Sunday, August 25, 2013

Picture in Words

Since I still have no way of posting pictures from my camera, and therefore haven't bothered taking them, I finally decided to record in words what our new town looks like.

If you've never been west, it's foreign.  I'd never even seen the Mississippi River, so this was all completely new to me.  (Btw, I drove over the Mississippi. It wasn't impressive. Of course, it was also no bigger than a creek.)  And I'm told Western Montana is very different from here, but since I've only seen pictures I'll just have to take their word that there really is a reason this state's name means mountain.

The two main words to describe it are flat, and brown.

Now, I must admit, it's not as flat as I thought it would be.  There are these strange, round knobs all pushed together on the northern side of town.  They wouldn't even count as hills in Tennessee, but surrounded by flat they seem like hills.  The National Weather Service has a station up there, the church we're attending is up there, and there are some really expensive houses along this strange ridge-like cluster just west of town.  More on those houses later.

But with the exception of those, it's flat.  When you look towards the horizon, it's a long way away.  There are no tall buildings to obstruct the view. Very few trees unless you're on the riverbank.  You can see for miles and miles... and there's not much in those miles.  That's why the speed limit on the roads outside of town is 70mph; there is nothing to limit visibility so if you're willing to shake your vehicle to death from the bumpy roads it's safe to go fast.  And if you don't believe in giving your vehicle Shaken SUV Syndrome you can be passed on the extremely long dotted line stretches.
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It is just as brown as I imagined.  Oh, there are some green yards, but only if the owners water them.  And if you have a well, you can't water, so there's a lot of brown grass.  But a lot of the brown doesn't come from dead grass.  A lot of it is very much alive; around here, brown often means money.  The majority of land is farm land, and I'm guessing what is grown is wheat and hay.  It's definitely not corn and tobacco and soybeans.  There are many varieties of brown, but... it's still brown.

Even the river is brown.  The Milk River runs just south of town, but it's not your typical river, nor is it white like the name implies.  I don't recall if it was Lewis and Clark, (who came right through here; the main street through town is the Lewis and Clark Trail) or some other explorers, but whoever it was called it the Milk River because it looked like tea with a little milk in it.  It's really rather nasty looking, especially having just come from the shores of Lake Superior, with the bluest water I've ever seen.

And then there are the roads.  Which are also brown, for the most part.  See, in Montana, "road" has a broad definition. It may mean a smooth paved road.  It may mean a road full of holes, I guess because of the salt during the winter.  It may mean a gravel road, or a dirt road.  It may mean a washboard.

Here are two examples: just after we crossed the border from North Dakota into Montana, I saw a sign on Highway 2.  "Pavement ends"  There are quite a few of those signs here.  That sign didn't begin to describe what was ahead.  We came to a dead stop a mile or so after the pavement ended. Now, keep in mind that I don't drive on unpaved roads.  I have never had reason to drive on an unpaved road.  The South is not as uncivilized as people make it out to be.  While stopped, a lady in a hardhat came walking up the "road" talking to each car.  So I turned off Patty the Pilot and rolled down the window.  I was greeted by a "Welcome, Chattanooga, where is that?"  When I told her SE TN, she asked what brought us here, and I told her where we were moving, she assured me the road used to be paved, and would be again, and there was only about five miles of unpaved road that we would be escorted through before we reached pavement again.  And she ended with "Welcome to Montana!"  Great...

The other example was found while yard-saling Friday.  One of the very nice houses, I'd guess $250,000-500,000, was hosting a neighborhood yard sale with lots of kid stuff.  Unfortunately, in order to get there, I had to drive up one of those lump-knobs on a washboard gravel road.  I had a line of cars 4 deep behind me.  I apologized to the lady behind me who stopped to chat as we walked to the sale and explained that I was from TN where everything was paved.  She laughed and said she'd grown up on that kind of road so was used to them.

Clearly, the people are going to be what endears this area to me, not the scenery.  98% of the people I've met have been very nice, the drivers for the most part are understanding of the out of towners' wrong turns and prolonged blinker use since I'm not quite sure where my turn is.  Perhaps the snow that may appear as early as October and stick around till April will cover the brown and soften the lines of this new world outside my window.

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