Monday, August 31, 2009

road trippin' with the seniors

my dad, my stepfather, and one of my aunties (say ahnty, not anty)
took a road trip to Montana
to visit one of my other aunties who is battling breast cancer.
we drove on back roads, by farms and fields and road construction and through the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation.
I might add that my fellow travelers were all in their 80's and have lived in this corner of the world all of those combined years...and seemingly more.
Snippets of the conversation:
"yah, look at dat field over dere. my goodness, look at how green it is. not even close to be harvested"
"oh my, look at the weeds in that one"
"now you know this place is the Arnson place--"
"which Arnson is that--Jimmy?"
'No, Petey. "
"Petey? Was that Jack's son?"
"Are you sure? I thought that was Emil's son"
"No, Emil's son is Jimmy. He married that the Halverson girl over east of there"
"Which Halverson was that? June?"
"No, no, I think that was Elvina, you know Einer's daughter"
"Oh, sure..."
"What is that field over there?"
"hmm, not sure. Must be lentils or peas"

As we come upon another field, in chorus, we all say (including me):
"That's sugar beets there!"

"oof, look at that place (meaning farm) over dere. All those junky cars. must be at least tirty (thirty) of them."
"oof, yah, and you know, Mabel C. was so mad that the government made a program to get rid of all those junky cars on those home places and she was so mad. Our taxes shouldn't be payin' for that now--they put those cars there, they can get rid of dem dereselves." (I might add we are driving through the reservation here. There is much racism here regarding the reservation. I just can't even get into that now, but I must name it.)

We finally get to my aunt's house in Montana. (She is doing very well, and is sweet as zucchini bread.) Then the stories begin about growing up on the prairie on a farm...sneaking out at night to go on dates with boys on neighboring towns, reading letters written by my grandfather to my aunt when he was in the hospital in 1970, talking about sweating like a bull, and much laughter, and of course, picking some rhubarb from the garden.

After a several hour visit, which included bars (homemade cookies, scotcheroos, and pecan caramel somethings) and decaf coffee and then later sandwiches from Subway ("oh, these are so delicious!" "wow, they really pile it on, don't they?" "oh my, is this a halapeeno?" "so healthy, you got your meat, your salad, your bread...") we head home.

More of the same conversations, peppered with names like Soiseth, Buseth, Furseth, Teneninko, Olsen, Lee, Mischke, Brevke, Ida, Delphine, Charlotte, Ole, Alvin, Elvin, Marilyn--I am amazed at how my road trip partners can travel over a hundred miles on the prairie and name whose place we pass on the road, and how they remember so and so's maiden name and the three husbands or two wives of another person....and who is sick with what, and who is doctoring where, and what all of their children are doing, and where those said children are living...
and the sweetest thing...
as we pass golden waves of grain,
each one giving an opinion on when it is ready to be combined...
and the thrill each one had
when they saw combines and grain trucks and oggers in the fields harvesting...
and the most precious moment,
when we drove over a hill to see a ripened field,
my father exclaiming,breathing in with appreciation,
"oh, look at that beautiful field. it's perfect. it would be fun to get a combine in that right now!"
such delight.
and deep gratitude for the land, for the farmer, for the bounty it yields.

Glad I got to road trip with dem today.


  1. I could see it all in my head - thanks for sharing the story....

  2. And thanks for bringing us along!
    This reminds me so much of my parents and my Mississippi aunts and uncles, long gone now.

    "Somewhere back there in the dust
    That same small town in each of us..."

  3. A few years ago, I wound up driving my mom, two of her cousins, and one of their husbands in a minivan. Of course I was the only one with knees good enough to get into the third seat, but they wanted me to drive. After I dropped them off at the restaruant door - a long process in which they just seemed to keep climbing out - I called my husband and said "I've been driving a geriatric clown car!" Glad your trip was enjoyable.

  4. beautiful. i felt like i was there. thank you so much for sharing!