Friday, March 02, 2018


The winter of 2018

Since there have been deaths of ministers who served in the glory days of the PNWD-UUA world — the days when I was active there in the Seventies, newly discovering the movement — I was prompted to call Bruce Clear, who interned there and then served the Vancouver, Washington, congregation.  While he was in the Indianapolis pulpit he suffered a major stroke and since then has been in an excellent nursing home.  This is the address.  I managed to call right at lunchtime, so I just left my phone number.

Hooverwood Indianapolis Jewish Home Inc 
Address: 7001 Hoover Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46260
Phone: (317) 251-2261

I asked the nurse who answered the phone what the weather was like there right now, and she said that because it’s basketball tournament time, the weather is icy and risky.  I laughed, because it’s the same here, only more so. 

(The ministers who died were Alan Deale, 90, and Philip Hewett, 93.) 

Today the next blizzard is coming through, and it is a bit milder — the lows are above zero — but the snow is extraordinarily high, nearly matching the records for 1971-2 in East Glacier.  I was there, and I remembered, which is why I’m in Valier.  Recently I’ve been anxious to get to Cut Bank where there is a good laundromat and also a big grocery store.

The store was full of young men so tall, so thin, so grinning, so leaping, that I knew it was tournament time here just like Indiana.  Of course, the other clue was that the team buses were all out in the parking lot.  These were small-town teams and they were as pleased as me to get to a big grocery store where they could load up on junk food for the hours of exhausted travel on the way back home.

In the laundromat, “Washaway”, things were different.  The owners are aged enough now (Ben is 90) that they want to sell but youngsters say it’s too much work to take on.  This is an attended laundromat with Ben pouring coffee and providing the newspaper.  Often the other customers are former students of mine from Browning days.  

Recently one was Walt Wetzel from the famous athletic family.  This time one was the nephew of Judge John Sharp, a Blackfeet Tribal Judge involved in many controversial and tragic struggles over white adoptions of tribal kids.  (If you google, add Blackfeet to his name to get transcripts.)  I didn’t get the name of the other man.  Both of them were middle-aged, working men, very pleasant and friendly, but neither of them participated in the conversation between Ben and I while I waited for the cat-birth muck to be washed out of my mattress cover and and sheets.  

Maybe they were a little embarrassed by my jokes, which tend to be randy.  I complain about the constant internet offers to “augment” my penis when I don’t even HAVE one.  But the real content of the conversation is about the same as this blog.  In his time Ben was a guard at the Nuremberg trials, and he recalls how guns are regarded in the military — an instrument requiring major attention and training.  Also, when the family was in Plentywood, he was a local judge, so he is initiated when it comes to human drama.  He has no illusions about wickedness.  I’m afraid he DOES have illusions about teaching (he still feels it’s one of the most honorable professions) and no knowledge of religious stuff beyond the conventional.  Okay with me.

There are women here and elsewhere who curse the “good old boys,” their harassment and violence against women, but these are the other men — the steady workers who might not be exactly George Clooney, but solid and almost courtly.  I don’t go to bars or even cafés, so the laundromat is where I talk to them with my jar of quarters in one hand and jug of liquid detergent in the other.  

It’s thirty miles to Cut Bank on a secondary road almost always windswept.  This time the drifts had been cut away and the pavement was dry.  The last drift before town was just being broken as I passed.  These piles are so high and white that it’s a bit like driving past the wall of a marble quarry.  I watch the progress of clearing on the  Yesterday the road showed as green; now it’s turquoise with gray dots to show where it’s snowing the hardest. 

Valier is just outside the worst of the snow though roads around us have been closed temporarily.  There is something about the Blackfeet Reservation, possibly related to winds through Marias Pass, that causes major snowfall even in drought years.  This is one of those “mixed blessings” one hears about.  What is good for the land is not necessarily good for those who live on it.  

The woodpiles are low and the oil tankers can’t get out to the more remote ranchhouses.  When the temps sink to thirty below zero, that’s lethal.  

Since the basketball players were snowed out, the wrestlers stepped up and kept their conditioning tiptop by digging people out.  

There was no possible help for the livestock.  Some people calve about now.

Yesterday it was easy to avoid thinking about all this.  The sky was Wedgewood blue, the snow was china white, except where grain stubble was swept bare.  Blue-reflecting snow mixed with strokes of shining gold produces an iridescent effect that I can never capture with paint but others can with a camera.  In the back of the pickup I had clean clothes and a pantry restock.  Now is the time of putting way and paying attention.  The basketball fans all have their radios on.

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