he was an amy man.  A good one.  A first class private in the army who left for the war but did not return.  I was willing to leave his story untold because Buddy’s story had been eclipsed by a more compelling one.  After all, my father had recently gone — died of cancer — and he would not return either.  Both of these losses were significant for mother, but only the loss of my father made me weep in the darkness before I fell asleep.  I was merely fascinated with army men like Buddy.  That was to change, albeit many years later.

I have sought to “find” both men throughout my life and I ended up writing about them.  My way was collecting the information, organizing it.  Seeking the information I lacked.

I felt a deep connection with my father years later, after having turned 21 years old, when I was alone in a jail cell in Millington, Tennessee.  My father’s written words came to me and frightened me.  I feared his life, perhaps even some important mother’s love, had been wasted on me.  In the darkness of jail, disembodied voices taunted me like those of Otis Penty’s in my father’s story, “Night of the Pig.”  I feared I had entered a black country without a story to tell.

Ultimately I got out of jail and learned how to tell a story in the black country of Tennessee.  I wrote a biography of my father who was a writer and left reams of material for me to sift through, organize, and carefully read.

I never did finish learning about Buddy, who it turned out, was my mother’s little brother, the one who mysteriously vanished in the war.

Unlike father, I never did meet Buddy.  I didn’t even know his proper name for many years.  Buddy died four years before I was born.  Oh, the army said he died, but they started out telling my grandparents that he had gone missing in action.  I learned about Buddy from small clues, bits of information that my cousins and I sorted through in the dead of night when we stayed at our grandparent’s house on the edge of Kalispell, Montana.  We played with a Boy Scout flashlight, canteen, and photography equipment Buddy had left behind him.  Buddy left traces of his high school career:  some clothing, a rifle, his junior year annual.  He left a shotgun shell collection and a lot of fishing tackle.  We cousins found a photograph of him with an army unit.  We could tell which one was Buddy because someone had circled his head with a pencil and you could see the indentation if you looked at the picture at the correct angle.

Do you need a CPAP device for sleep?

Photo on 4-28-17 at 11.22 AM

August 6, 2017

At 8:30 p.m., through the St. Vincent emergency entrance I carried my pillow, my pajamas, and a book (Adrian Mole:  The cappuccino years).  I had instructions to take elevator A to the hospital third floor, then turn left, well, I knew I would be close. Signs pointed the way to the sleep study department.  Through a door and into a short hallway a friendly black face greeted me through a half-closed door.  I greeted a nurse, “I’m Dan Struckman.  I’m here for an appointment.” She answered, “You sure are.  Here’s your room.”

I expected a hospital bed.  Instead, there was a queen-size bed with the covers turned down and four long wires with electrodes in an array.  The bedside table, a standard issue hospital kind, had too many wires and electrodes to count, various colors.  Hanging on the wall was a 5-inch plastic device shaped like a head sporting an array of holes — to accommodate the electrodes, I thought.

The nurse returned and invited me to change into my pajamas, then I was to crack the door of my room to signal my readiness.

I sat in a bedside chair and waited.  And waited.  I read my book.  I lost interest in my book.  I spied a questionnaire on a clipboard labeled “Pre-sleep questionnaire.”  I filled it out completely.  Then I waited.

Then an amplified, mysterious voice from an unseen speaker asked me to look to my left so she could take my picture.  She asked me to smile.  I didn’t disappoint her with my million dollar smile, as I turned my face toward a black ball on the ceiling.

After waiting another interminable time I moved the wires and got in bed, kicking my feet between the sheets.  I decided she had forgotten me.

When the nurse re-entered the room, finally, she invited me to sit back in the chair and she attached electrodes to perhaps six or eight places on my head, right on my hair, with a longish piece of tape holding.  She attached wires to my jaw to detect jaw clenching, she said.  She attached a device into my nostrils to detect mouth breathing, she gathered all of the wires and made a pigtail of the lot with a plastic sheath.  Last, she fastened electrodes to each leg, she said, to detect leg movements.

She chatted amiably the whole time she worked.  At last she had me lie down in bed, she turned off the lights.  The disembodied voice asked me to look up, down, side to side, wiggle my feet, open and shut my mouth, and make a snoring sound.  Then she asked me to simply speak to her if I needed to use the bathroom or anything.  It was dark.

I’m used to sleeping in a straight line, so I lay down and thought about girlfriends, old and new.  I think I fell asleep and woke up with cold legs and feet, so I asked the nurse out loud for another blanket.  Instantly the door opened and she brought in a blanket.  She fastened a device to my nose that blew air constantly.  If I opened my mouth air blew out, so she wrapped an ace wrap under my chin and over the top of my head to keep it shut.

After a long time I had to use the bathroom, so I told her aloud.  Again, the door opened instantly and she unhooked the wires.  She offered to let me stay up because it was 5:30 and wakeup time was 6.  I opted for the half-hour of sleep.  I was surprised the night was nearly over.

She told me that I had snored and was prone to shallow breathing.  She said they would fax a supplier a prescription for a CPAP nose contraption to correct my sleep time breathing.

The nurse said I would need a CPAP if I was prone to snoring, if I had periods when I stopped breathing, or if my sleep was disrupted by another trouble breathing so that I couldn’t sleep soundly.  She said astronauts and pilots have to have sleep studies, such as I had.  Poor sleep is associated with strokes and heart attacks, she said.

Crooked Creek Road in the Pryor Mountains


Crooked Creek Canyon

August 3, 2017

Today drove 80 miles from Billings up to the saddle between East and Big Pryor Mountains.  Took about two hours via Sage Creek Rd.

We checked feasibility of driving Crooked Creek Rd to return to Billings.  En route, stopped at side road called “Mill Hollow” and walked up about half mile.  Then we nearly lost our dog Gunther on an offshoot when he chased some angus and disappeared into the woods.  Ultimately, he responded to loud whistles and calls.  Returned, tags jingling.  Crooked Creek road was relatively well graded and wide, but man!  It was long.  I’m talking about 20 miles of crude dirt.  Of concern were several low places where rainwater may wash across the road, blocking it.

Turns out Crooked Creek adds significant milage (20 slow miles) if used to dismount from the Pryors.  We ended up at Cowley, Wyoming.  On the other hand, Crooked Creek road had scenery into the C.C. canyon that caused me to grip the steering wheel all the more tightly.  At one point I thought I was looking at a forest of castles of gigantic size.

The best use of the Crooked Creek access might be if Sage Creek  becomes impassable from heavy rainfall.  Part of that road has deep dusty dirt that can turn to gumbo given enough water.  A web place says that even four-wheel drive wouldn’t be adequate.  I believe that.  Another time P. and I had to turn back because a farm’s irrigation water made a muddy lake on the road.

The good news:  camping is permitted everywhere except at the Big Ice Cave picnic area. If need be, one can camp at Sage Creek campground, but the only shade is man-made shelters.  There is water, though, and vault toilets.

The better news:  in the saddle between the two Pryor mountains are a number of primitive campsites.  They are separated by an adequate amount of woods, yet close enough to be neighborly.

Gunther became dirty from wallowing in muddy tire tracks.  We washed him in a kiddy pool when we returned, using shampoo that smelled like bubble gum.

Kalispell, Montana, was young like Carl Bonde


August 1, 2017

Information is partly from Wikipedia:

With his own money, Charles Edward Conrad, a businessman and banker from Fort Benton, Montana, formed the Kalispell Townsite Company with three others.  Conrad may be called the daddy of Kalispell.

While spending part of my childhood with my grandparents I heard the Conrad name often.  Conrad National Bank.  The Conrad mansion.

Anyway, Conrad and his partners began selling lots in 1891 and  Kalispell was officially incorporated as a city in 1892.

Twenty-three years later in 1915, Carl Bonde Jr.’s father moved his wife and daughters from Buffalo, Montana, to Kalispell. Well, not exactly.  While Carl Sr. established their home in Kalispell he sent his family to live in Nerstrand, Minnesota, at the Bonde farm where he grew up.  Carl Sr. rented a house in Kalispell for him and his family while he worked for the Kalispell Wholesale Company.  Carl Sr. worked for the same company from 1915 until shortly before his death in 1958.  That was 53 years.

Since that time, according to the boastful article in Wikipedia, the city of Kalispell has continued to grow in population reaching 19,927 in 2010. As the largest city in Northwest Montana, Kalispell serves as the county seat and commercial center of Flathead County. The city is considered a secondary trade center with a trade area of approximately 130,000. 

The city also is home to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, which boasts a 150-bed facility.  My mother would have died there in 1976 if we hadn’t flown her to Salt Lake City.  Turns out she was moribund and we could have saved the trouble and expense of moving her.  Hospice services weren’t available then.

Nestled in the Flathead valley, Kalispell is 31 miles (50 km) from Glacier National Park and 22 miles (35 km) from Hungry Horse Dam. Skiers have access to Whitefish Mountain Resort on Big Mountain and Blacktail Mountain Ski Area each 17 miles (27 km) away. Flathead Lake is 7 miles (11 km) away.  Buffalo Hill Golf Club, designed by Robert Muir Graves,  serves the needs of golfers.  Elsewhere, in a Kalispell Chamber of Commerce website, someone describes Kalispell as a golfing destination with seven golf courses.  I can just see someone landing at the Glacier International Airport with his or her bag of golf clubs with a gleam in the eye.  “Free at last…”

Go see School of Rock at NOVA

I recommend seeing the local production of School of Rock at NOVA theater downtown Billings.  According to Dan Nickerson, a guy who builds sets and runs the summer theater camp, it has 27 youth.  Of course this could account for the ticket sales, robust.  You know, lots of parents, uncles, grandparents, like that.

You’d never guess the talent is local.  A little boy plays electric guitar like a pro.  A girl handles a Fender bass like she was born with it.  A remarkable drummer blasts away with combinations ending in the crash of cymbals.  I don’t know where they got Ned, the show’s star, but he, in his words, “kicks ass.”  Jordyn Armstrong was cast perfectly as the private school principal, cool, poised, sharp tongued.  She can sing.


(The picture accompanying this post came from an internet search.  However, you get the idea.)  Only the kids in the NOVA production were really young to be able to sing so lustily, and together, and to dance so freely in perfect synch.  The amount of work they did rehearsing was obvious.  No wonder the director was giddy when she gave a brief curtain speech.  I don’t remember her name, but I’m thinking people will be looking it up after they see the show.

The set was minimal and dark with a balcony for a “pit of musicians” who also looked young.  They helped round out the sound for such hit tunes as “Stick it to the man!”

There are only two performances remaining.  Tonight and a matinee tomorrow.

Dog and bookcase

July 26, 2017

Gunther usually follows me, but at a distance, first thing in the morning.  Either in front or behind, he always likes to stay 20-30 ft away.  Unless he encounters people with big dogs.  This morning three people walked two dogs across the street from our house.  A boxer and a labrador mix.  They were relatively young girls, so I hurried after G. who was growling and making the “play bow.”  I apologetically announced that G. likes big dogs, wants to play chase, then scooped him up.  The girls seemed relieved.

Moments later, after the girls had disappeared from my view, I put G. down on our driveway.  He promptly turned around and spied a person walking down the middle of the street.  G. barked at the hapless, apparently innocent stranger, so I scooped him a second time.  When I set G. back on the driveway he scurried to our back door.  I think he sees the futility in chasing people and dogs, I thought.

Becky wants me to make her a bookcase.  Seems easy enough, until I visit Lowe’s to check out possible materials.  No way to buy new wood for a bookcase for less than $150.  Of course, one ends up with a pretty nice piece of furniture.  However, I can get a flawless-looking one from Ikea, even larger than one I could make, for about $100.  But then it will have been made of particle board and will be heavy.

Decisions, decisions.  Before I decide, I’ll scope out the places that sell recycled furniture and building materials.

Then I’ll ask Becky to help me decide.