About Me

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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.

Email Susie Rosso Wolf

If you have any questions about "New Prairie Woman", "Saving Susie", my "Phoetry", Montana, or writing in general, please email me directly at: GrumpySusie@msn.com — Looking forward to hearing from you. I hope you enjoy "New Prairie Woman". ~ Susie

Friday, August 31, 2012

Prairie Post # 9 - August 31, 2012

Back in the Saddle!

Hello friends! It's been a long but wonderful writing hiatus that was sorely needed but now I'm ready to get back to the keyboard and begin to pound out the words needed to convey to you the journey of my life. It has been a great summer, for the most part, and I look forward to sharing with you some of the more colorful events that I've experienced throughout this past season. I look forward to not only posting new Prairie Posts for you, but also, I'm filled with opening night jitters at the prospect of continued postings of snippets and excerpts of New Prairie Woman and will complete the book by years end.

Thank you for hanging out here, coming by to check in, and for your loyalty to my story. I'm eager to share with you the events of our daily life here on the prairie in Montana and I can't wait to share more of NPW with you, my friends! I expect to be back a few times in September and then in October, once the season fully wraps up and our home is set and ready for the upcoming Fall and winter temperatures, I will be back full time. Until then, I leave you with this:

Nothing is impossible
never give up hope
never use the expression 
"I'm at the end of my rope" 
there is no end to anyone's rope
when the truth be told  
hope is alive and well within
no matter how young or old
set your mind to achieve
your goals your desires your dreams
get up, get busy, do the work
no matter how hard it seems
keep your goal in your heart
stay on track
don't look back
before you know it
you've chipped off a bit
then you see how easy it can be
to be true 
to the real you
to escape the fear 
with your goal so near
hope can fill your life with joy
when you touch the stars
reach up
reach up
grab hold of your life
although your dream is far

Friday, June 15, 2012

Prairie Post # 8, June 15, 2012

While walking in the pasture just after a rainstorm I was on my way back home when I looked up to see this elegant sky just before dusk. At first I only noticed the color of the clouds but suddenly I noticed the high moon emerging smack dab in the middle of the cloud cluster. It was breath taking, viewing it at the moment, and I wanted to share this with you. I named this shot "Margo's Moon."  You can read my reason for the name, below.

Prairie Post #8
New Prairie Woman
Susie Rosso Wolf

We've been experiencing a long hard wave of rainstorms here in Three Forks. Although the rain temporarily  put the kibosh on my garden planting goals, I must say that the hills and the valleys and our country roads are bright green in color and filled with lovely swaying grasses and many plants, trees and blooming wild flowers indigenous to Montana. The color is medicine to my eyes, eyes that were commonly spoiled by lavish color year round in Southern California. But as I mentioned in my last post, at last, I have trained my eyes to appreciate the new colors of brown and wheat and sage that sing to me in ways I never thought possible. However, the yellow and green and purple and blue of plants and flowers popping up here and there from the rainfall and sunshine that has finally broken through the clouds has drenched my eyes with rejuvenating joy. 

Last week the rain quit after several days on non-stop pounding. I waited a few hours and hoped that the sun that emerged earlier in the day had done its job and dried the soggy soil enough for the dogs and I to take a walk. We set out in the evening and made our way up to the prayer post. Although still a bit squishy in some spots I was surprised that our walking trail was hard and clear of mud for the most part. My Muck boots aren't the most comfortable walking shoes ever made but serve a great purpose in Southwestern Montana. As I made my way up in the cold hard souls I mostly focused on the ground, not wanting to slip and fall and break my neck. Believe me when I tell you...I've come close to killing myself as I slipped in the mucky mud around here, ever grateful for my trail being so close to the fence line making it easy for me to grab hold of.

Beany & Cecil and I stood at the prayer post for a long while that night, watching the clouds merge their colors then separate into bursts of white and back to pink, purple, gray, blue and shimmering silver. Although I was completely captivated by the show taking place on the heavenly stage above, I prayed my daily prayers and meditated for a while. In my prayers that night, I focused on my dear and darling little buddy, Miss Margo, whom I miss so very much and who had not been feeling too well that day after having some minor surgery. I thought about Margo so much and prayed that her surgical site healed well and without complications. 

Through the years that we've been living here we have both made major adjustments to the lifestyle, harsh extremes and the difficulties that we have had to face on many levels. After six years of adjusting to our move we've done fairly well to melt into the pot here but the one aspect that can't be cured by time and change is missing my deep friendships, bonded ties of a lifetime that tug on my heart each and every day. My Linda, Diane, Stella, Julie, Lois, Jo (who has since passed away, God rest her soul) and my little Margo continue to own my heart and soul and that ownership makes it all the more difficult for my soul's friendship to reach out to even the thought of inviting someone new to enter the heart that beats for my friends back home...and yet..we have been so fortunate to meet many fine people here that the loyalty I feel for my California home-girls and my Oregon cohorts weeps with sorrow as we both take the long walk toward new friendships with the special folks of Three Forks that are now woven into the life and times of Kurt and the New Prairie Woman.

Noticing this emerging moon while thinking of and missing Margo, I realized how blessed I have been throughout my life to have made not one but so many deep and meaningful friendships over the course of fifty some odd years. And now once again, I'm blessed (we both are blessed) to have the opportunity to forge new deep and lasting friendships on the prairie. Margo's moon is a reminder that no matter how far away one might be from home and the people who love and care about you, the heart is a constant vessel of love that beats on and on over the course of many years and thousands of miles...

...My heart beats...

...because you are in it.............

Susie Rosso Wolf
New Prairie Woman  

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Prairie Post #7, June 9, 2012

About 900 square feet, this is my new garden just to the right of the front porch, situated in a bright, sunny location. Ninety-nine percent of my garden is planted by seed. Still a work in progress, I pray for improved weather and for the deer to be intimated by the eight foot tall fence that Kurt lovingly built for me!

Prairie Post # 7
New Prairie Woman
Susie Rosso Wolf

Although it seems as though I’ve been missing in action I haven’t been missing at all. Just a wee bit busy these days during the one and only planting season of the year. Knee deep in mud from the heavy rains that have drenched my new garden, I have worked tirelessly day in and day out to complete the planting of seed that hopefully, if the sun ever appears for more than half a day at a time, will germinate and emerge as tiny little sprouts that will eventually become food that will sustain us through the winter.

This isn’t my first Montana garden so I haven’t been shocked by any of the strange and wonderfully weird items one can discover underground in this wonderland of western oddities. Yesterday, for instance, I had to work ever so hard at breaking up the block of planting bed soil, that had already been vigorously tilled by the old man on the tractor, because the rains came so heavy that the water compressed the soil, turning it into clay, essentially. So, with spade in hand I did the back breaking work of breaking it up again in order to plant the corn, which I was in a hurry to do as it’s already so late in the season but as I said, weather simply has not cooperated with my gardening plans. Anyway, I’m digging away and digging away and finally I’m ready to build the corn rows-planting beds, and furrows. Once the beds were built I applied some fertilizer to the beds and worked it into the soil by hand. It was then that I felt something strange against the skin of my garden glove. Deeply buried under the planting bed I pulled up as I held onto the end of the treasure and was so surprised to find an old ink pen. Last week I found a tooth belonging to some kind of K-9, perhaps a coyote or wolf. It’s always a mystery when you begin to dig around out here on the prairie…

After many hours of grueling labor at last I finished planting the corn which provided me the freedom to sit down at my desk this morning to post a new update on what’s been happening out here in this amazing place that we live in. All of the bedding planting is complete now so my load is much lighter. Although I have many plants and seeds that must be planted into containers, such as my herbs and flowers and a few veggies too, it’s time I take a short break and get out of the mud and dirt. Oh, speaking of mud, yesterday, as I was frantically digging away and trying to build the corn rows, I was constantly watching the sky that was filled with black and grey rain clouds. Looking up in-between smacks to the earth with my spade, I pleaded with God to spare me the downpour that was surely ready to bust out at any minute. As I kept on working and working and working, I would feel a rain drop or two as the wind howled and roared through the garden. I worried about my newly planted Marigolds that were bent sideways as well as my pepper plants and tomato plants that I had just planted the day before. But you know, and this is the honest to God’s truth, the sky didn’t open up as I had expected it too. After the task of planting the corn was complete I should have watered the entire garden, but I just knew that the rain was coming so I waited. And I waited. But the rain clouds blew away to the south from a northern wind so at six in the evening I realized in a panic that my garden hadn’t had a drop of moisture all day, well, a couple of drops but certainly not enough for new seed beds that require even moisture until germination is complete and seedlings appear and break ground. So, I ran out with my rain hat on my head and gloves on my hands and dragged the hose to the garden and let the water rip through the wind at full force in order to reach every square inch of the garden, corner to corner.

I soaked my little garden down and then I dragged the hose back to the area behind the back door where I have my rose lady water fountain and my little daughter bird feeder bowl. I power washed the fountain so the wild birds would have a clean bowl to bathe in and then I filled up the bird feeder bowl with fresh seeds. It was as if God was speaking to me in a loud and clear voice when I head the rumbling of thunder from the garage while putting my garden tools away on my garden bench. I peeked out of the garage to see drops on the ground and the wheel barrow. Hmmmm, is this possible? I ask for dry weather to complete my work and now that I’m ready to call it a day the rain breaks loose from new clouds that just rolled in? “Is this a joke, Lord? Are You toying with me, Lord?” Seriously, the rain broke free from a huge black system that must have come in while I was watering and didn’t notice at all. Lost in thought, most likely, I never saw the sky turn black again. So the drops surprised me and I laughed as I said out loud…” Thanks for the lesson, God, I know, I blew it, I should have listened to you the first time and trusted you, listened to the warning that indeed, it was going to rain.” I shook my head in humility as the drops quickly became a heavy rain that sent our two yellow labs up to the back porch deck, under cover.

It rained most of the night, giving my garden a soaking, on top of a soaking, and so now you know why I have time to sit here and type away this silly little story. I do believe it will rain again today which means I will have to find something other than gardening to amuse myself with. Perhaps I could drag out the vacuum cleaner, and mop the kitchen floor. Naaah, that doesn’t sound like much fun now does it? No, I think I’ll put my rain gear on and stand at my growing table and plant those pots of herbs and flowers and veggies I mentioned. They need to get into their containers. Neighbor Jeff generously gifted me with several heirloom tomatoes that I will put into five gallon buckets and then place them around the garden up against the fence. I believe I will have about fifteen tomato plants all together when all is said and done. Enough tomatoes to get us through the year, if we’re lucky. I will can them all for spaghetti sauce and soups. But we never know what is to come from season to season.

Two years ago when I had my little garden right next to the back door so my oxygen tubing could reach out there, allowing me the opportunity to plant and enjoy the sunshine, you know, mostly to get out of the house, I had a very successful planting and was close to harvesting all of my squash and broccoli and cabbage when out of the blue sky a sudden change in temperature brought in by a sixty-five mile an hour wind swept through the prairie bringing with it a hail storm unlike anything I’d ever seen in my life. In fact, you may have actually heard about this storm as it was all over the news that year, the summer of 2010. Bozeman suffered a great deal of damage from the baseball size hail that broke out many of the windows at MSU and car windshields galore. I remember running into the house for cover and was so frightened that I hid in the pantry for cover, knowing for certain that our windows would be smashed by the huge rocks falling from heaven with a mighty powerful force. But our strong storm windows were spared and after twenty minutes of hiding I peeked out from the pantry to see blue skies again outside but when I inspected my darling little garden, well…it was sad, no longer a garden, but a lake of icy water, burying everything, everything. Within two days all of my crops had turned black and began to die.

God, if you’re listening…and I know that You are, please let us all have successful gardens this year. Gardens that will feed our families and friends and neighbors. Gardens that will sustain us with fresh wholesome nutrition for the year to come. We need Your cooperation, dear Lord. I know You hear me when I say to myself, “Why do I continue to bother to attempt to grow food in this place of mystery and tormenting, extreme, weather?”  The answer is that I continue to face this challenge because when I’m out there, I feel closer to You. Keep the rain coming, God, it’s okay with me…we need it to feed our rivers and lakes and streams and to water our gardens and farms and livestock. Thank You for the many blessings of Montana and for the many lessons I've come to learn as well…

"Who loves a garden still his Eden keeps, perennial pleasures plants, and wholesome harvest reaps."

~ Amos Bronson Alcott - 1868 ~ 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Prairie Post #6, May 30, 2012

Our American Flag Waving in the Wind From Our Front Porch View of the Spanish Peaks
Three Forks, Montana

Prairie Post #6
New Prairie Woman
Susie Rosso Wolf

Happy Two Days After Memorial Day! 

By the skin of our teeth we have some sun breaking through the dark sky that has hovered over us for the last several days. Clouds that were filling the sky with heavy white and ominous black, rain and snow filled pillows that flooded us with downpours and sloppy frozen early morning flakes that did not stick, thank God, and have mostly passed on to other towns while now it seems that Spring has returned to Three Forks this morning. On Monday, Memorial Day, it was quiet and peaceful although somewhat chilled from a hard breeze in the low temperatures for most of the day. But the rain and snow kept its distance from our lovely little town on Monday and our serene patch of paradise here on our prairie land pasture. The chill in the air prevented us from cooking and celebrating in the typical Memorial Day traditions. Just us though, we are wimpy Californian's  that were wrapped in sweaters and blankets watching racing from Sunday's NASCAR and Indy 500. I'm sure that most of Three Forks's citizens celebrated in the usual manner. I was dreaming of their potato salad and watermelon...and the sweet sticky savory flavor of barbecued baby back ribs. Ooooooh!

Although it was quite cold Monday and yesterday, as I said, I managed to brave the cold for a good long walk around the pastures in my Muck shoes wrapped up like an Eskimo in thermal underwear and a heavy jacket, hat, gloves and my cell phone in my pocket just in case I fell on my butt and broke a bone or popped my hip out, again. (I have a paranoia about walking without my phone and upon occasion have left it behind in the house and felt so panicked that I ran all the way back to fetch it, and then resumed my walk! Silly, I know, but we have SNAKES out there!) Although the ground was wet the muddy walking path around our property was solid, not slippery as I expected, so the walk was good and very invigorating. It was grand to get out of the house. "Cabin fever" has set in now, building up inside me, taunting me with images of my ocean on the Pacific Coast, calling me to warmer temperatures, flowers and green plants growing wild along PCH and Topanga Canyon. I find that I'm most homesick during this time of year when Montana just won't let go of the winter and California is bursting with color and sunshine...and then suddenly, the subtle green of the sagebrush appears with the straw colored grasses up in the hillside as desert flowers pop up along with cactus blooms and wildflowers and as the natural, untouched, unaltered, landscape here emerges under the muted blue gray and white of the enormous sky I take a deep breath in, exhale, and stand in awe and wonder by the sheer elegance of the transforming painted sky above me with color one can only witness here, in Montana and certainly not anywhere else, least California. It's easy to be homesick this time of year during our transition into warmer days. But then again, it's also easy to come back down to the ground under my feet, in this most beautiful, ever changing picture of nature in the natural nature of things. I have learned that there is a difference between natural nature and planned nature. My eyes have fully opened now and I see the amazing beauty in the natural order of landscape with fresh eyes and better understanding.

Last night on Television we were watching America's Got Talent and during the teaser, the opening of the show, they filmed footage of Tampa Bay Florida as the camera zoomed into the city from the Bay. When the camera arrives into the city you (the home audience viewer) are deluged by people, buildings, traffic, noise, chaos and activity. Watching masses of people tugged at my heart a bit, I will admit, because it is a quiet life here that is simply unimaginable for a city person. Unimaginable silence. There is a beauty in that silence that can only be felt by the soul who is sitting in sheer bliss, appreciating what it is and savoring every moment. I couldn't help but think, while watching the show, how much "talent" there is here in Montana that goes unrecognized, and under appreciated. The carpenter, the hunter, the farmer, the rancher, the game packager, the horse trainer, the bull rider, the conservationist. The list goes on but you get my point. The artistic skills here thrive in abundance yet go mostly ignored due to their lack of excitement, bling bling and Hollywood influence. But I'm telling you, I'd rather wait four to six months to have a gorgeous log home built by a Montana carpenter than have the instant gratification of listening to an artist sing, or watch an artist act or play in a band. I'm just saying, the talent here is so under rated. Does it take talent to sit on a tractor all day plowing a field of wheat? Yup. I can tell you why from personal experience; driving a tractor requires a great deal of concentration and ability to multitask while hanging onto the wheel as you bounce over gopher holes and rabbit holes and hidden boulders underground and sagebrush roots that all are cause for a dusty bumpy ride. It takes an artist to swing that huge machine around and around while tilling ground to plant the seeds of nature. It's a beautiful thing.............The heart tugs more for my dear friends that I miss so much from day to day, and that, I believe, is much of the cause for my homesickness.

In the coming days I will be very busy creating my own art out in my little Montana garden, planting my seeds and starts of vegetables that hopefully will sustain us throughout the Fall and Winter. I look forward to posting stories about the garden, there's always drama here while attempting to grow during our very short season. Hopefully, I won't be reporting to you that a massive hail storm has wiped out all of my luscious plants by turning them black enough to send them to their eventual death. This is a typical example of how challenging gardening is here, but I have finally learned that the challenge is an essential a element of the beauty.

Until next time,

Susie Rosso Wolf

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Prairie Post #5, May 21, 2012

Our friend and neighbor, Jeff, as he begins the process of falling this Conifer.

 Once Jeff makes several cuts into the base, Jeff watches to see the direction that the tree is leaning in attempt to fall the tree exactly where he wants it to land.

 All three trees have fallen and now Jeff saws off the limbs and branches.
Dead Conifer, all the way to the top. 

Local Montana boys play on the fallen trees.

A quiet Sunday morning lends this opportunity to finally catch my breath, take a few moments out of what promises to be another jammed packed day of Southwestern Montana hurry up and catch up on all of the many things we need to accomplish during the busiest time of year here. Indeed, it's a very exciting and fun- filled season as the Spring that so suffers to rear itself into our exposure barely comes to fruition while we all hustle and bustle-as our temperatures are finally fair-the sun is shining just about every day except when we're being hit by rapid passing systems of electrical storms that most definitely will knock your socks off and rain storms too. Yes, it is an incredibly beautiful time of year now for us all and we are working hard to fulfill the hopes and dreams of our winter fantasies of Spring.

On the long to-do list for our little lot of heaven is of course planning and planting our yearly sustainable organic vegetable garden. I will go into the details about our garden on the next post because I'm not quite ready to place the starts I planted in peat-pots into the soil for we were working on building a deer defense barrier around the garden which gobbled up most of Kurt's time off of work and a cold weather system came through this last week which delayed much to do with the garden. That's Montana. Don't think you can outsmart the weather here...it won't happen! It's a great lesson in patience. I'm sure though, rather, I'm very hopeful, that soon I'll be able to share with you the lovely new garden space that Kurt worked so hard on creating for me. And although I've been unable to get the green edibles I planted in the pots into the ground I have been out there, no matter the weather, designing the garden and building planting beds and furrows. Hard work but I love it.

Speaking of hard work...another item on the to do list was the removal of three huge Conifer trees (Colorado Blue Spruce) that were victim to a long drought period here in our region. Initially, I had been told by a local gal who worked for the United States Forest Service for many years that our trees were being eaten alive by the dreaded North American Bark Beetle that has rampaged our beautiful forests across the state. However, upon further inspection, we discovered that in fact, we've been losing our trees to drought. So sad. We loved these trees from the first time we drove up Conifer Trail and they were a huge selling point for us when we made the decision to buy our land. I'm no expert on trees so I can't explain to you exactly what happened here, why three of our trees died but the rest are alive and well and beautiful, but I do know that their demise is related to how they were originally planted and cared for.

Fortunately for us, we have a close friend and neighbor who lives just up the road who is a natural born Montanan and was raised around the influence of knowledgeable Montanan men who taught Jeff, our friend and neighbor, all about trees and how to fall them. I do believe that's the term they use here and elsewhere, to "fall" a tree when they cut them down. Now, please, don't get excited and upset by the notion of us cutting down our beautiful trees. Correction-trees that were once beautiful. I want you tree huggers out there to know, to believe when I tell you, that we tried many different approaches and methods to save the trees. And although our attempts did provide a bit of new growth on two of the three fallen trees the last year of drought was the last straw in trying to bring them back to life. All three of them were indeed, thoroughly dead.

Last weekend neighbor Jeff dropped by to chat for a while and as he was walking along the driveway where we have two of the Conifers that were dead, Jeff looked up and said, "Why don't we get these trees down now?" I said yes! Let's do it! Kurt, well...he wasn't too enthusiastic because he has been working in construction building a house from the ground up and he is extremely tired from the job. 

So, Kurt's reaction was bland at best but I ignored his vague and distant response to Jeff's most generous question by rubbing my hands together, jumping off the ground a little saying "Yes! Yes, yes yes...Let's do it!" Jeff looked at me and smiled. Kurt looked at me as if he wanted to kill me.

"Today? You want to drop them now? Why don't we wait? It's too late in the day now." Kurt's statement went ignored as Jeff walked across our pasture out the gate and headed for home. Less than fifteen minutes later Jeff returned with his great big mountain man's chain saw and his tools needed to complete the job. I was absolutely amazed by the level of his skill. This young man is so TALENTED. Honestly, after knowing Jeff for several years now, I'm enamored by his abilities. He can do anything. Jeff is a carpenter who builds gorgeous homes and who has actually kept Kurt and I alive and in our home during the past few years of economic crisis in our country. It has been Jeff and our neighbor Dan, another great man and skilled carpenter as well, who have made it possible for us to survive the crisis by employing Kurt and teaching him the ropes of carpentry. It wasn't easy easy for Kurt to learn a new trade but Jeff provided the knowledge and taught Kurt well. Neighbors helping neighbors. That's how we survive here in Montana. No questions asked, they simply arrive with the necessary tools to lend a hand and keep you up and balanced. That's Montana living and that's why we continue to fight to stay here.

Jeff expertly and skillfully dropped our three trees in a matter of forty-five minutes. And can you believe that not only did it require less than an hour of his time to fall the trees, but, more impressive than that, he dropped them exactly where he had planned to; away from the gates, the fences, the house, or anything else that was in the path of their fall. With orange blocks that he wedged into the base, or trunk, of each tree, Jeff directed the giants to land exactly where he wanted them to land. I was absolutely amazed. Not only was I amazed by his skill and abilities and his knowledge, but I was amazed by Jeff's sense of kindness and friendship.

As the fallen trees lay on the ground and Kurt could only see work and nothing but more work ahead of him,   Jeff held up the saw and coaxed me over to the end of one of the enormous trees. He handed me the heavy saw and said that it was time I began to learn how to use a saw on my own. What? Me? Are you serious? Yes, he was serious! He started her up and directed me to place my hands where his hands were on the handles and together we sawed through the trunk of the tree as the long blade sliced it into a beautiful round disc that fell to the ground and I squealed in delight. But that wasn't the end of my lesson. Jeff gave me some verbal instruction and expected me to plow through the trunk for another slice and while I had this monster saw in my grip Jeff coached me from the sideline. It was thrilling, exhilarating and fun! The smell of the fresh cut wood filled me with delight and reminded me once again that I'm living in an extraordinary place and that I'm blessed, every day, to experience Montana.

Two local children climbed up on the fallen trees to play fantasy games and while I watched these country boys actually play like real boys, I couldn't help but think about all the millions of children around the world who are sitting on their butts inside their houses playing video games, watching television or on the computer doing who knows what without supervision. Boys will be boys here in Montana. And girls will be girls, or rather, ranch girls or cowgirls. Yes, it's a different world all-together here and I love it. I love the lifestyle that preserves fresh air activities for kids and wholesome behavior. Climbing on a neighbor's fallen trees, being boys and getting exercise is just one example of how Montana preserves a natural way of living. Another example are the 4-H clubs around the state that teach children how to sustain themselves for the rest of their lives. Raising cows, chickens, horses, goats, etc., teaches these kids not only how to take care of and be responsible for another life, but it gives them opportunities galore. It might be considered a simple, uncomplicated, "Redneck" lifestyle in most eyes, but for us, this is life as it should be and Montana is where to find it.

I can't thank Jeff enough for falling our three dead trees and I've been racking my brain in attempt to think of some nice way to show him our appreciation. A chocolate cake, batch of cookies, a tray of fresh enchiladas...an invite for he and his wonderful family for dinner? I'm not sure, but eventually I'll think of some nice way to say thank you, for all he has done and all he continues to do to help us, with an open and accepting heart, become the Montanans that we continue to strive to be. Life here is so good, and we are living it! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Retraction, May 9th, 2012

New Prairie Woman
Susie Rosso Wolf


It has been brought to my attention that I have put my big fat foot in my mouth and have become exactly what I loathe about folks who jump to conclusions about Montana, Montanans, and living life in Montana. Let me explain:
In my last Prairie Post I listed a couple of recipes for Mexican dishes to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  In the post, I used my own personal dining experience to write the copy for the post in regards to the quality of ethnic foods here in Montana. Honestly, I meant no harm. I had no malice or maniacal intentions to hurt Montana’s food industry reputation or the good people who work hard as restaurant owners here in this incredible state. As a cook myself, I understand that food, like art, is subjective. So, the Italian food at such and such restaurant in Butte or Billings might be to die for, for one person, and the most horrid plate of dreck for another. However, having said that, I do apologize for my thoughtless manner in which I describe the lack of authenticity of the local Mexican cuisine. Although I do stand by my opinion based on my own experience, the manner in which I describe the food I have eaten here was mean spirited and insulting to those who work an honest day.
But what comes to mind more than the food and beverage industry topic itself, is once again, the nature of Montana’s people, lifestyle, personality and strength. Montana represents strength and fortitude, if not anything at all. It takes fortitude and back bone to come knocking on the door of some Californian who thinks she knows about Montana merely because she has survived a few winters here. Yes, I have disturbed the locals with my editorial and was told under no uncertain terms, that the last thing I need to do is to do “that.”
“Don’t do that. Don’t do what every other writer does who doesn't know anything about Montana. Don’t become just another writer who insults us with their opinions of our way of life when they know nothing at all about living here or what it takes to survive here. I have been reading New Prairie Woman and enjoying it because it’s different and unique and because your story is fresh and interesting. Please, don’t trash Montana or insult its people in your book. There are many great restaurants here. Have you ever eaten at Ferraro’s in Bozeman? It’s as Italian as Italian can get. People work hard here; don’t ruin their reputations by writing about something you don’t know. Don’t do that. Don’t become just another ignorant source of bad information. Don’t backslide, get back on track and tell your story.”
Wow. I had no idea. And, my anonymous source of a tongue lashing was right. I don’t know. I don’t know about Ferraro’s because I've never eaten there. Actually, I've only eaten at a handful of restaurants in Montana. It is true, as I said earlier, that according to my taste and dining expectations, I've not been impressed with Montana’s restaurants. However, based on my limited experience, my door knocker was right. I don’t know squat about Montana’s restaurants and thoughtlessly gave opinion when I had no right to. For that, I woefully apologize. Hurting Montana is the last thing I want to do. New prairie Woman is not about “that” and if you've been reading my book, you know that I love this place and have no intention of hurting it. I celebrate this magnificent place. I honor Montana, its people, wildlife, mountains, lakes and rivers, its extreme experience. And while I’m here apologizing let me say this…the fact that a local person took the time to drop by my back door speaks volumes about the people here. This young man takes pride in “The last best place,” his home. This is his home and I insulted it. Please excuse me for becoming just another ignorant source of bad information. It will not happen again……….

~ S ~

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Prairie Post #4, May 4, 2012

Prairie Post #4
New Prairie Woman
Susie Rosso Wolf

Susie's Shredded Beef Taquitos Rancheros Topped With Fresh Home Made Guacamole!

Happy Cinco de Mayo! And while you're dining in a fine Mexican restaurant munching on tacos and taquitos and burritos, tamales enchiladas...drinking those salty edged margaritas, and then taking a dip into the salsa with a fresh fried tortilla chip, we will be hard pressed to find anything that remotely resembles Mexican food in this state. Sorry about that, Montana. You know how much I love you! However, ethnic cuisine is not your thing, ya know? In fact, the only two Mexican food experiences I've had here were so horrendous that I have sworn off ever trying so called Mexican food here ever again. I don't consider stale prefabricated predigested crackers made from genetically altered corn a taco shell. And I certainly don't consider mealy meat made from oatmeal and tomato sauce beef or pork or chicken. So, you can't take a cracker shell type thingy, stuff it with a tablespoon of the mealy oatmeal colored with plain read tomato sauce and a tiny bit of chopped romaine lettuce (Not for tacos, no! no! no!) topped with prefabricated predigested imitation shredded cheese. Oh dear. I think by now you get the point. Don't order Mexican food in Montana. If you're hungry in the Big Sky state I highly suggest steak and potatoes. Oh! They know how to cook a cow all right. Steak and a baker is always a good bet in a state that has more cows than people. Ribs are also safe. But Italian, now, that's just something to run not walk away from. I'm not kidding!

A few nights ago I put a three pound chuck roast in the crock pot for Carne Asada and it was terrific. Such a simple dish and yet so elegantly delicious. After scoring the roast with garlic and browning well on both sides, I placed it over a bed of chopped onions in the crock then dumped in one 14.5 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes, one 4 ounce can of Ortega Green Chilies and 1/4 cup of water. Eight to nine hours later the roast was falling apart and very tender. I cooled it on my cutting board and then cut it into four sections, freezing three sections for use at a later time and then served the fourth section to Kurt with refried frijoles dotted with diced onion and shredded medium cheddar and Mexican rice, a small salad and chips and salsa. Being on a diet, I have to avoid certain foods so I enjoyed my Carne Asada in this manner: I poured one small dot of olive oil into a non-stick fry pan and heated until hot. I then put one small corn tortilla onto the oil and cooked on medium low until crisp. Placing the tortilla onto a plate now, I dabbed it with two Tbs. of the beans, 4 ounces of the shredded meat and then covered it all with a pile of fresh salad made with shredded iceberg lettuce, finely shredded red cabbage, shopped tomatoes, grated carrots, finely sliced white onions, 1/4 C diced avocados and salsa. It was fantastic. A fresh low fat low calorie high protein tostada salad. Yay!

Tomorrow, for Cinco de Mayo, I will be making my traditional taquitos platter for Kurt to munch on but will be resisting myself because I'm avoiding all fats and oils and taquitos just aren't taquitos if they aren't fried in oil. I will be making my shredded beef taquitos using chuck roast much the same way I cooked the Carne Asada, minus the chilies and tomatoes. A very easy recipe for the first part of the cooking, and then a tiny bit complicated for part two. I'm just saying, it takes a bit of practice to roll the meat in the tortillas so if you try this I highly recommend that you cool the meat prior to shredding, don't over fill the tortillas with the meat and make sure it isn't too close to the edges of the tortilla so it doesn't pop out into the hot oil and burn you while frying. I also recommend that you preheat each tortilla prior to stuffing with the meat, this alleviates the tortilla from breaking and cracking. And also, make sure you drain these delicious little monsters very well on paper towels before serving. If you're serving more than one or two people, feel free to place each fried taquito into a baking pan and place into the over on the lowest heat for warming until all are fried.

Well everybody, now that I've given you some ideas for the Mexican holiday cuisine, I'm wishing you a fantastic weekend and hope that you enjoy whatever it is that you'll be doing and eating...even if it's barbecuing a steak! Moooooo!

Be well and happy happy happy,

Susie Rosso Wolf

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Prairie Post #3, May 2nd, 2012

Prairie Post # 3
New Prairie Woman
Susie Rosso Wolf

Although it's only been a couple of days since I've last posted it seems like a million years because I've been coming and going and oh so busy here tending to our little life. The old man and I were exhausted last night and this morning after an extensive day in Bozeman yesterday visiting, of all places, the many pawn shops that dot the landscape from Belgrade to the farthest corner of Bozeman. Kurt was looking for something in particular, some tool of some sort and thought maybe he could find it in a pawn shop. Never having stepped one foot in a pawn shop before I was so surprised by the plethora of odd and interesting items in these stores. At the very first place we stopped in I discovered a beautiful silver plated ladies dresser hand mirror that had my name written all over it. Although no, it wasn't sterling silver, the pretty little thing had enough silver in it to catch my eye while the roses scrolled around the edges of the glass and the perfect lines of straight scrolls that became patterned looping scrolls screamed 1960's. I had to have it and so I treated myself to something I've been wanting to find for a long time. I was hoping to find the brush and comb that went along with the mirror but the friendly salesman explained that the mirror had come in as a solo item. Too bad. After the first Belgrade store we stopped in at three or four more before heading to Bozeman from frontage Road.

Just at the 19th Street exit we stopped in at Cashmen's Nursery to investigate their prices on soil amendments for the garden and then we drove up to Seventh Street and visited Murdoch's Nursery to compare prices. We walked around both nurseries enough for a bit of fatigue to set in but Kurt insisted that we continue on to most of the pawn shops on the Seventh Street strip, as he was in serious search of the item he simply had to have. When we entered a store named "New 2 You" my eye was immediately caught by a huge and beautiful hutch near the back of the store. I wandered off from Kurt, while he made a b-line for the tool section, only to discover that "New 2 You" had an antique furniture showroom that included a French Provincial dining room table that was so gorgeous my mouth fell open and din't close, I'm sure, for a full minute or two at least. It was one of the most unusual pieces I've ever seen and was indescribable in the English language so I won't attempt to paint a picture of this stunning furniture, rather, I will only tell you that it was drop dead Ga Ga gorgeous and I wanted it in the worst way. However, it didn't really belong in Montana with its smooth rounded lines accented by fast jabbing edges and its exquisite table top of actual tortoise shell and then there was the issue of it costing a cool $11,785.00 which of course I didn't exactly have enough quarters in my thrift shop coin purse to handle the bill. So I walked away for the incredible piece only to feel happy that at least I was able to see such a thing in the land of rustic log furniture, deer, bear, moose and elk head mounts in most homes I've had the pleasure to visit. Ah, Montana! Nothing like French Provincial here! Yes, that would go over really well on the prairie!

After quite some time Kurt finally located me in the back of the store looking at artwork of various strengths and weaknesses and then together we made our way over to the cowboy boot section, the fitness machine section, the vintage clothing section, the vintage glass-works section, the jewelry section and then out the door and heading for home. But not so fast, there were three more stores to stop at and so I tagged along strictly for the sake of being a good wife and not for the sake of curiosity. Ha ha. Unfortunately for Kurt he never did locate the special tool he needed but we had a great day anyway, out and about together, which happens far and few between his road trips and construction jobs.

It was quite a cold day today with dark clouds hovering over our pastureland and the wind coming off the snowy mountains was biting and mind numbing so instead of working in the garden, starting to prepare to plant seeds and starts, I spent the day cooking and cleaning and running errands. I did manage to make a trip out to the garden to add a bowl of compost from today's kitchen trimmings to the compost bin our neighbor and friend, Jeff, helped Kurt to construct for me on the edge of my garden. Bundled up as if it were December, I quickly dumped the contents of the stainless steel bowl, (onion skins and carrot ends and cucumber peeling, etc.,) and then I ran back to my kitchen where it was warm and cozy. Today, as most days here do, I was reminded that I don't live in just anyplace on the planet, I live in Montana and here one never knows what to expect. One day you can be doing nothing much at all and enjoying a mild Spring day and in just a moment you are dashing across your pasture trying to dodge a rain-burst from a system making its way from the North and that system could be dumping rain, snow, sleet or snow. Even in July. Inasmuch as I'm waiting with great anticipation to break out my nice navy blue Capri pants and white top to wear with blue sandals, or my lovely dress hanging in my closet now for quite some time without ever coming out, chances are I'll be wearing long pants with thermal underwear and my Carhart jacket for much of the rest of this year, minus a few weeks once we do actually see some warmer temperatures.

Montana remains a mystery to me and each and every day I'm enamored by it's audacity and ability to keep me on my toes with never ending surprises. Yes, indeed, I was surprised by pawn shops, and so many of them, and all of the wonderful things inside these shops that held such secrets of their own. I look forward to pawn shopping with Kurt again some day, perhaps I will find something to knock my socks off!

Be well and happy,

Susie Rosso Wolf

Monday, April 30, 2012

Prairie Post #2, April 30, 2012

Prairie Post #2
New Prairie Woman
Susie Rosso Wolf

It's the last day of April and wouldn't you know the weather is typically Montana with a dreary cold morning of thirty-nine degrees and a chilling breeze coming down from the snow covered mountains. I was hoping to rise to sunshine peeking through my bedroom curtains, but alas, no such luck today while Montana has the last laugh and I patiently wait to plant my seeds and starts of lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes and much much more. One of my favorite quotes from Ernest Hemingway is, "Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is." So, having said that, I shall attempt to think of what there is to do out there on our little lot of dreams, as I eagerly await the day of warm sunshine to arrive so that I can play in the cow poop and plant our food for the fall/winter harvest. Perhaps I have time to fire up the tractor to move some dirt that is uneven where I want to build a walk-way next to the back side of the house. But I didn't have much time to hang at home yesterday, so I opted to put what could be done on hold for another day.

On my way to the Bozeman-Yellowstone Airport, to fetch Kurt from his flight back home, I was driving over the first bridge out on Old Town Road when suddenly out of my left eye I noticed something moving very quickly down near the planks of wood I was driving over, right next to the end of the bridge where I first drove onto the planks. There is pasture land with tall green weeds and grasses that grow up and around the planks of wood right there at the bridge's entrance. When I looked down to see what the flash of movement could be, there was a strange little face peeking up from the grasses and then suddenly the strange little face popped up in front of Zippy and ran right in front of me so I hit the brakes and threw it in park. Less than a moment later another strange little face appeared and popped up from the grasses again crossing right in front of Zippy. Two huge wild turkeys, then three, four, five, six...Come on people, I yelled at the long necked creatures with their brilliant black and red feathers and their gobble gobble gluck gluck necks! Come on! I have things to do and can't be late to the airport! God almighty, couldn't you have waited for another truck to pick on today? As I yelled at the fascinating creatures that were hogging the tracks of the bridge I laughed at myself for talking to turkeys. How absurd, I thought to myself. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd be held up by a flock of butter butt turkeys as though I'm waiting for a train. Life in Montana always seems to throw me the unexpected. Ain't that the truth? I asked myself. I never know what to expect from Montana. Eventually all thirty or so turkeys trotted across the wooden planks of the first out bridge and many of them lifted up and flew from the middle of the bridge to the edge and then down into the marshland just under and to the right side of the bridge. I felt honored to witness their flight. Their gorgeous long feathers shimmered and sparkled with color you can't imagine but must see for yourself to believe the beauty. As the last wild turkey trotted and then lifted to flight before my eyes, I was deeply filled with the exhilaration of Montana and the many gifts that it provides to me on a daily basis.

I continued to drive over the first bridge out, finally heading to my destination, only to be startled by an enormous Bald Eagle flying ever so close to Zippy's windshield providing me a private view of its underbelly detailed with the long fat body head and beak, and spread of his wings that was absolutely breathtaking as I glued my eyes to the remarkable talons curled and latched onto a big fat wiggling bass. It happened in an instant but felt as though it was in slow motion while I scolded myself for not having my camera with me yesterday. I watched the Bald Eagle fly right past me heading out towards the Headwaters and finally he landed just across from the second bridge out in the pastureland where he could touch down and eat his lunch in peace. From there I crossed the second bridge out and up the little hill to the stop sign on Frontage and Old Town Road. I turned left onto Frontage rather turning right towards the Freeway, I wanted to drive through the country to capture more of this "Last Best Place." I cried several times as I drove into Bozeman while passing farms and ranches and rivers galore, the magnificence causing me to realize how much I have changed since I moved here in 2006. How much I have achieved and have been able to accomplish. There is something special about this place. There is an energy here that fills you with hope and possibilities. Taking in a deep breath of contentment, I drove through the tiny town of Manhattan at a snails speed, with adoration for the country life and freedom that this land gives to me.

Kurt's flight landed safely and he had no trouble spotting Zippy at the loading and unloading area outside the doors of the arrivals area of Bozeman-Yellowstone Airport. We had a quiet ride back to Three Forks and ten minutes after he had a plate full of bacon, four scrambled eggs with cheese and chopped onions, two slices of toast and a large glass of milk, he went right to sleep on the sofa. I left him there to rest but he got up and went to bed for several hours, unable to fight the fatigue from three hours sleep in the last two days! I walked the pasture with the dogs and went up to my prayer post. We spent a long time outside to let Kurt rest. It's nice to have him home.

More to come...stay tuned in!

Susie Rosso Wolf

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Prairie Report #1, April 28, 2012

Prairie Post #1
New Prairie Woman
Susie Rosso Wolf

Well it's been a long time coming and many chapters to get through but finally I'm changing a few things around here. It's just time to thank you for always dropping by to read the first draft of my book, New Prairie Woman, and to begin a new format now that I have given you the first half of the book in first draft. I will, of course, continue to write my memoir about my life in transition from Los Angeles to Montana, until the end, and look forward to sharing some tidbits about the next coming chapters and any new photos that happen to grace the lens of my camera so that I can share the beauty of this fresh new Spring with you and the grandeur of the upcoming summer. I'm excited about getting out and taking new shots to post so that we can move past the long and dreary winter.

Today, I can report to you that we have had a ton of rain in the last two days with snow mixed in the rain and quite cold temperatures. The winds have been howling for over a week and they have drained me of my energy and given me a whopper of an earache. But we had a teaser last weekend with a couple days of temperatures in the 80's which was not only fascinating, but oh so welcome to the bones and joints that have been frozen like the river. So things are changing here, ever so slowly, but changing nevertheless. With change in seasons come new tasks and chores as we dig our way out of old man's winter clutches.

Kurt worked hard on preparing a new garden for me this year and I'm excited that May planting season is just around the corner. My new garden is the perfect size for a high yield garden with all of the delicious healthy goodies we need to get us through the winter. After walking off the area Kurt fired up the little Kubota tractor and tilled over and over the pasture soil that was grazing land for years and years. Once the soil was sufficiently tilled, Kurt drove Old Blackie up to the sales yard and came back with a truck load of fresh cow poop! Oh! What a smell! And I do mean FRESH! The sales yard foreman kindly scooped up the wet and icky manure and dumped it into the bed of Blackie and used the bottom of the bucket on his tractor to smash the poop down in order to give us a good load!  Ugh! It was a good load all right...taking forever to dig the wet and stinky cattle droppings up with our bucket and then dump it all into the garden. By the time Kurt finished transferring the manure from truck to garden, we were both covered in poop! Now we wait for the fresh manure to cool down enough to where it won't burn my new plant starts and seeds. Once the manure is cool, then we will call the sales yard foreman who has offered to drive his dump truck over to our land and dump a load of cooled down, dry, manure to lay on top of the first layer. Once the second layer is in, then I will add all of the amendments to the soil and manure that is needed to ensure a good and productive garden. Blood and bone meal, potash, lyme, nitrohumous, mulch and compost and much more. I can't wait to get into my coveralls and muck boots and get planting!

I truly look forward to updating you on my progress with the new garden this season and with my new photography, poetry and news about how the writing is going. I hope you drop by to comment, ask questions and have a chat. Don't be shy, just drop by to say howdy!

Be well and blessed, one and all...

Susie Rosso Wolf

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chapter Thirteen, Snippet Two

November's Chilling Sunset- Three Forks MT, 2006

New Prairie Woman
Susie Rosso Wolf
Chapter Thirteen, con't

             After his disappearance into the sunset, it didn’t take long before I could hear Cutter and Dinky barking and Lilly singing a happy wooo wooo song which could only mean that their master had returned from his huff and puff walk up the road. I heard the gate latch click open then looked out the window to see Kurt walking back into the paddock. Moments later the door opened and he said hello. I said hello back while I stirred the gravy for the meatballs and cut the fire under the rice. “You’re just in time for a nice hot dinner,” I said.
            “No thanks.”
            “You’re not hungry?”
            “I said no thanks.” Under normal circumstances I would try and try to convince Kurt to eat but these were not normal circumstances. Nothing about this move was normal; everything was up and down and in the air. This wasn’t a tangible situation, I couldn’t see or touch or feel this project coming to life because we had only just begun and so far we were stubbing our toes on the process. Although our journey on the prairie had only just begun it seemed as if we had spent a lifetime in the little trailer that I was working hard to keep from becoming a rat hole. As my husband walked past me without a word more I inhaled a deep breath, bit my tongue, shut my mouth and carried on with cooking the meal. Kurt went to bed, lying there fully clothed under a blanket. I served my dinner on a paper late to avoid washing a dish and wondered about things as I sat there at the table, alone, as I ate in silence. The meatballs were delicious and I remarked to myself that the Italian breadcrumbs eggs and fresh minced onion made all the difference when making meatballs in brown gravy. Maybe it was because I prefer all things Italian, how could I not? But in this case, there was no denying that the bland and basic flavor of brown gravy and ground beef rolled into balls was much improved with the touch of onion garlic basil and oregano. As I appreciated every bite of my meal I contemplated a second helping but felt self-conscious hogging the tastiness of this well cooked dinner, especially if Kurt was only lightly sleeping and could hear me going for another trip to the pan. And if he was in a deep sleep then the sound of me rattling lids to pans and scraping up gravy with the metal spoon certainly would wake him so quietly, I made my way down the steps after closing the heavy metal door with a Trepidatious click. After walking up to the hydrant to fill the water jugs, stopping by the big house to pop in and say hello to Brenda and the rest of the family, I made my way back to the trailer to drop off the water jugs and then I walked out the paddock gate to head over to the slice of land in a world that was supposed to become our new home. The dogs followed me, of course, never allowing me to go anywhere without them they were quick to tap on my heels in order to escort and protect as we walked up to the farthest corner of the land that now had our name on it. The prayer corner was the only place on earth now where I could tune everyone out enough to commune with God and be still in thought, meditation, prayer, devotion, and contemplation. To find solace, I had to walk away to my little church on that farthest corner of our pasture. Standing there, the dogs would lie down for a nap, now knowing after a full month of walking here, that we would be a while. Yes, we had been in Three Forks more than a month now so looking back was a good thing, maybe. Maybe we had achieved more than it felt like we had but then the wallet emptied out as if we’d been here for ten years. I was worried beyond fear, but praying helped me to remain calm enough that I didn’t become crazy over it. Praying helped to control my rattling nerves.
            I truly felt God answering my prayers. Walking away from the sight before my eyes was difficult. Pink and blue and yellow and orange painted the sky as the sun set just up and over the hill where Helicopter Dan was building his new home. The power of the sky in Montana filled me with immediate hope and gratitude for the masterpiece before me. The sky was magical; it moved me to tears on a nightly basis. Each sunset was uniquely magnificent implanting renewed faith and belief within me. Although the transition from California hadn’t been easy, each time I returned to the prayer corner in the pasture, the power of Montana’s sky released all negativity and doubt. I wondered if everyone in Montana felt the same way about the sky, or maybe it just me. Did everyone who came here find God in a deeper and more meaningful way, as I had? I’ve always known God, as I’ve told you many times but each and every visit to the pasture became an unforgettable event. Spiritually I had grown in ways I’d never even imagined, but I only felt this growth when I was there, in the pasture, leaning against the skinny metal pasture fence post with barbed wire twisted to it and connected to the next post and the next and the next…I never felt it in the chaos of the day when dealing with Kurt and the family, I only felt God when I was in my church up on the corner of the pasture. My little prairie pasture church had become my safe haven and now, I didn’t want to leave church to return to hot tempers and controlling men and half crazed hormonal women and bills piling up and money disappearing left and right from our account because of this expense and that expense that we just had to afford. My nerves were standing on the end of my arm hairs now and every time I had to hear about a problem of any kind I would shake like a leaf with nervousness but try to hide it, suppress it, so I could be the supportive and upstanding wife who could work like a construction crew guy and not complain like a broken down old mule. Hee haw, he haw.
The truth was, I thought God was only at the prayer post, which is what I was calling it now that Kurt and his new helping hand began to pull out the old metal stakes with barbed wire twisted and tied to them and pounded the new wood posts into the ground and then stapled the new pasture fencing to the wood posts with long metal staples. Inasmuch as my heart would bloom wide open like a Zinnia, brilliantly painted by God’s hand with the most vibrant colors and each breath I took I could feel his love for me, once I would walk away from my little church, I would forget His love until I would return.
I leaned against the new post, which was much more comfy than a metal stake up my back, and noticed that Joslyn, Kurt’s helper, would look back at me every once in a while as if he was thinking, “What’s wrong with that woman anyway is she weird or crazy or both?”
            Joslyn was a good hand; Helicopter Dan was right about that. Hard working, knowledgeable and gifted, he was exactly what the doctor ordered despite my despair over parting with our hard earned cash money. Joslyn was a breath of fresh air that was most welcomed by two weary people who were both filled with worry and exhaustion. In no time at all Kurt and Joslyn had all of the fencing up around the land except in the front area where we needed to keep it open for John’s big trucks and the trucks that would eventually arrive with our modular home ready for delivery. But the storage locker pasture was completely closed in now and had its lovely pasture gates hung expertly so that they closed perfectly and stayed latched, didn’t swing back open like I had seen on other property. It was comforting to witness the progress now, with sore eyes that needed cleansing by good news and the pretty picture of our land taking shape in the form of a home. Well, the promise of a home, eventually.
            Every day I would walk over with lunch made either from my tiny little kitchen or from Three Forks Market’s service deli. As much as they appreciated the homemade lunches, I could see the twinkle in their eyes when I would unveil the corn dogs or mini tacos or fried chicken, Jo Jo potatoes and ranch dressing for dipping…all of those good greasy snack foods that tasted oh so delicious but that were oh so unhealthy. And there were days when they would come to the trailer for breakfast too, but those days were very few. Usually Kurt and Joslyn were on the work site bright and early now that our neighbor up the road with the heavy equipment business came down and excavated the hole in the ground in a matter of one full day which completely surprised us. We paid a pretty penny of $2000,00 for his services of digging the hole and removing several huge tree stumps but to this day I feel that it was worth every cent because having that hole in the ground meant that Kurt could get working on the shop.
            Once the hole had been properly dug out, it was in the nick of time that Helicopter Dan and his crew of Joslyn, Tam, their daughter Manthee and another hand named Adam all met at the big hole in the ground just after the sun rose on a cold morning in early November. Kurt and I were hoping to see Robert join our crew only to be disappointed to watch him drive past us raising two fingers off of his steering wheel with a weak wave as he made his way to work at his new job at Lowe’s. Giving up on the Sheriff’s Department was disappointing, but I wasn’t surprised to learn that he had passed on another career opportunity. Robert had been complaining for several weeks about working in the jail system in Bozeman and was not happy with the lack of progress he was making towards becoming an officer on the beat. Although his lifelong dream of working in law enforcement appeared to be over he was putting on a good face about returning to his fallback source of employment. So now once again Robert was back in the retail saddle where he seemed to be most comfortable. But now that we really needed Robert’s help he was knee deep himself, in training for his new assistant manager’s position for one of the biggest retailers in the nation. We would be hard pressed to see him anywhere near the building of our shop and the setting of our home or anything to do with the transformation of our land. We were on our own, and yet felt so safe here now with all of these strangers who were giving and friendly and hardworking and small town nice. The tension caused by Robert’s consistent lack of participation in the build of our home was deeply disturbing to Kurt and I and it was very embarrassing to me personally. As he drove past all of us gathered in the extreme cold temperatures that early November morning, Dan and Tam looked at me with a curiosity that only could be described as dismay, as we all wondered if and when Robert would ever lend a hand to his Aunt and Uncle whom he had urged to move here so that we could all be a family again.
            It’s all very deep in the weeds, the truth about the flip flopping feelings Robert had for Kurt and I. It was a constant source of mystery, how he treated me and reacted to every word that I uttered. Always on pins and needles in his presence, I began to avoid him more than ever. Brenda and I discussed her son at length on a daily basis, both of us attempting to understand the man. She too, felt uncomfortable around Robert and felt as if she was not good enough, worked hard enough, or did things well enough for her to earn his respect. But if we put Robert in a room of “redneck” men who were drinking and discussing guns and ammo and killing game in the woods or how many gophers they had mutilated last weekend, well, he would emerge as someone neither of us could recognize. Alive, awake, happy, joyful, exuberant, talkative, giving, and playful. As the mean, nasty judgmental and argumentative Robert would disappear  I would stand in the corner of his kitchen upon occasion when his buddies would come by to eat and drink and brag about this or that, and I studied Robert so that I could belter understand him; who he was, or moreover, who he had become. As much as I had always adored him, I swear to you, I did not recognize this person acting like a longtime Montana resident who’d been hunting and raising horses on a ranch all of his life. The bull coming out of his mouth was absurd as he continued to prove to me that although he was thirty-four years old he continued to live in fantasy land. It hurt me deeply that Robert sustained his fantasy world refusing to see life realistically. But what hurt me even more than his inability to develop his own personality rather than emulate others that he admired, was the fact that he was so ashamed of my appearance that he purposely ignored me in front of his friends, would not look at me or speak to me, and several times I witnessed him whispering mean nothings into his friends’ ears while looking right at me and then he and the friend would crack up in laughter as he turned his back to me. Yes, those events hurt me deeply, mystified me, as I attempted to love my nephew and to be a part of his life. But I was learning that I could not trust him, or his wife, which surly was the cause of both Kurt and my disappointment in him. We worried about everything in those days, but Robert was always at the top of our worry list.
            Carrying on no matter what adversity we faced was our only choice. We had to continue on with our daily list of tasks. While Dan and his crew and Kurt worked the concrete that a truck had poured earlier that morning, and the crew expertly created the foundation for the shop, I kept myself busy with cleaning the trailer, again, and driving over to the Three Forks Café to pick up my order of ten cheeseburgers and ten orders of fries. I delivered the food to the hungry workers who were a whole lot grateful for the lunch break. The hours went on and on while they all worked and worked to get the concrete set before the temperature dropped below freezing that night. It was a very close call in achieving that goal, and I felt so bad for everyone who had worn themselves out all day and night while fighting a weather system that was coming in for the long haul of winter. My size 56  men’s Carhart jacket proved its worth of $100.00 as I walked back and forth from the trailer to the shop site with thermos’s filled with my magical hot cocoa made from scratch, of course, with just a hint of Tahitian vanilla. Styrofoam cups were stuffed into the deep pockets of my jacket while my gloved hands carried the thermos and a plateful of warm chocolate chip cookies that I had just removed from the trailer oven. Everyone was happy to have the hot beverage and sugar rush before they finished off the job in the wee hours of the next morning. I stood over the fire pit that Joslyn and Kurt had built in the forest garden next to the shop site and warmed myself as I marveled at the heart and soul of these people. How incredibly dedicated they all were to the idea of helping a friend and neighbor. Tears welled in my eyes, as I thought about how giving they were, no matter the challenge of beating the freeze. They worked as though this was the most important thing in the world to them and I was moved to weakness in my knees realizing the nature of these good people. It was astounding, to think that perfect strangers would care so much about Kurt and I. We were both amazed by Helicopter Dan and Tam, their daughter Manthee, Joslyn and Adam. Their hands and feet and back bones will forever be stamped into the concrete foundation and floor of our shop, along with their goodness and humanity.
            Alas, the foundation had been successfully poured and the shop floor was sufficiently set and ready for the building of the steel shop that lay in wooden boxes strewn across our upper pasture that had been delivered by a freight company. Collective sighs and deep breaths of satisfaction filled the chests and consciousness of Kurt and Dan while they walked around the shop floor to inspect their work from the prior day. It was a fine job, hey had done together, and Kurt learned so much from Dan who proved to be an expert at concrete work. Joslyn was scheduled to join Kurt the next to begin the process of opening the wooden crates in the pasture to sort through the steel parts that they would need to raise the barn, so to speak.
            Brenda and I shared coffee together that day, so happy that the big job had been completed and we were one step closer to getting into the house that was being built. Our joy and laughter was interrupted though, by a phone call from Brenda’s sister relaying a message that Mr. White had suffered a heart attack and was in hospital facing surgery that very day. Naturally, Brenda became hysterical and inconsolable. Worrying about her ex-husband sent Brenda to her bed for the rest of the day so I walked back to the prayer post with the dogs, to ask my friend up in the sky to watch over Mr. White and to spare him from all discomfort and despair.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Chapter Thirteen, Snippet One

Our Mini Self Storage Locker Business That Was Included in The Purchase of Our Land.
Three Forks, Montana - 2006

New Prairie Woman
Susie Rosso Wolf
Chapter Thirteen

             Hit and miss is the only description I can give when attempting to explain John’s work schedule. Actually, let me switch that up to patchy, at best. One day he would be working away, and then next day he would be missing in action. It didn't take us very long to figure out that John had far too many irons in the fire and that he was taking advantage of the building boom going on in Montana with thousands of people transplanting themselves from Southern California to get away from precisely what we were escaping from. Who could blame them? But the weather was indicating that we were heading into another cold snap with winds out of the north whipping across the prairie from the mountains and onto our little lot of dreams and hope for the future. So we called John’s cell phone two, three and four times a day for three days until I became so infuriated by him ignoring us that I phoned the manager of Montana Homes of Belgrade to complain. Having been referred to us by MHB, I wasn’t too happy with the manager who gave me the run around but assured us that he would give John the message to call us. It was another day before he returned our call, with promises about being there the very next morning and apologies about not showing or calling but that he had been tied up on another house that he just had to finish. Another house more important than ours, apparently.
            While waiting for John, Kurt and I walked the land and talked and talked about where to dig the post holes to hang our fences. We walked into the storage pasture to look at the thirty-two unit storage building and to figure out exactly where we would be cutting in a driveway that would lead to the lockers and where we would have a ton of gravel dropped off to lay onto the cut that our customers would drive on so they wouldn’t get stuck in the mud in winter and spring. Kurt opened every door on the storage building and we both noticed right away that the lockers were filthy dirty with lots of spiders hiding in them so I walked over to the locker that we had our yard tools and supplies locked in and grabbed a couple of brooms. Together we went along and broke down all of the webs and chased spiders out to the gravel around the building. We worked hard on cleaning down the walls and floors and then made our way back across Conifer to the trailer. Just as we were walking into the gate of the paddock a silver colored Toyota pick-up truck with a metal rack in the back of the bed for tools and ladders came round the corner, and then pulled over onto the weeds. Helicopter Dan opened his truck door and slowly eased out of the vehicle. Walking towards us, he said “Hey neighbors.” Kurt and I both smiled and waved at Dan and in unison we said hey back.
            “You look like you could use a beer,” Kurt said to Dan. Dan broke into a bright smile and absently pulled off his baseball cap with a helicopter logo on it from the helicopter flight training school that he was an instructor at. He wiped his brow with his elbow, ever so slowly, took a deep breath and then placed the cap back on his head.
            “You must be a mind reader,” Dan said, as the two men shook hands and then he said, “Hi Susie how’re you doing, girl?” 
            “Fine thanks, Dan. Would you like to sit down in the trailer with us or would you two gents like to have a beer outside in the fresh air?”
            “Oh girl, I’ll follow you guys in I’m beat and you folks would probably like to go sit down too. I’m just dropping by to see how things are going over there for you.”  We all walked to the trailer and Dan stopped near the door as he waited for me to enter first. I headed up the metal steps only to realize in an instant paranoia about the two men looking at my enormous butt going up first and could have kicked myself for allowing Dan’s good manners to get the best of me. I hurried up the steps and walked all the way back to the bedroom so they could walk in, sit down, and then I turned back around in order to walk to the tight quarters fridge area of the kitchen and grab a couple of Budweiser long necks. I made my steps as light as possible because I had become consciously aware of the fact that when I walked in the trailer my body weight could actually make the trailer move a little and make a creaking sound that I was embarrassed about so I tried not to tromp with my heavy feet, to avoid more humiliation. I lightened my step as I handed him the beer. “Thank you Susie,” Dan said to me in his most sincere politeness.
            “You’re welcome, and welcome to our little house.”
            “You know, my wife was just telling me that she has no idea how you two aren’t going to go nuts in this little thing, we thought ours was small.”
            “Yours? What do you mean?” I asked.
            “We’ve been building our house up there on the hill and living in a 5th wheel. Tam is climbing the walls, wants out of it now but of course we’re not finished with the house yet so we have a few weeks to go.”
            “How long have you two been out there in your 5th wheel? If you don’t mind me asking.”
            “Oh hell girl no, I don’t mind you asking, we’ve been out there for four months now.”
            “So, not counting the excavation, building your road up the hill and power installation and pouring the foundation, etc., how much time has it taken to build a stick house?” Kurt asked.
            “If everything goes well, which we’re hoping it does, I’d say the house has taken roughly ninety days or so but I’m not quite done yet. I need to hustle now and get my wife out of that trailer before the real cold temperatures come.” Dan lifted his hat and rubbed his forehead a bit, and then placed the cap back on his head, all done in slow action as if he were exhausted.
            “We’re already a month behind on our schedule,” I included into the conversation.
            “We’ll, I told your old man to get that hole dug so we can get started on the pour for your shop and we’d better start soon before the ground freezes. Once the ground gets hard you’re looking at Spring before we can pour again and Spring don’t come around here until April or May at the earliest. I’ve seen it come in July before and we don’t want you in this thing that long.”
Kurt had made an agreement with Dan to pour the concrete for the shop back when we first put an Ernst payment down on the land. They shook hands on it over Rob’s fence and agreed to a price, without paper work or contracts, they just shook hands and that was that but excavators were crazy busy in these parts because of the building boom. Finding an excavator to dig the enormous hole in the ground for the shop, while John dug the hole for the house, was the one thing we were totally focused in on now. But every call we made for an estimate came in so high we decided to keep looking for a more affordable deal because money was rapidly dwindling and Kurt was going to do anything he could to shave off some expenses. Dan suggested we ask one of our neighbors up the road who runs heavy equipment what he would charge us and if he would be available to get started right away on the dig. Dan was trying to be helpful and said that he and Tam were very concerned about us and knew we needed to get started on the concrete pour right away. “People die out here in this weather and we don’t want anything to happen to you good people.”
            “I will call this guy tomorrow, Dan, thanks for the heads up, man.” Kurt and Dan shook hands across the little table and I offered Dan another Budweiser.
            “Ah hell no girl, Tam’s got dinner ready and I’d better get up there before she skins my hide.” He stood up and then finished off his long neck. I grabbed the empty bottle right away as he headed for the door. Kurt got up and followed him out and down the steps. They both walked to the gate, talked for a short bit and then shook hands once again just before Dan got into his truck. I hollered good-bye from the door and he tipped his hat at me. When I went back to the kitchen to get started on something for our dinner, I couldn’t help but think that we had just spent time with one of the most interesting people on the planet. His mannerisms alone were fascinating to me; slow, direct, thoughtful speech with a sort of rhythmic cadence to it. When he spoke it was like very cold honey coming out of an overturned jar. You waited and waited in anticipation for that honey to come out and when it did you realized how worth the wait it was. Every word this man spoke had a purpose. There wasn’t any BS if you know what I mean. You just knew that there was nothing phony or put on about him. Helicopter Dan was a real true blue Montanan and I had a feeling, as I rounded some meatballs in my hands to go along with rice and gravy, that we had just spent the better part of an hour with a man who has deep set morals and values, who is as straight as an arrow and who could be, in time, a special friend and neighbor.
            Kurt came back to the trailer and handed me a phone number written on a little piece of scratch paper. “What’s this?” With one hand busy stirring rice in boiling water and now the other hand busy with this paper I gave him a look of disbelief as if to say Hello! Don’t you see that I’m cooking? Kurt just laughed and grabbed the paper back again.
            “It’s a phone number Dan just gave to me for a hired hand he uses. He said he’s a real good hand, has been working on Dan’s house a lot and that he might want to pick up some extra work. I think I’ll give him a call tomorrow because Robert hasn’t been helping at all and you can’t do what I need help with and Brenda is tied up with the baby and April so I guess we have no choice but to hire someone.
            “I didn’t know we would be getting so deep into our savings for this place, Kurt. I’m very concerned about all of this spending.”
            “Susie, I have to get help. I can’t do what I have to do all alone and you can’t help me.”
            “Well, why don’t we just wait for the house to be erected and then you can build the shop later after you get back to work on tour and making a living so we have some fluid cash flow coming in? Why don’t we do that?”
            “It doesn’t work that way, Babe, the shop is part of the construction loan, I can’t just put it off, we can’t get in the house until the shop is built.”
            “Seriously? I didn’t know that. I mean, I didn’t realize it. I guess I don’t really understand all of this banking stuff.”
            “No, you don’t understand it. I wish you wouldn’t try to suggest stuff when you don’t understand how it all works.” That was all it took for me to shoot off my mouth with more of the wrong things said and the next thing I knew the tension built up and busted out of the tiny four walls and spilled down onto the mud and dirt and gravel as I watched Kurt walk out of the paddock, onto Old Town Road and out of sight.

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