April 2010


Yesterday, we spent much of our day without power, watching the snow furiously fall.  It was still coming down when I went to bed, piling up one flake at a time, giving us well over two feet in total accumulation.

But today, the day dawned clear and fresh and clean, the white masking the sad lawn.

One part of me wanted to follow the dogs out into the yard to make snow angels and revel in the moisture that will hopefully help the bees make a big honey crop in August.  The other part of me didn’t want to let the dogs out to mar the beauty of the snow – I longed to preserve its perfect layers of meringue and fondant, without a knife mark marring it, for as long as I could.  But a five month old puppy can’t be held back, and the dogs bolted from the garage into the yard, their playful dance creating an imperfect scene of beauty that amused me.

Despite the depth of snow in our long, uphill driveway, Honeydew had to go to town to meet with a contractor.  He spent most of the morning dealing with this:

But as morning melted into afternoon, the sun came out and gave Honeydew a hand.

And by evening time, the sun had done such a number on the snow that the pathetic lawn emerged once more.

And then this happened:

And that, along with reconciling five different checking accounts, negotiating new health insurance, dealing with five sticky loads of laundry, a phone conference with opposing counsel, paying bills, catching up on correspondence, and labeling honey, was my day.  I hope yours was good, too.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.

Ever since Honeydew and I returned from California, we’ve been going pretty much full speed ahead, wheeling and dealing with bankers, contractors, and wholesalers; introducing our dogs to each other; and reconnecting with our marriage.  Earlier this week, we decided to work without ceasing and then take a little personal time on Friday night to go camping together.  Yes, we reasoned, we’ll squeeze every ray of sunshine out of each day until then.  Ready, steady, go!

The best laid plans, right?  Last night, we watched the weatherman chatter about a winter storm warning.  Imbued with the confidence in having Honeydew home, I scoffed at the weatherman.  I packed up the truck with 6 cases of honey to deliver and all the materials I needed for a mediation in Great Falls.  At about 10pm, the snow arrived.  I deepened my sneer and went to bed.  At 4am, I woke to the sound of the fax machine cutting on and off as the power blinked.  I staggered to the window and noted a few inches of snow, but nothing insurmountable.  At 6am, I ground coffee, shampooed, and stepped into my good black suit and my pearls, ready to get down to business in Great Falls, three hours south and east of Glacier County Honey World Headquarters. I even blew my hair fully dry and touched the ends with a curling iron.  This is big for me.

The snow kept coming, but Honeydew had promised to drive me to Great Falls, so I didn’t worry.  At 8am, Honeydew started the truck, and I waded through eight to ten inches of heavy snow and got in.  He punched her through the deep drifts in the driveway that definitely would have stopped me and then eased the truck out onto Highway 464.  And the world simply went colorless.  There was no blue to the sky, no yellow to the lines on the road, no brown to the fences, no green to the reflector posts lining the highway.  I couldn’t tell up from down.  It reminded me of skiing through an inversion, something I do not enjoy and will not do unless absolutely necessary.  Makes me dizzy, gives me vertigo.

But with Honeydew at the wheel, I swallowed my Southern fears and got busy checking e-mails on my Blackberry, trying to avoid looking outside of the car.  His voice cut through my Twittering about fifteen minutes into our journey. “You know, maybe this isn’t such a good idea.  Do you really want to risk life and limb for this mediation?”  I was somewhat astounded.  Honeydew, a native of Glacier County, is never stopped by the weather.  He laughs at my fear of getting stuck in six inches of snow.  If he was even beginning to question the safety of our journey, I was jumping out of the plane, pulling the string on the parachute, and maydaying for help.

And so we aborted our mission to Great Falls, turned the truck around (by far the scariest 90 seconds I’ve had recently, with zero visibility and the question in our minds of the snowplow’s location), and crept back down the endless hill to our house.  Honeydew’s knuckles were not his normal shade of tan.  I had my eyes closed most of the way.  We found the turn to our dirt road and missed the ditch only because Honeydew is a professional driver.  I’m always happy to see Hillhouse when I pull into the driveway, but today it felt like a sanctuary.  I called the client and the lawyer and the mediator and cancelled.  Then I checked the road map and discovered that we should never have been out on Highway 464 anyway – the roads were closed!  And, as I write this at 5:45pm mountain time, they still are – red means closed:

Here are some scenes from our day:

We lost power, so we walked outside to restock the woodbox and inspect our yard.  This is the hot tub.

Roy and his Alpha playing in the snow.  California boy Roy has discovered that he very much likes snow.

After playing in the snow, we discovered we’d locked ourselves out of our house.

And then when we dug out our extra key, the key froze in the lock to the door.

This is our roof, about 6pm mountain time.

Then we all took naps.  Again, how does Roy sleep like this?

Bucky Boy.  A moment of respite from the needy puppy.

Honeydew, catching up on beekeeping journals.

I started this post at 5:45pm mountain time, and then Honeydew make elk fondue.  I’m finishing it up at 8pm mountain time.  A load of snow just crashed off the roof and I walked outside to see if the furnace ventilation pipe is still in one piece, through two feet plus of snow … and it’s still snowing.  Will post updates tomorrow, if we have juice!

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

When I was not quite nineteen, I loaded up my 1993 GMC Jimmy with Dixie Chicks CDs, straight leg faded jeans, Bonne Belle lipsmackers, and Sarah Clowerpower Hailey, and drove across the country to work for “St. Mary The Resort at Glacier,” at the east entrance of Glacier National Park, in St. Mary, Montana.

Clowerpower’s parents and my mom grew up together in Georgia, and as life has it, Clowerpower and I did not grow up together, but did both decide to matriculate at the University of Georgia in the fall of 1998.   Our parents insisted that we room together in the dorms, despite the fact that we had only met once before, when we were toddlers.  Clowerpower and I spoke to one another on the phone about this prospect, and agreed to the idea, though we later confessed to one another that we had each held deep doubts about our compatibility.  I thought she would be a spoiled brat, a doctor’s daughter who knew nothing about football, cows, or horses.  She thought I would be an absolute redneck who knew too much about cows and horses.  As it turned out, she didn’t know a whole lot about football, though she picked it up quickly, and I did know entirely too much about cows and horses.  I taught her how to mix the perfect pre-game mimosa, and she taught me not to go out on Friday nights in Athens, Georgia, in my Wranglers.  By December, we were more sisters than roommates, and she remains one of my very closest friends, the kind you choose as your family.

At any rate, we arrived in St. Mary, Montana, in early May of 2000.  She went to work in the gift shop, hocking tacky bronze casts of anatomically incorrect grizzly bears to unsuspecting tourons, and I went to work in the coffee shop, rising early to dispense cappuccinos, lattes, and “advice” to unsuspecting tourons.  Among my favorite questions about Glacier National Park that summer were:

When do the deer turn into elk?

When do they turn the waterfalls off?

Where do they put the animals at night?

Where do I buy a ticket to the Going-to-the-Sun ride?

Summer 2000 St. Mary’s Crew

Perks of my job included all the caffeine I could consume (not necessarily a bad thing, considering the late hours we kept that summer, as we reveled in throwing bonfire parties down on the St. Mary river, meeting all the other twenty-somethings working in and around Glacier); all the fudge I could consume (definitely a bad thing); and being off work around 1pm each day (best schedule ever!).  Glacier summer days hold their daylight until 1opm and beyond, and so I had huge afternoons with which to hike and climb and play.  A repeat summer employee introduced me to the delights of Lost Lake in late June.

Lost Lake is located just off the Going-to-the-Sun Road, though it is mercifully unmarked, and as I understand, has served as a summer playground for generations of park employees.  It is small and fed by springs, and is one of the few lakes in Glacier to warm up just enough to allow for swimming in parts of July and August.    By mid-July, I had purchased an air mattress to float on, and was frequently found after work lolling on Lost Lake, reading, writing in my journal, sunbathing, and drinking cold beer with my new found Glacier friends.  Some of these friends are still mine, ten summers later.

I’ve returned to Glacier every summer since 2000, some years to work, some to play, and now I live here, so my afternoons at Lost Lake are many.  I believe it was in the summer of 2006 that I took my parents to Lost Lake, hoping the water would be warm enough to take a dip in, to relieve the heat of the day.  As I was preparing to dive in, a pretty young park ranger appeared in the woods.  I recognized her as Katie, the local beekeeper’s daughter, with whom I had once worked at Thronson’s General Store (“if we ain’t got it, you don’t need it”) in Babb.  Katie told me that I could not get in, that a rare snail had been discovered making Lost Lake its preferred home, and that swimming had been outlawed.  I was speechless and quite sad that my sunny afternoon had just dried out.  But of course I was not going to argue with the lady ranger.

And it’s a darn good thing I didn’t, because that pretty ranger is now my sister-in-law.  I married her handsome youngest brother last year.

I got to thinking about the strange cards life deals us when I walked to Lost Lake earlier this month.  I posted pictures of our hike there and back, but I didn’t post the pictures I took of our picnic at the lake.  I wanted to take a few weeks to pull them up nightly on my computer, staring at the little beach I spent so many afternoons on, remembering all the different folks I shared sack lunches and PBRs with, before I posted them.  Now that I’ve sifted through my memories, it’s time to share, because I know I am not the only person out there on the internets who fell in love for an afternoon, busted her knee open, and tried to stand up on Lost Log with ten other summer folk at Lost Lake.

That snail that has ruined my summer fun is a capshell limper.  According to this posting, Lost Lake is thought to be the only location in the United States where it is relatively abundant.

That’s all quite lovely, but I feel certain that the capshell limper has the shakes from the dearth of PBR not being spilled into Lost Lake every summer.  Cheers to you if you’ve contributed to its addiction!

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Because it’s the 27th day of the month, and because I miss him, I present to you, Howard:

Picture taken at Charlie’s, in actual-Babb, Montana, Summer 2004.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.

I grew up in a place where Smokey and The Bandit is known as “the Gone With The Wind of Henry County.”  According to my parents, Smokey and The Bandit sold out every theatre in Henry County, Virginia (home of the Martinsville Speedway), every weekend for as long as it played on the big screen.  I believe them (1) because they are my parents, (2) because it just flat out makes sense that a racin’ community would fall muffler over tailpipe for a love story played out in a souped up Pontiac Firebird Trans Am and (3) because a quick check of Wikipedia reveals that Smokey and The Bandit was the second highest grossing film of 1977, beaten out only by Star Wars.  Growing up, my brothers and I loved Smokey and The Bandit every bit as much as we loved The Dukes of Hazzard, and that is saying something.

And so I suppose that it is not shocking that I grew up and married a man with a commercial driver’s license, who knows how to drive rigs of all sizes, from the big rigs to the 2 tons to the 1 tons to the 4 wheelers.  Who once dropped a motorbike through a frozen pond, not far from the house where he grew up.  Who can speak the language of engines as fluently as I can speak about syntax.  Who, unlike every other boyfriend I ever had, was not particularly impressed that I knew how to change my own oil.  And who, while we were truckin’ our bees home together over the weekend, kept me entertained over the radio by rewriting the lyrics to that most beloved of truckin’ songs, from Smokey and The Bandit.  Here’s what we came up with, somewhere in Idaho:

Jerry Reid’s East Bound and Down transformed into the Glacier County Honey Company’s North Bound and Down

North bound and down, loaded up and truckin’

we’re gonna do what they say can’t be done

we got a large load of bees

and honey that’s sure to please

we’re north bound just watch those bee trucks roll …

Keep your foot hard on the peddle … wife, never mind them brakes

let it all hang out cause we’ve got a run to make

The bees are restless in Californ-ia, and there’s flowers in Montan-ia

And we’ll truck ’em north no matter what it takes

North bound and down, loaded up and truckin’

we’re gonna do what they say can’t be done

we got a large load of bees

and honey that’s sure to please

we’re north bound just watch those bee trucks roll …

Old Smokey’s got them ears on, he’s hot on your trail

and he ain’t gonna rest ’till you’re in jail

So you gotta dodge him, you gotta duck him

You’ve gotta keep that diesel truckin’ …

just put that hammer down and give it hell

North bound and down, loaded up and truckin’

we’re gonna do what they say can’t be done

we got a large load of bees

and honey that’s sure to please

we’re north bound just watch those bee trucks roll!

This is the 1 ton Chevy diesel and the 2 ton GMC Topkick, just before we loaded up.

And this is the 2 ton, loaded with 200 hives of bees and 1 forklift.

And the 1 ton, where Roy Rogers and I passed many happy hours together.  I learned that Roy, like his mistress, does not care for heavy metal or hard rock, but he does really like 90s on 9, oldies, and classic country.  You should have seen us doing The Humpty Dance together on I-15.  But I’m really glad you didn’t.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

I don’t know what is “normal” for newlyweds, but I doubt that trucking one forklift, 200 hives of bees and a Lab/Golden Retriever puppy from Palo Cedro, California, to near Babb, Montana, Bride in the 1 ton truck, Groom in the 2 ton truck, is something your “average” newlyweds do.  Thirteen hundred miles and forty-eight hours later, Bride, Groom, Puppy, Bees, Trucks, and Forklift are all safely home.

Upon arrival to Hillhouse, Honeydew’s sharp eyes immediately noted that our loons are back … I got a bit teary over his announcement, and ran to unpack my camera.  Loons mate for life, and during our wedding ceremony, one flew over head and called out brilliantly.  I do not find this coincidental, but deeply symbolic.

Aren’t they beautiful?

Floating about on Gretchen’s Mirror.

Thankfully, the loons didn’t seem to mind Roy Rogers making himself at home … and checking out his new home.  He immediately got into the Mirror, and then wrestled with the lawn for quite a while as he dried off.

One loon lover took a big ole spring stretch that Honeydew captured with the camera:

I love to see their spots.

I wish I could describe the call a loon makes … I’ve heard it described as the sound of wilderness, and I agree.  But there is something silver in the sound too, something that shimmers down your spine and holds a tete-a-tete with your heart, telling it that there is greater love than even Shakespeare wrote about, that some love is too magnificent for human language.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Like any pair who’ve been together for a few years in the digital age, there are many, many pictures of Honeydew and I.  And before today, I would have been happy to see exactly four of them posted on the internets: the picture of us laying together in the hammock, the July day we decided it was love; the engagement photo Tom took of us the following December; the formal wedding shot Tom took of us the July after that; and the snap Brother Dear got of us on our way to a Christmas party, this past December.

This is not to say that I don’t treasure each and every shot of us sweating like pigs, sticking to each other during honey extracting season; dirt streaked, wind blown, and exhilarated on top of peaks in Glacier; and happy in our Saturday griminess.  I do.  But I find it odd enough to share this much of my life on the internets, and I would prefer to at least put my best face forward to … whomever it is that reads this blog.

Anyway, there are now five pictures of Honeydew and I that I approve of for the internets – here we are on our way to the Glacier County Honey Company end-of-pollination-queen-grafting-splitting-shaking-season Thank You Dinner:

Thanks to Sharon for proving that we really do shower, every now and again.  And especially thanks to the extended Park/Park-Burris/Libbee/Wooten/Stayer/Wooters families, for all the help, and love, this season.  We couldn’t do it without y’all, and even if we could, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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