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August 4, 2019: Being Flexible

I realized today that I’m a very inflexible person. Perhaps my having this realization will enable me to be more flexible. We left Indian Meadows Campground this morning with the intention of getting across the US border into Canada and spending the night in Alberta. We foresaw that the one snafu might be that Horse Health paperwork might not be at the Sweetgrass, Montana Post Office, general delivery.

We took our sweet time leaving Indian Meadows. We chatted for a long time with a couple who did a few day-long horse treks. They sold us three bales of hay for $15.00. And I found a nearby pile of hay, which was another two bales of grass hay that someone had left behind.

The bull and the other cows were curious about our horses.

Our first stop was nearby Lincoln, Montana, a place that acquired notoriety in being the home of Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber. The town librarian said that the library wasn’t open, but that we could access Wi-Fi outside the library, which we did. She also said that there was a community shower a short ways away. After checking our email, Pete went to get groceries and I went to check out the shower. It was free – hadn’t been cleaned in weeks – had to hold the push button down to get hot water. I later told Pete that I took a shower in the Ted Kaczynski Memorial Restroom.

We continued on, drove through the Northern Montana farm country. I went into the office in Sweetgrass and picked up the health papers. Amazingly, I wasn’t even asked for an ID.

By now it was quite hot – the plan was to cross the border and find a cool, shady place to camp. We got gas near the border crossing, at a near deserted place called MARS – and then we got in the border crossing line. A geeky customs officer – not even old enough to shave - -and wearing geeky glasses asked us a most unusual question, which was, what is our vehicle license plate number? We were unable to tell him this which was why we had to show him our vehicle registration. Right then, I had this thought that getting into Canada was not going to be possible on this particular day. Turns out I was right. We were told to park our vehicle in the nearby lot – there was no shade – I told Pete that we needed to make this quick – the heat was not good for the horses.

We entered what I called the Bad Karma building –there were a handful of clerks assisting the other unfortunates. A middle aged customs officer wearing horn rimmed glasses examined our paperwork then asked “Did you spend time in Wyoming?” I said “yes.”

The customs clerk then slid a piece of yellow paper in our direction. It indicated that there had been Vesicular Stomatitis (VS) outbreaks in several western states, including Wyoming. Reading this I gulped.

“You’ll have to meet with the Canadian veterinary inspector,” he said, adding that this day was a Canadian holiday and that we might catch him in at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. We didn’t argue with him or show that we were disappointed, which probably made him feel relieved. After all, it was 3:30 p.m. and close to his quitting time.

We left quickly and went through US Customs. The agent asked if we had any fruits or vegetables, but after we explained that we were being sent back to the US, he said never mind and waved us through.

We parked on a side road in Sweetgrass, the only place in the entire area with shade. We watered the horses, which were by now very thirsty. I sponged off their heads with cold water. Pete headed in the direction of a local bar, in hopes of getting a lead on a place we might stay. He returned with a huge John Denver-like smile on his face. The bar owner had put him in touch with a local rancher, and she said that she had a pen and pasture space available.

We came to a gravel road, drove a few miles on it. Within minutes we were literally surrounded by black cows of all sizes. Some were so close that I could reach out the window and touch their spittle.

We were greeted by a woman who said that we could either put the horses in a pasture or in a nearby round pen. We decided to put them in the round pen because we could better keep an eye on them. This was a wise choice. The panel enclosure was quite sturdy. Cows and a large chestnut horse, named Gumby, hung around the outskirts. One of the cows was a bull. He walked towards the enclosure and Raudi charged, chasing him off. I joked that in a previous life she was a cowboy’s ranch horse.

Glad to be here, amongst the ranch detritus, which includes an old Camaro car on a trailer. In the distance, lumpy green hills. Hazy sky, flat, flat, flat – and very hot. Behind me is an old barn that in winter now shelters calves. I took several photos. I would not want to live here – a place with harsh winters and hot summers – but I want it duly noted that I spent the night here.

Next: 215. 8/5/19: Going the Extra Mile

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