About Me

My photo
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

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.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chapter Twelve, Snippet Three

Our General Contractor, John Mellum, finally breaking ground on our land.
October, 2006

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

As I waited for time to click by and progress to be made on our land little Bella was growing like a beautiful Montana wild flower. April had become a wonderful doting mother, rarely leaving Bella’s side and Brenda was right there day and night to assist April with any of her needs including working fingers to the bone keeping the house spotless and meals prepared, laundry washed dried and folded then put away in each room. As much as the women had impressed me with their constant loving care of my tiny great niece, Robert’s fathering skills impressed me beyond the beyonds. Because he was living out of state when raising Snowflake and Cricket, I missed watching how he parented his daughters. Now I was seeing him in a completely different light each time I walked over to the big house to visit or to shower. Robert carried his new baby as if she was the most important person on the face of the earth, holding her securely in his giant arms, handling her like a professional nurse. I was fascinated, watching him with Bella, she was so small, just weighing five pounds ten ounces when she was born. Bella looked like a baby doll in his arms. Indeed, Bella was a baby doll, she was so sweet and such a good baby too and I loved to watch her and sing my little songs to her, wanting to introduce her to Italian arias and art songs. I sang the Italian songs and everyone would laugh and more times than not they would sing along in their comical manner, especially April who loved Italian music, well she loved music of all kinds, and loved the classic singers of the old days such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennet. It wasn’t unusual to walk in the door to hear Frank Sinatra bellowing. But Robert was a country music fan and only played country music on his truck stereo which was cranked up when he turned onto Conifer Trail. Music was important to all of them in the big house, and of course, music was important to Kurt and me too, having dedicated our entire marriage to Kurt’s career in the music industry as an engineer in sound. It was apparent that Miss Bella shared her family’s love for music because each time she heard music in her miniature ears she would coo and smile and kick her darling little feet inside her pink nighties. I loved to pick her up and hold her, feed her a bottle, look at her and gaze into her eyes. Bella was an angel to me, and because I couldn’t get enough of her I always walked by the master bedroom each day after I would shower, brush my teeth or start a load of our laundry. Many times the door of the master suite would be closed which meant that April and Bella were both sleeping but when the door was open I would peek in the doorway to be sure April was dressed and Bella was awake. Many times I would be waved in by April and she would lovingly place her angel baby in my arms. When I held Bella, everything made sense. The effort to bring our family back together made sense and the Christmas card that Brenda sent to us in 2005, with her heartbroken cry for her best friend, made sense, and the drive out to the Ontario Airport with a tray of fresh Manicotti for my nephew who had abandoned us, made complete sense. Indeed, the manicotti was the recipe for the return of love that would catapult our family into reuniting in a way I had not expected. And now when I held Bella, everything made sense to me and my heart swelled with a deep, deep love that I had not felt since I fell in love with Kurt.
Crying with joy tears came easy and frequently to me because of the magic of Bella’s love so it was natural that when I would return to the trailer I fell into peaceful meditation and prayer. I continued to pray for every aspect of my life during those early days in Montana. I prayed for Kurt; for his health and strength to fulfill his dream and vision. I prayed for good fortune and wealth because I worried so much about money and the expense of this dream and vision. I prayed for Robert, Brenda, April and the girls. Praying for peace between all of us was essential, it was vital that we all get along, respect each other and love each other as a bonded family. I prayed for that bond to develop and stick like glue to all of our hearts. I also prayed for my health and self-confidence as I attempted to lose weight, for my physical ability to help my husband. It was easy to meditate and pray in Montana. Walking up to the far corner of our land with the dogs, standing there looking out at the mountains, the enormous white puffy fluffy clouds floating across the deepest purest blue any eyes could ever see made it so easy to pray. I realize that I’m repeating myself not only in the telling of my prayer but in the beauty of the sky and mountains and the importance of the prayer but as I would stand there in awe of God’s love and His grace-forgiveness and blessings upon all of us, I greedily asked for more. I wanted everything to be all right. It wasn’t about me, per say, it was more about me, wanting and needing security in all aspects of our family situation and daily lives. Kurt’s dream was to build his workshop, set the house on the foundation, design and landscape our property in a manner that would preserve the natural flowing attitude of the valley prairie floor and to live a happy life here. My dream, my vision, was to live in peace with my family, to cultivate a loving relationship with Robert, for Kurt to be able to find work here locally or for his sound companies to continue to employ him so that he would be able to provide a life for us here and that we would not fall into a bottomless well of debt. I was selfish, I knew, with my heavenly requests, but we had been down so many rough roads in our marriage and now sick and injured in my fifties, I could not imagine more of the past toils and struggles. Yes, I’m repeating over and over to you that I prayed and I prayed, prayed, prayed up to the mountains and cried soul cleansing tears each time I walked back to the work site where Kurt and our general contractor were now, talking about working on clearing the land of the final debris left behind that was too big and hard to move with our Kubota.
John Mellum was a fiftyish looking man with sandy blond hair streaked with natural toe head highlights. He was extremely fit with tanned skin, muscles bulging through his tight T-shirts and a bright smile with crystal blue eyes that had just a touch of sky gray in them. John was a very handsome man, very tough and rugged too. Originally he hailed from North Dakota but he was a Montanan through and through, had been living here for many years since he came west in search of warmer weather. He drove a big bright red diesel engine dually Ford pick-up truck that had a horse trailer hitched to the back of it. John was a capable carpenter/contractor who knew his business well and now after meeting him I was glad that we had chosen John via recommendation from Montana Homes of Belgrade. He wasn’t cheap, however, his rates were high but his ability and reputation seemed worth his fees.
After walking the land and area where Kurt wanted to set the house John and Kurt both signed all of the legal paperwork for the bank and escrow office necessary to commence construction. And then, they shook hands as gentlemen confirming their commitment to one another. I held my hand out to shake his hand too which startled John a bit but he held my hand as if it were a delicate flower. His shyness emerged as he dropped his eyes to the ground while quickly, softly, pulling his hand back from mine. Montana men were far different than any men I had ever met. For the most part, they were gentlemen always opening doors, calling you mam or girl or “Miss Wolf.” Montana had a thing about a woman’s place, her role in society or just plain daily living. Montana didn’t take too well to city women, didn’t have much time for them gals really. And I was one of them gals and noted to myself every time I met a man in Montana that this wasn’t Los Angeles or Portland or Northridge or Corvallis, this was Montana and men here, well…they were eighty years behind the times.
Several days later after signing the contract and payment agreement which included a hefty cash down payment, John looked every bit the Montanan cowboy in the seat of his tractor while he began the process of excavating a hole for the foundation of our new home. Never without his cowboy hat that was stained with dirt and grime around the rim he walked and talked the true essence of Montana and I couldn’t help but be a little taken by him. I wasn’t too happy with him, however, standing us up for so many days after he agreed to see us the next morning only to be a no-show and not answer our many calls or left messages. Kurt wasn’t happy either but we both exhaled a sigh of relief the morning we heard his truck come round the corner of Old town Road and Conifer Trail dragging a flatbed trailer behind his red Ford truck that carried his enormous yellow Caterpillar tractor. He drove onto our land through the designated drive way area then drove alongside the conifers to pull to the front of our property. We walked across Conifer to greet him and to watch him take the tractor off of the flatbed. I was excited and couldn’t wait to hear the tractor digging into the virgin prairieland, only to be disappointed again when he announced to us during our friendly conversation that he was merely delivering the tractor and would be back with more equipment later.
Later. Infinity in the definition of the general contractors’ dictionary. Later droned on and on without a phone call to explain his absence. Kurt continued to work and I tried as much as I could to help him but we both felt unnerved by John Mellum’s absenteeism.
We made our way into Bozeman and drove into the parking lot of Murdock’s Ranch Supply to purchase all of the material we would need to fence the land. Kurt parked around near the back of the store where the fencing material was stored and as we began walking into the back door I heard the familiar sound of John Mellum’s red Ford diesel. I tugged on Kurt’s arm as John drove right past us, looked right at us and waved. My heart skipped a beat with anxiety rolling through my body while my instincts took over like spiders crawling over my skin and immediately I rushed forward towards his truck so I could give him a piece of my mind but Kurt held onto my hand knowing that I was ready to kick John’s butt from Bozeman to North Dakota but alas, he didn’t park his red Ford he drove right through the parking lot out the driveway and onto Frontage Road. I could feel the heat from my face burning red as I became so angry I was temporarily rendered speechless. While we shopped for the fencing it was all we could talk about in a whisper so we weren’t overheard but once we had the material loaded into Old Blackie and headed for home knowing that within a day or two we would have our log fence posts delivered by Murdock’s, well, the sting of Mellum’s parking lot stunt began to fade away.
Early the next morning the red Ford diesel drove onto our land while we both slept in our cozy comfy trailer that was now feeling less foreign to us and more like home. The loud racket of the tractor’s backhoe and front end loader ripping into the ground woke us up and initially, we wondered what the noise was. Sleepily, I realized that it was John running his tractor and then Kurt agreed as he stretched up to the window from his bed and opened the curtains to look out and see the back end of the Caterpillar at the front of our property. Finally, we were breaking ground. Breaking ground in Montana. The A+ at the top of my book report on Montana came rushing into my heart mind and soul and suddenly once again I was transformed back into my Catholic Schoolgirl uniform with my white and tan Oxford shoes and bobby socks, white blouse, blue sweater and pigtails. A lifetime later, my husband and I walked to our land, hand in hand, to watch Mellum dig away the ground that had been grazing land for livestock and wildlife. Less than an hour later another truck sound rolled through the hillside and down onto the prairie and then the truck from Murdock’s appeared at the corner of Old Town Road and Conifer. The driver noticed us near the cluster of trees where we were standing so he drove over to us and parked in the newly mowed down weeds. Kurt instructed the driver where to drop the load of three hundred and fifty log fence posts and eleven green metal pasture gates. We were officially building our home in Montana. We held our breath, then exhaled, then held our breath again and again while the load was delivered and the truck drove away. We stood over the stack of posts and green gates that were piled high in the middle of the front pasture near the road and couldn’t believe that were here, as if we had been asleep for the last month and now suddenly we had been awakened by a rip roaring reality.

ADD a COMMENT to Facebook


To follow New Prairie Woman by email, please enter your Email Address below and click Submit.

Click LIKE Button to Send to Facebook

New Prairie Woman Web Page