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It could have been a dark and stormy night in Amarillo, Texas when it all started for me, a baby boom TV kid raised on cereal boxtops across a cornucopia of dual income, suburban petri dishes. I went to college when it was cheap, became an art teacher, then slid into a freelance artist existence without the romantic Parisian garret, that morphed into a freelance musician’s lifestyle playing trumpet for thirty years. During which time I got married, had a son, got divorced, remarried and moved from Chicago to Northwest Montana to homestead off the grid. Adopting the Luddite mantle, and heretic to technology, I threw my cell phone off the mountain and got my life back. I gave up playing trumpet and spent eight years learning to run a chainsaw, all the while flirting with my favorite distraction, writing. Believing that living seven miles up a mountain, deep in a temperate rainforest wasn’t relocating remote enough, I still raise a glass with an indigenous toast, “Here’s to never leaving the mountain”. It’s been a long journey, and the week ain’t over yet.
I was sitting with my wife at breakfast this bright summer morning, enjoying a meal of softly poached eggs atop homemade bread and a small bowl of watermelon chunks. The eggs and toast were delicious and we both ate in silence, relishing the tasty yoke juice intermingled with the golden-crunchy bread. We made lip smacking noises as we ate and didn't talk much, as was our usual morning meal ritual. I saved my watermelon chunks for last, imagining the light, nectar sweetness of the blushing red melon meat. After a couple bites I broke our morning silence and remarked, “This is seedless watermelon, isn't it?” My lovely wife nodded her head in ascent. I forked another chunk and removed it from the tines with my teeth. The fruit wasn't as sweet as I had imagined. “You know, if you take a moment to wonder, if there are no seeds, then how do they grow more seedless melon?” My wife refrained from answering, having been raised not to talk with her mouthful. A brash robin twittered outside. “I mean think about it hon, somebody came up with a way to make seedless watermelon. Why?” I paused to ponder my own question. “How many people actually complained about the seeds anyway? In some parts of the country don't they hold summer watermelon seed spitting contests? Or I seem to remember that in China or someplace, they toast the seeds and eat them. Seeds are very nutritious, probably even medicinal.” One of our dogs scratched at the door to go outside, I got up and let her out. My wife didn't offer any confirmations to my morning speculation. “I'll bet, somebody thought it'd be more convenient not to have to deal with seeds, spitting them out in an unmannered fashion or being forced to clean them up. Another somebody thought seedless watermelon would make a great ‘new and improved' marketing idea to sell more melon and make more profits.” I sat back down at our table and stabbed another red chunk of watermelon. My wife had started eating her bowl of fruit as well. “You know,” I started and my wife looked up at me from her bowl, “one might think the biologists and botanists would have more important things to do than to alter the natural process of vegetation, I mean like just for the heck of it. Seeds are very important. Why get rid of the seeds?” Another of our pets pulled herself from the floor, and wandered over to the door wanting to be released. I again got up and let her go. My wife was slurping spoonfuls of red juice from her bowl. I sat down and looked at my bowl. I shuffled a couple chunks around then pierced another bite and chewed on it. It had less taste than the last bite. It didn't seem to melt in my mouth anymore, but instead, needed to be masticated at length. “This kind of thing just leads people, especially the younger generations to think produce magically appears on the racks in grocery stores.” I was just about done with my bowl of morning fruit as my wife took her plate, bowl and utensils to the sink. “I guess this falls under the old adage, ‘just because you can, doesn't mean you should.' I don't know why we humans have to continually complicated things.” My wife brushed by me on my way to the sink and casually mentioned over her shoulder as she walked to the room we call our library, “It's your turn to do the dishes, isn't it hon?” I love my wife, she's so uncomplicated.
My lovely, ever patient wife went to town today. The mid morning sky was chromed in classic Montana blue as a summer breeze performed a Burlesque fan dance through the forest. She had some errands to run, and needed a well deserved break from her retired husband's manic rants. Not a quarter mile from our off-grid cabin, she witnessed a mountain lion take down a small Whitetail. The muscular cougar stretched across the gravel road, -seven feet whiskers to tail tip- caught the deer by the shoulder and snapped its neck. The attack was quick, efficient and both creatures disappeared before her SUV passed the spot where it happened. Nature is like that, succinct. My wife adjusted her sunglasses, checked all her mirrors and proceeded down the mountain. Four blind curves and two cutbacks later she watched as a towering Larch fell on top of a single-wide motorhome, crushing it into the ground. The huge conifer bounced two times before settling in a cloud of clay dust and pine needles. A lone man carrying a running chainsaw walked out of the brush and threw his hat on the ground. My wife shook her head, not bothering to stop and ask if he was alright. The smashed motorhome looked like a cross between an accordion and a bow tie. Today it was a motor home, tomorrow a pick-up truck. Those type of incidents happen all the time. The second most told story at Wednesday night bowling league only overshadowed by someone's latest hunting story. About a mile from the Teddy Roosevelt steel bridge, linking the East side of the Kootenai river to the West and connecting the forest to the town my pro-life sweetie swerved to avoid mashing a squirrel and blew a tire instead. After steering her SUV to the side of the road, and waiting for the gravel dust to settle, she got out and examined the tire. There's no cell phone reception in the mountains, even this close to town. The only reception spot is in the Southwest corner of the grocery store parking lot. My sure-to-be canonized spouse had to walk the last mile into town. Fortunately it was a beautiful day, sunny, warm but not hot and the forest smelled of wild flowers. She crossed the bridge, stopping momentarily to admire the emerald clarity of the river running beneath. The Kootenai “chameleons” from a milky jade to a deep jade in spring, transforming into a sparkling emerald in the summer and swirls into a deep serpentine green in the fall. The aesthetic never gets old. In town, positioning herself in the Southwest corner of the grocery store parking lot, my sweet love first called the tow service, TAZ towing, and Bobby the owner -a slight of build cartoon character- said he'd pick up the truck right after his lunch at Jacks diner, they were having his favorite, roast beef on toast, gravy and mashed potatoes. That announcement prompted tiny growls of hunger in my wife's stomach. Ignoring the pangs, she next phoned her friend and church buddy who lived south of town for a ride home. The woman said she'd be happy to pick my wife up at the store. With that confirmation, my resourceful honey proceeded inside for some grocery supplies. The check-out computer was down again so the cash registers had to be operated manually. A common occurrence for a technically challenged, small town. A half hour later she stood outside, a plastic bag in each hand and her saddlebag purse hung on her shoulder. Her ride back home was uneventful. Our bullmastiff Tassie raised her head off the couch and made a quiet chuff, and that's how I knew my wife had returned. I walked into the kitchen to refill my coffee cup as she entered the back door. “Hey hon, how was your foray to town?” She set the bags on the counter, dropped her purse on a chair by the door, then went to the glassware shelf and pulled down a cocktail glass. “What cha doin'” I asked, as it was not quiet our customary “booze O'clock” yet. “What does it look like I'm doing? You ask the stupidest questions sometimes.” “I dunno, we're out of vodka.” “Then give me the scotch.” I poured her two fingers and she made a casino Black Jack signal to hit her again. “I take it something happened?” “Nope.” she said taking her four fingers of scotch to her favorite recliner, “Everything was fine. Steins was having a 10lb meat sale.” I peaked out the backdoor window and noticed her truck missing and the taillights of her friends car headed down our long drive. I took a moment to study my wife's profile as she relaxed in her chair and sipping scotch. I admired the calm and content features of the woman who left the big city, learned to gut and dress livestock, qualify 98 out of a hundred target hits with a semi-automatic, garden and can everything from turnips to bear hump, take care of my parents, three dogs and a cat and still strong-arm me into marrying her after 20 years common law. I sipped my coffee and didn't ask anymore questions. I love my wife, she's a rock.
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