What I remember about Howard’s funeral: trying to sing America the Beautiful.  Seeing friends from high school I hadn’t seen in years and trying to act like I was at a cocktail party and not a funeral, trying to ask them about their husbands and their dogs and their cute shoes.  Trying not to cry.  Trying not to wail.  Trying.

A year later, when the worst of the storm had blown through and I was once again able to find peace in the breaking dawn, Brother Dear and I began trying to think of a way to honor Howard’s life.  We wondered aloud, how can we gather our friends together to remember our brother, in all his vivacity and beauty, without being sad?  And after a while, we decided to invite Howard’s friends, my friends, and Brother Dear’s friends out for a week of camping at Hillhouse, our home near Babb, Montana that is named for our brother.  Brother Dear wanted to call this week Hillhouseapalooza.  I wanted to call it Hillstock.  Both of us won.  Neither of us really had any idea exactly what we would do with our friends once they arrived in Montana.  But that very first year, introductions were made, new friendships blossomed, epic hikes were accomplished (by lots of folks who’d never been off the proverbial sidewalk, much less climbed a peak in Glacier National Park!), and Beer Olympics was born.  And Howard was remembered, mostly joyfully, by those who loved him best, and those who never met him.

August 27 will mark six years without Howard.   This past weekend marked the fifth Hillstock/Hillhouseapalooza.  Here’s how the first day, Friday, went this year:

There would be no Hillstock without Mama Stone.  Brother Dear and I have always known that we hit the Mother Jackpot, but this fact is emphasized for us during Hillstock.  Mom preps breakfast and dinner for 50.  And I’m not talking about buying some cereal and a couple jugs of 2%.  The woman serves us real grits, breakfast casserole (with and without sausage – she is always thinking of our vegetarian friends), hot ham biscuits, fruit, yogurt, and bacon.  And let’s not forget the 25 pots of coffee she brews.  Above, she’s slicing up real Virginia country ham for the biscuits.  Yum.

While Mom was working on biscuits, Brother Dear and I welcomed our guests who had flown and driven from South Carolina, Maine, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, and parts beyond by handing them each a coffee can of linseed oil and a paintbrush and telling them to get to work.  To our shock, they did not argue with us or call us terrible hosts (to our faces, anyway!) and they immediately got down to business.  And the every-other-year task of oiling our entire cedar home was accomplished in four hours, as opposed to the four days it generally takes us.  Thanks, y’all.  Above, PK and Anthony are on the scaffolding, working on the boards above the garage doors.

Pseudo Sister, Brother Dear, and myself worked on the patio.

Anthony even got up on the roof to soak the last couple of boards.  Thank you.

And when it was all over, some of us gathered for an oily picture.  Wouldn’t you love to be invited to a camping party, told you couldn’t shower at your hosts’ home because their well is decrepit, that you must drive eight miles south to shower at the KOA or Johnson’s, and then put to some of the dirtiest work around?  It’s amazing Brother Dear and I have any friends left!

But we had a plan to wash the oil off.  Tubing!  Here, Brother Dear ties down tubes, float tubes, and kayaks in Dad’s pickup.  Neil and Chase are supervising.

As are Pseudo Sister, Anthony, PK, and Stephanie.

There are no pictures of the tubing trip.  Because after we soaked our friends in linseed oil, then we froze them in the river.  And yet, Hillstock continued.  As will these posts, tomorrow.

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