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.
Both of us were enamored by the beauty of Montana and Kurt had difficulty suppressing his instinct to look out at the nature. He took his time driving home even through Idaho and Utah. But when we reached Las Vegas he became anxious by all of the traffic so his mood changed and then when we hit California, well, he was out of control. So unlike Kurt, he began screaming and yelling at the drivers in other cars, no one could do anything right. No one. Not the guy in front of him, behind him or beside him on either side. His anger with the traffic was scaring me and several times I pleaded with him to calm down for fear he would cause himself a heart attack or a stroke and kill us both in an accident. I was horrified by his sudden change in personality and equated this change with hunger so I insisted that he eat some snacks but of course he refused. Using a little psychology, I opened a box of his favorite snack crackers and began to eat them. One cracker at a time, his appetite stirred while listening to me crunch as loudly as I could, eventually leading to his humbled request for “one or two” which led to him devouring the entire box minus the few that I consumed. Taking in some calories seemed to help but his distaste for the southland was all too apparent after leaving his heart in Montana.
Bitter-sweet emotions swept over both of us as we drove onto the Northridge off ramp in the San Fernando Valley. As we headed up Nordhoff and then turned onto Parthenia towards home, I was eager to see our dogs and my gardens. Kurt was very quiet and didn’t say one word as he steered Blackie into the driveway on Napa. He clicked the button on the gate opener and immediately Cutter, Lilly and Dinky came running out while barking their heads off and Lilly was singing and barking and howling all at the same time. She seemed to be the most excited to see us, and the most upset by our absence. Brenda opened the front door and ran out to greet us. She hugged me and then opened the back door and began hauling our stuff out of Blackie to take it into the house. She was so happy and light hearted, excited that we had the opportunity to see Robert’s home and to visit Montana and immediately began coaxing us into moving there. She started in right away teasing about how our house was falling apart and how gorgeous Robert’s new house was. I shot her down the moment she attempted to plant her seeds of manipulation because I knew Kurt was contemplating the issue. I let her know that I loved my home and that while it did need some work, I reminded her that it was built in the 1950’s and survived the 1994 Northridge earthquake so of course it had its problems but it was still a beautiful home and the nicest home I’ve ever lived in and I had no intentions of moving but that I truly loved Montana, had a wonderful visit with Robert, enjoyed my time with April and look forward to visiting again when the whole family was there, Brenda and the girls. She didn’t really let up much on her desire for us to move and then she inadvertently spilled the beans that Robert had revealed to her that Kurt was engrossed with the land across the trail and had looked at manufactured homes in Helena. When she asked to see the brochure from the “house place” I knew she had spoken to him on the phone.
“Stop nagging on this issue Brenda,” I admonished, “You’re driving me crazy. We can’t possibly move to Montana, don’t you understand what you’re asking? Think of the ramifications. Think of the risk. Think of the work it would take. Think of everything involved and how ridiculous it is to even discuss this. Just what do you think Kurt would do to make a living in a cattle state?”
“Think how wonderful it would be to have our entire family together after all of the pain and hurt we have survived and how the Lord has brought us back together for a reason and that reason is so that we can all have a good life in a place of peace and beauty where we can all grow and love each other without all the ugliness of this disgusting place. Think how happy we would be together, Sue, think about that.” She was beet red in the face and yelling at me.
“Just how do you propose that we pay for this move and where will my husband work, Brenda? The last time I looked I didn’t see Montana as the Mecca of the music industry. Not a lot of work for a sound engineer out on the ranch, Darlin’.” I winked my eye, clicked my tongue and pantomimed tipping my cowboy hat while I had my hands in my two front pockets.
“Oh you’re always seeing the negative side to everything. Can’t you just see how special life would be with all of us together, loving each other, helping each other and just being a family again? We have a new baby coming; don’t you want to be there for that?”
“You two are already planning a trip back when the baby is born?” Kurt walked in from his work shop and overheard the conversation in the kitchen.
“No Kurt, this dumb blonde is trying to sell us Montana and wants us to move there, as if that could ever be possible. She’s driving me nuts.”
“I don’t think she’s that dumb, Susie.” Brenda leaned over the kitchen table and tweaked my nose as she laughed and then raised her hand up to Kurt for him to high five her. “Remember how scared you were when you went to buy a pack of cigarettes for me and got caught in the cross fire of two gang bangers shooting at each other when you were parked at the stop light on Jellico? Wouldn’t living in the country in a place where gangs and illegal aliens and car chases on the freeway every other day don’t exist be a lot better way to live?”
“Montana has more guns than any other state in this country! Every household has guns and every truck you see on the road has a gun rack in the back of it so don’t bring up the gun issue because your argument won’t hold water.
“People in Montana use their guns to survive, not to kill each other. They hunt for their food and protect themselves from danger. They don’t go out and randomly shoot people. One of the reasons why I love it there is because everybody respects the fact that their neighbor has guns and isn’t afraid to use them. It’s a safer environment, Susie, when everyone understands their right to bear arms,” he said.
“You’re totally into this idea of Montana, aren’t you Kurt?” I looked straight into his deep blue eyes.
“Yeah, I want to move there, I’m sorry to shock you like this but I think we could have a really beautiful life there and I know you think so too. You loved it just as much as I did and you’re family is there. It would be great if I could give that to you, give you your family back.” Brenda knew the conversation had become private at this point so she got up from the table and walked outside to smoke a cigarette. I looked around at all of my collectables and my framed photography on the dining room wall, then out to the rose garden through the French windows. How could I ever leave my home for a life in the wilderness?
“Kurt, it would be a very drastic change in our lives. I understand everything you’re saying but I don’t see how we would ever make it happen so it’s not worth wasting our breath on this anymore. I’m tired, I’m going to bed.”
“All I ask is for you to think about the beauty we just came from and then compare it to this life here, in this mess. That’s all I ask, is for you to remember how happy you were there because life there is so peaceful and beautiful.”
“Okay Kurt, I’ll think about. But now, I’m going to bed. Thank you for getting us home safely, you did a great job driving up and back.”
“I’ll walk you down the hall, come on Baby…” Kurt took me by the hand and led me to our bedroom. The dogs followed us and right away Cutter jumped on the bed and Lilly followed. I change my clothes and quickly pulled back the sheets and blanket and a moment later he was kissing me good night as he pulled the covers over my shoulder. “Good night Babe,” he said. I mumbled back a reply but felt myself falling off the instant I closed my eyes.
The next day I drove Brenda to the Burbank Airport where she caught a flight back to Bozeman, Montana. Rob fetched her from the little airport there and drove her back to Three Forks. She called us to let us know that she arrived safely and said she was so happy to be back home and described how the first thing she did was to take her Indian walk so she could look up at the sky she had grown accustomed to dreaming on. We talked on the phone nearly every day and she filled me in on how April was doing, the weather, how Rob was doing at work, how much work she herself was doing out on their land and life in general out on the prairie. Our conversations did stir a wanting within me, I must admit, and the more I drove around our city and could see again the mountain of hideous disintegration in a place that was once so beautiful and wide open, the mountains and prairies and the big sky of Montana began to tug at my heart in a haunting wanting howling voice that grew louder and louder and as the days flew by I found my meditations being interrupted by images of that sky so blue and the huge puffy white clouds and pink, purple and grey streaks painting a masterpiece in God’s heaven above. Montana had taken me by surprise and I knew that the bug I had caught all of those years ago while putting together my school project was secretly brewing within me again.