A Blog by Cowboy Bob
Dang, I can’t figure out what the weatherman is talking about. Siberian express, artic vortex, record low temperatures! What the heck, it’s Montana, it’s winter, and it’s cold, and so as my grandkids say, “Duh.” After driving home from Billings in a ground blizzard, Miss Gail and I stopped at the 307, a friendly neighborhood bar, like most small towns in Montana. They serve a pretty mean burger with onion rings in addition to libations. The regular crowd, half in cowboy hats and Carhartt’s, the other half in various layers of jeans and work coats with safety vests were talking about the big game in South Dakota next week, where our Montana State team will play South Dakota State in tropical South Dakota. “Real shame that our boys have to go down and play in all that heat, don’t seem fair,” was a common refrain as they drank a Moose Drool and shared a heaping nacho plate.
Montana people are used to the cold, don’t necessarily like it, but we adapt and laugh at those overused words to describe cold, and so our stories go along like, “What? This is nothing, should have been here in ’84, 50 below, wind blowing a blizzard, snow drifting 10 ft deep. Well, the cows still had to be fed, the horses’ water still needed the ice busted, and wood had to be brought in for the fire. We didn’t know it was bad, it was just winter.”
These winter stories remind me of a story told by my rancher neighbor Everett. It seems like during one winter, the boys along Red Lodge Creek would find a reason to head up to St Olaf to “check on the church.” They would get together around a wood stove in the shed, perhaps sharing some blackberry brandy, you know, for medicinal purposes, and play a few hands of cards. Well, in one of these gatherings when there were more than a few coffins stacked up, as was the custom, to wait for the thaw, the conversation turned to getting around the frozen ground. It just so happened that a new irrigation project had been done that year and a new tool, dynamite, had been in common use to blast the hillsides and keep the ditch on grade. As the blackberry brandy was shared, (it was a bad year for colds you understand, and you can’t be too careful,) the miracles of dynamite were expounded on and pretty soon, well, you know, an idea began to form, and the bottle was running a little thin. Someone, and no one remembers who, said “Boys, that stuff works on rocks, why not on this frozen ground,” and the fuse was lit, so to speak. An hour later, at a spot where old John O. was to be placed, two half sticks of this miracle cure were placed into holes pick axed into the ground. The boys thought about the safety aspect and moved their rigs over to the other side of the church to shield from the blast’s debris. They reckoned that the blast wouldn’t hurt the church with the energy being directed upwards. “Fire in the hole” went the cry and BOOM, the blast resounded off the hills and down the valley. The dust and snow settled, and the silence was deafening. There were two holes, each about 5 feet deep, the windows on the church on that side were blown out and one of the cowboys, deciding this was getting too weird, tried to leave, and shouted, “All our pickups are full of dirt and rocks, you crazy Norskis!” Seems the debris went up and over the church building in an arc and the bigger rocks landed on the rigs, dented them all, broke a few windshields and every truck had some damage.
Now this glum group of cowboys, at a loss for words until one spoke up, said “Ain’t this the s…ts.” They quietly got their rigs cleaned up enough to drive and drove off. It is said that the wives never forgot, and anytime a man came up with a hare-brained idea, those gals would say with squinted eyes, “Is this like the dynamite deal at the church?”
Well, it makes a good winter story, maybe not all true, but, by golly, it is a great way to stop another cowboy’s yarn. “Oh, you think that is bad, let me tell you about the time up at St. Olaf…”
Visit Miss Gail’s website, gailcushman.com, for her latest news and adventures. Her bookstore has all her books, just waiting to ship and fill in that empty spot under your tree. Merry Christmas, may you all have peace and joy in this season. Need a laugh, read some of Cowboy Bobs blogs, all of them are on the website and they are just as funny the second time … “she fluttered those long eyelashes at the cowboy and he knew he was whipped.”