by cheri sabraw
Every town or city in which we stopped, especially in Montana, became an opportunity for speculation. Is this a place where we could live part of the year and exit California congestion?
This line of questioning we pursued from Hamilton, Montana–a charming town in the Bitterroot Valley still undisturbed by tourists–to Great Falls–a city on the Missouri River, protected from California investment by its spartan offerings–frigidity in winter and wind velocity in summer.
Lured by the confluence of four famous Montanan rivers–the Beaverhead, the Big Hole, the Madison, and the Jeffereson–we drove into Twin Bridges, population 350.
At the end of Main Street we found our lodging, the Kings Motel, owned by Don and Marsha and their son, Matt.
Don’t let the trim outside and gravel road deceive you. Marsha and Don take pride in the cleanliness of their rooms, complete with kitchens, lounge chairs, and homemade furniture.
While my husband fly-fished the Big Hole with Matt, I walked to the Shack for lunch and then crossed the Beaverhead on one of the Twins (bridges). I was on my way to the vacant fairgrounds, around which I had been told, was a walking path. The dry air, hovering at 85 degrees, along with almost a complete absence of other people, put me into a dreamy mood.
The Shack at lunchtime.
Should I order a Bud Light or a Brownie Sundae?
Later, I headed to the fairgrounds, imagining myself on my daily walk here in the Ruby Valley, free of the snarl of cars, the clang of my neighbors’ heavy equipment on Sunday mornings at 7:00 am, or the roar of the 737’s heading into one of three airports in San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose.
The fairgrounds were vacant alright. Not a steer, lamb, or hog to be found.
I’m sure the dear and deceased Paula, God Rest Her Soul, is thrilled that in her honor, bulls have their way with trapped cows. Makes me wonder what Paula’s hobbies were.
This sight caused me pause: will they name a room at Mission San Jose High School after me when I die? That freakish thought was answered before I could get Paula out of my mind. “Absolutely not, shouted the representative from the California Teachers’ Association! “
The day became hotter; my checked cowboy shirt and jeans began to feel heavy.
The mile loop seemed like part of the arduous Lewis and Clark expedition, which passed by Twin Bridges at Three Forks. There, to the relief of Meriwether Lewis, Sacajawea saw the Beaverhead Mountains and remembered her homeland.
On my walk by a tributary of the Beaverhead, a fella enjoyed himself.
I rounded the bend, about a half a mile from my motel room; the day was as still and dry as cornstarch.
Not much was happening in Twin Bridges. Should I attend the Gun Show over there in one of the fairground buildings?
Instead, I headed for the Kings Motel. The path freshened with the river. I called out to moisture. Moisture! Surely you will sooth my parched skin and slumping body.
And then it appeared–the Twin Bridges Oasis–Main Street.
Back at the King’s Motel, I fell into one of the Barca-Lounger chairs in my comfortable room and picked up the book I had deliberately brought to reread while here in Montana–A River Runs Through it.
In my view, this novella is as good as anything Hemingway ever wrote about nature, conflicted relationships, and sport as religion. As I asked my husband later that night at dinner at the Old Hotel in Twin Bridges, ” What do you think the “it” refers to in A River Runs Through It?
Could the pronoun have referred to Twin Bridges?
My husband, settled, loose, and unpreoccupied after a day on a river, and having enjoyed several glasses of Pinot Noir, missed the joke.
“Why Cheri, the ‘it’ refers to the tangled relationship that Norman had with his brother Paul.”
The Big Hole River, Twin Bridges, Montana