In this, her second memoir, New Prairie Woman is Susie Rosso Wolf’s depiction of her journey from Los Angeles to the historical town of Three Forks, Montana. On these pages you will discover the grandeur of “The Last Best Place” through her writing, poetry and photography, the challenges of living in a twenty foot trailer in sub-zero temperatures and how love, perseverance, and the miracle of faith can lift a soul up from the depths of the deepest, darkest waters.
Born in Santa Monica, California, I was raised in the small bedroom community of Sunkist Park that borders Culver City, Playa del Rey, Mar Vista and Venice. I attended Venice High School, West LA Community College and California Institute of the Arts. My studies included English, English Literature, Poetry, Creative Writing, Choir, Classical Voice, Shakespeare, Musical Theater, Television and Film Acting and Art History. In 1980, I relocated to the Pacific Northwest and in 1982 I married Kurt Wolf in Corvallis, Oregon. During the course of our long journey together, I have remained devoted to not only my husband, but to my friends and family, and the arts. What defines me most is my passion for expression through art. I’m an avid reader, writer and poet.I also enjoy painting and photography. Additionally, some folks consider me a pretty good cook.
New Prairie Woman Susie Rosso Wolf Chapter Seven, con't
Our last few days visiting Robert and April could be described as nice, but actually for me personally, they were heavenly. April and I began to bond and every evening upon her return from work I looked forward to spending our girl time together and she really appreciated when I would volunteer to massage her neck and shoulders and feet. We had fun looking at all of the baby clothes she began to collect and just spending time together talking. I did my level best to ignore the out of place remarks that suddenly exploded from her mouth from time to time, but it wasn’t easy. Aside from this misplaced quality she possessed, I was enjoying her company and getting to know her.
Robert and I spent time in the kitchen together and that’s where divine intervention was most evident to me. Slowly he began to come out of his shell and by the end of our trip we were able to carry a normal conversation without thinking of the past three years or the mistakes we both made. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we bonded again, no, I wasn’t feeling that at all, but there was a semblance of commonality that allowed us to carry on with a level of civility that was easy and palatable. Cooking was the thread of the fabric that we were both made from and I was impressed by his talent in the kitchen; Robert had become a marvelous cook. The meals that he prepared were delicious but this old Italian auntie still had a trick or two to teach him and so I would intervene only when I was desperately biting my tongue with a suggestion and then he would say “What?”
In answer, I would say something to the effect of, “Well you don’t need to cut into your garlic like that to remove the peel and you don’t need to cut the ends off, here, let me show you how to do it so it comes out in one solid clove. Where do you keep your best French blade?”
“French blade? What’s that?”
“What’s that? Are you kidding? Your French blade, French knife, where do you keep all of your knives?”
“There’s a drawer of knives right next to you, I don’t know what all their names are.” I opened the drawer and found a nice wide handle and knew I found what I was looking for. I held the knife up and smiled.
“I knew you had a French blade.” I walked over to his cutting surface and began to teach my nephew the correct way to peel garlic.
“That’s pretty cool. I can’t believe you just did that! Do it again!” I took another clove of garlic and placed it on the cutting surface. I laid the knife over the clove and then in one fast hard smack on the blade with the side of my fist the peeling was removed. When I lifted the knife away from the clove, the peeling was on the cutting board and the clove was completely free from the skin.
“It’s very easy Rob, just practice and you’ll have it down in no time.”
“Thanks for teaching me this trick, it saves a lot of time and I hate peeling garlic.”
“Now you just need to teach me how to make Grandpa’s Spaghetti sauce.”
“I would be happy to.”
“Yeah, and you need to teach my wife and daughters how to make it too, and your pizza too, I love your pizza.”
“So do the girls, Snowflake said it was the best pizza she had ever eaten, but she said that about my sauce too. Apparently your children love Italian food.”
“We all do, and you make the best.”
“I’ll be happy to cook for all of you anytime, just say the word.” And with that, the air filled with the idea that I would be coming back to this place again, to visit my family, to be a part of my family, and in that moment my chest grew another heart, and another and another until there wasn’t any more room in my physical body for all of the love that I was feeling inside.
That feeling of love carried me all the way home to Northridge but not before Kurt became a maniac as we crossed the Nevada/California border. It had been a long but beautiful drive through Montana. Memories of our stay in Three Forks were flooding our conversation as Kurt drove through the country and over mountain ranges. His love for the little town was bubbling over as he explained all of his reasons why he was very interested in the land across from Robert’s house. He was attempting to sell me on Montana and was thinking of every reason on earth for us to pack up our lives in Northridge and move across the West to a place that was beyond description. While at Robert’s house, he tried to sell all of us on the idea. Explaining that he was getting too old for his business, too old to tour on the road with Rock & Roll shows and that he was doing the work of a twenty year old, in a forty-nine year old body. He was tired of traveling, being away from home all of the time, and he was worried about not having a regular job with a 401K, retirement plan, medical insurance, life insurance or any other kind of benefits.
In Rock & Roll, you work for the love of the music and Kurt had devoted his life to the music, without any reward, or any plan for the future. So all of the hours he spent Indian walking on that parcel of property, he was creating a vision of his future, what was left of it. He could see a beautiful small house nestled in the grove of conifer trees that faced the mountains. He envisioned himself building a huge steel building set off to the back side of the house that he would insulate and use as his workshop/garage where he would finally be able to work on rebuilding his old 1967 GTO Convertible that he had been dragging around since the day I had met him in 1980. He fantasized about that storage building becoming the retirement plan that he had never been the beneficiary of. He would add two more buildings to the one, and then one big three sided building to store boats and RV’s in. And then he would turn the storage pasture area into a parking lot to rent space for parking big trucks, trailers and old cars and campers. He had an idea to go into business, the parking and storage business right there on the land where we would live, and that way he could have a job, but stay home where he longed to be. Thirty years of living and sleeping on tour busses with the drone of the wheel under his head, fed his vision and it was all he could talk about as the last days of our vacation were winding down and he continued to spend all of his time walking that land. Eventually, the owner of the land, Helicopter Dan , noticed Kurt walking around so he drove down from his build site up top of the hill, pulled over on the trail and asked Kurt what he was doing walking around on his land. Kurt introduced himself, shook Dan’s hand, and explained that he was Robert’s uncle and that he was interested in Dan’s property. They talked for at least two hours out there and Kurt came back to the house beaming with the possibility of building his new dream.
During the last couple of days of our stay, I was pressed to make a decision about relocating to Three Forks. The idea of uprooting my life was too much for me to handle given my health issues, age, inability to walk without pain and agony, walking away from my doctor and health care, my circle of dear friends, my sister, and Jo. How could I live without my daily walks with Jo? She was my mentor, my lifeline to sensible thinking, my rock. And if I were going to make a move, I always had the idea that we would move back to Corvallis, Oregon, where we were married so that we could live near Kurt’s elderly mother, our friends there, and my Brother in Newport. In fact, I had even said as much to Kurt’s mother when Kurt had gone through a period of depression about living and working in Los Angeles just months prior to this new development. He had given me permission to talk to his mother about the possibility of us “going home” and she was very pleased to hear that we were considering the move. But I was nowhere near ready to make a commitment about any kind of change and I did happen to be in the middle of a Work Comp lawsuit in regards to my work injuries that rendered me disabled.
No, I could not make such a decision. There was just too much to consider. And I knew I would be unable to think in terms of living on the prairie in snow and sleet and winters that lasted seven months with temperatures that dipped down to forty below zero. How could I live like that? How would I, a beach bum from Toes Beach, Venice Beach, Santa Monica…live like a frozen Popsicle out in the middle of nowhere? Kurt was asking me to grant him my blessing, to acquiesce, give in to his whim. But there was so much to think about; including but not limited to, the issue of Robert and his growing family. My relationship with Robert was still very fragile so how would he feel about us making this leap of faith, trusting that if we moved across the trail from him that life would be grand and all would be well? Would our relationship be nurtured by sharing life in Three Forks? Or would it destroy it? My brain was exploding with so many questions.
On our last night in Three Forks we invited Robert and April out to dinner. During our meal of barbequed ribs I asked Robert point blank how he felt about us moving there. “Your uncle is going nuts over that land and the lifestyle in Three Forks and life in Montana, he wants to move here. How do you feel about us being neighbors, Rob?”
“You live your life, I live mine.” That was it, that’s all he said as he bit into a big beef rib while dining at Famous Dave’s in Bozeman.
“That’s it? That’s all you have to say about it?” I pressed the issue, because I was being pressed by Kurt.
“Susie, you guys know how I feel about California. I’ve never thought it was safe for anyone I love or care about to live there. It’s a horrible place, a sucky life, and I think if you can work it out to get out of there then great, it’s great. But it’s your decision, I mean, if you do decide to do it though, I would be happy about having my family here, it’s been a long time since I’ve had my family near me and I would love that. But it’s your decision.”
Yes, it was my decision. And it was an awful burden.