Dad's Big Game

Two years ago when we went to Montana for Christmas we had many plans of activities to try while at home... however my dad's body had other things in mind. We had purchased tickets to fly to Missoula on Christmas Eve, but dad went into the hospital 4 days before our flight with a ruptured appendix. My husband and I went to the airport 3 days early to catch an early flight to be with him, but United Airlines sucked dick (See previous post).

Dad was out of the hospital on Christmas Day that year (I am so thankful for small blessings). He has recovered better than anyone expected him to, back to hiking and hunting within 6 months of his surgery, and now he's 100% recovered.

In early October, I got a phone call from Daddy - and I could tell he was just bursting and giddy to tell me something. "Jenni - I got my Ram!"

Since I was a little girl, my dad has applied for a Ram permit every year. In Montana - the average number of permits available for the entire state is under 20. This year only 5 were issued. Of those 5 - my dad was the only person to bring home a Ram.

The day after his permit arrived, he called his friend to go hiking and to spot where the game was traveling... no real plan for hunting (guns along for protection - prime season for Grizzlies to be out eating berries in prep for hibernation). They started out in the afternoon, climbing up steep inclines, heading above the tree line. As they rounded a cooley, they spotted a herd of 50 mountain sheep - several Rams in the mix. Dad pulled up his scope to get a look - and he saw a 1 1/4 curl ram bedded down, but when the ram turned his head he was missing one of his horns (likely a rut fight incident). Just down the slope was another Ram, full curl horns (both of them), munching away on mountain grasses.

Dad and his friend sat and watched for awhile. As the sun began to set a few sheep began making their ascent up the mountain from directly below where the guys were positioned. The guys scrambled up the slope to stay ahead and yet not alert the herd across the way. They stopped when they reached a small tree clinging to the mountain side. Dad and Ed sat down to get another look at the Rams... his friend pulled out the distance scope to give my dad an idea of how far away they were. "Ernie - it looks like about 221 yards." Dad sighted in his gun using the tree for extra balance - compensated for the slight breeze - took a deep breath, and squeezed the trigger.

BOOM! The herd took off up the hillside... the ram Dad was aiming for stood up and followed after for about 20 yards. The beast fell and tumbled down the mountain a little. He stood up, then fell again, and came to rest against a log. A clean shot to the heart - Dad had his ram.

Together, Dad & Ed got the Ram 1/2 way down the mountain slope to the tree-line... but since they had only planned to go for a short hike, neither had brought along any food for energy. As the sunlight vanished - they found themselves hungry and exhausted. They left the ram on the hill in the dark, and hiked down to their vehicle. Once in range of a cellular signal, they called in some friends to meet up for dinner at a local bar & grill.

A few cheeseburgers and sodas later, the group of now 4 men made their way back to the valley. It took all of their combined strength to get the animal through the trees in the dark, but dad's ram was hanging in his garage by midnight.

Timing on the hunt couldn't have been better. Because the rams had not gone into the rut (mating season), the meat was perfect. You see, most hunters don't get lucky enough to save ram meat because by the time they get their permit and make the hunting trip - all of the animals are pumped up with mating season hormones and adrenaline - making the meat rancid.

Look at hunting however you will, but I grew up on wild game and I am in better health as an adult because of it. My family only had store-bought meats in the freezer when we were in between hunting seasons and running low on game. This year Dad has a load of ram burgers, steaks, ribs, and more... and he has the bust of his prize on the wall of his living room.


A Carousel for Missoula

This Christmas, my husband and I went to Montana for the holidays. In years past we've made plans of things to do and stuff to see, but most of the time we've ended up goofing off on ATVs more than anything.

One change this year from others is that we spent two whole weeks with my Dad - giving us ample time to get in everything I had tried to plan for the last 6 years.

Our drive to Montana was interesting... we made it over Homestake Pass just 2 hours before their shutdown time due to wether. The entire drive from Colorado to Montana ended up being 17 hours because of snow, but it wasn't what I would call a bad drive. Nice and slow - a chance to really enjoy the scenery and giant flurries.

So - Christmas Eve my dad had an appointment with the VA... checking up on his health overall. His doctor proudly admitted that Daddy is her healthiest patient - since he manages to get out hiking all the time, goes hunting (got his first big-horn sheep this year), and has no major health problems. He had to fast that morning for the blood work, but Jer and I took him to Famous Dave's for lunch afterwards.

We had snow-snow-snow-snow to deal with driving around the city... not to mention traffic because of all of the crazy last-minute shoppers. I was determined to get the guys to downtown once they had full-tummies - to visit a place that is very near and dear to me.

When I was younger I ran a dance school for several years. One of my students had Prader-Willi Syndrome (See previous post), and her mother was married to a founder of Watkins-Shepard Trucking. One day my student's mother asked if she and I if she could talk after class about an idea of hers... Not sure what was going on I cleared my afternoon and we met for lunch. As soon as I sat down she pulled out an envelope filled with papers about a Community Carousel project - some kind of pipe-dream revival that she decided to get involved with in her free time.

Apparently she had purchased a Carousel Horse, and it was at her discretion how it should be designed. She realized after the purchase that she didn't have a clue of where to begin when it came to art so she though of me because I had designed the t-shirts and posters for my dance troop. Over the course of lunch, and a few more meetings - we had a sketch to go forward with... a horse dedicated to the memory of her infant daughter Carrie who died from SIDS - to be decorated with all the things little girls like:

Ribbons and Bows, Butterflies and Bangles, Puppies and Pansies.

I had the chance to share a memory of my contribution to a local legacy... My dad, my husband, and I took a ride on one of the fastest Carousels in America on Christmas Eve 2008. It was the perfect beginning to a fantastic vacation!



So... I just had the opportunity to see something that most people will never see in their lifetime!

It started with a few phone calls and e-mail messages trying to get a private viewing of 2 gemstones in the Smithsonian's permanent collection. A dear friend of mine had cut the donated stones in the early 1990's, but only had a couple of pictures from a magazine article to show for it. Knowing that I travel to D.C. a couple of times a year, he asked if I could try to get a couple more pictures.

Luckily, the gentleman I contacted at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History knew exactly what stones I was looking for and where they were located in the archives.

On Monday, my friend Kathy & I rode into downtown D.C. on the Metro, and got in line to go into the Smithsonian. My husband joined us from his office nearby... and the three of us were admitted through security, given passes to go into the "Employees Only" areas, and were picked up by our host.

We walked down a long corridor of marble floors, took a right turn into a small hallway and walked down some narrow steps to catch an old elevator (decorated heavily in tarnished brass and mirrors). We slowly went up several floors and exited into a poorly lit hallway. In true museum style - sitting next to the elevator doors was a GIANT specimen of petrified wood with bands of yellow, green, black, and brown rock hinting at the composition of the 4-foot-tall chunk of rock.

Next we passed through two heavy metal doors and walked down another hallway that had large pipes running along the ceiling hanging so low that if anyone over 6'3" would need to duck to avoid hitting their head on the joints. To our left was a small, unassuming brown metal door with a key-pass lock.

Our host swiped his neck tag, punched in a code, and the door opened up to a living-room sized office. There was an old 1950's metal desk on the right, complete with an aged desk lamp and green-screen computer. To the left were a few tall wooden cases with hastily scribbled cards taped to the many drawers. Along the far wall were filing cabinets, a coffee pot 1/2 empty and stained from years of use... but this was not yet our stop.

We passed through another door that opened into a warehouse. Like a scene from an Indiana Jones film - this huge space held 10-foot-tall wooden filing cases as far as the eye could see to the right and straight ahead. As we walked along, our host pulled one drawer open and said, "We keep rock and mineral specimens of every kind from everywhere in the country here. There's sorted by locale." I peeked into the drawer labeled "Antarctica" to see rocks that looked like what someone would find in their yard.

Our small group walked about 30 yards, then took a left turn and walked another 15 yards and passed through one last door. Inside were glass display cases along every wall loaded with some of the most amazing rocks I've seen in my lifetime... hidden away from public view because they are probably not as rare as what is on display currently, but just beautiful. Two small gem cases were brought before me, and there the two stones were laid out for me to take pictures of.

It was a short ordeal setting up my tripod and correcting the light settings, then a few clicks later we were done.

We left the way we had came in, except instead of getting onto the elevator we went through two different sets of doors and were released into the "Minerals" branch of the museum. A few smiles and handshakes later, our host left... and my husband, friend, and I boggled over the experience we had just enjoyed. It was just - amazing.