Those early pioneers must have been exhausted.
I imagined being there. I wanted to so badly. To see this big sky state under the stars so bright. So many stars in the gigantic sky it was like looking up at the heavens filled with millions and millions of electric lights all glittering with energy and promise. I wanted to go there. So, I began to save my money. Every quarter dime nickel or penny I found earned or borrowed, I glued to the map of Montana on the poster board hanging from my wall. When Papa came into my room and noticed the change money on the map he asked what I was doing. I explained to him that I was saving for a trip to Montana. He then offered me a wonderful deal. He said that for every dollar I saved on the map he would match it and take me on a vacation to wherever the money would take us, as far as it would go.
Four months later school was letting out for summer vacation and nearly all the space on my poster board map of Montana was filled. At that point I was willing to do whatever it took to fill the map. I washed extra dishes, washed the car, did all the laundry, mowed the lawn, took out the trash every day and night with great enthusiasm which was highly unusual for me. My grandmother hired me to polish her white nursing shoes and my brother hired me to polish his black patent leathers. I raked leaves and cleaned out the fridge. Finally the board was filled up with enough change to hide all of the color in the background, which was purple, of course.
On Saturday, my father sat down with me at the kitchen table and carefully together we peeled off all of the change money and put it into neat little piles of dollars. Nearly the entire table was covered with change. Pop got out his huge stainless steel salad bowl and one by one counted off the piles of dollars as I recorded each one in my notebook and then placed the coins in the bowl. At the end of the count I had saved a total of $64.00. Not too bad, but even with Papa matching that, it was nowhere near enough money to get to Montana. I was disappointed and yet distracted by the offer of going on a trip to a more affordable vacation…all the way to San Francisco. San Francisco? The thought thrilled me only because I had been north in the past with my parents and I adored riding the cable cars and visiting the Fisherman’s Wharf. Although it paled in comparison to my Montana I thought the trip to San Francisco could be fun, and after all, I had worked very hard for it.
Our trip to San Francisco that summer was the stepping stone to a wanderlust within me that continues to thrive to this day. But it was the thought of Montana where the fire Originated. That seeded the burning desire, that grew to lust to witness God’s majestic work in the mountains the rivers the prairie land. As I grew and lived and experienced life as it should be, witnessed life in many forms textures angles and perspectives Montana slipped further and further away. Every once in a while though, when the national weather report would mention the current blizzard conditions in Montana due to an arctic front I would fondly remember sitting behind Eva Yamamoto in Saint Gerard’s Catholic School and I could still see in my minds eye Sister Carmel Mary standing at the head of the class holding that basket. I would shiver when images of frozen rivers and miles of snow covered wheat fields would appear on the television news cast. But to me it was so beautiful, those images, and still. So quietly still. When mentioned, when reminded, the fascination continued to tug away at my sense of adventure. And watching stories of the pioneers settling in the Montana prairie land in some old movie would stir my deep seeded admiration for the brave women who once paved the way for many more women to follow. My sensibilities always spoke to me when thoughts and fantasies of living in Montana would creep into my consciousness but buried in my heart remained a soft and gentle whisper luring me, teasing me and taunting me with an invitation to become…
…a new prairie woman.