Become a Fan
Hitchhiking the Montana Millennium 3
By Tyler Joseph Wiseman
Saturday, April 03, 2004
Rated "G" by the Author.
Part tres of the journey
The morning dew settled in brilliant droplets upon my hair, causing the locks to curl ever so slightly, and giving the appearance somewhat angelic. As I opened my eyes the dawn greeted me with a myriad scheme,
and the air, I found, was crisp and invigorating. I sat up, listening to the warbling of morning birds, then lit a cigarette and began penning my journal entries. The highway was approximately 30 feet from me, and I looked closer to find another breakfast restaurant, as are so plentiful along off ramps, which I would procure my first cup of joe. It was perhaps too early to hitch anyway, I thought, though I’d better morning luck than midday altogether. So, wrapping the vestiges I so dearly cherished to my back, I set forth to dine.
Walking up past a gas station lot, I soon caught sight of another road brother. Upon walking to him, I inquired upon his health and how the roads were. He replied that there was some great difficulty along this particular stretch, and that he had waited near three days at a station some 60 miles towards Washington. I expressed my sympathy, and queried to whether he’d enough money to eat. He responded that he had, that a kind family the night before offered him five dollars, with which he had dined before our meeting. That established, I bid him farewell, citing my hunger as an urge to leave, and moved on to the diner.
Once inside, I sat down and sloughed off my gear, set my notebook upon the counter, and awaited my order.
The waitress approached me and asked that I move my backpack somewhat more out of the aisle, to which I happily obliged, then ordering a cup of coffee. As I sat writing out copies of poems, the coffee arrived, and the waitress indulged me in some small talk. She was a middle aged woman, though none the worse for it, and had a slight plumpness which told of a few years and children at the diner. She asked where I was going, which I told her, and she seemed genuinely delighted. Stating that she had no great plans for the Millennium New Year (excepting perhaps, hiding under her bed) she declared that it must be quite exciting to chase a dream as I was, and wished me the best of luck with it. I thanked her, handing a copy of Jewel I, and wished her good times as well. She thereupon attended to other customers, a few straggling truckers and a family in a booth, as I gathered my surroundings.
The diner was designed blatantly in it‘s manner, Americana du jour. The same red and white checkers that adorned Louise’s apron also lined the countertops and tables. Stainless steel runners stood between the black stools and counter, and the kitchen was only perceptible through the hole in the wall under which the coffee pots stood. Out a rear window, one could see the semi-busy rush of I-94 as dawn rose to day. Behind me, a small town stood, barely more than a travelers stop, with the residences presumably in the next valley.
The waitress walked up to me, refreshing my coffee, and asked if I was hungry. I responded that I hadn’t much in the way of funds, but if she would consider trading a poem for an egg, I would be greatful. She looked at me bemused, and ordered an early bird special, citing the poem wasn’t necessary. I thanked her earnestly, and replied that it truly was, for as traveling artist, I had an obligation to offer my due. Soon enough I was feasting on the eggs, bacon, and hash, and after giving another poem, I set forth on my way.
Walking along the foothills just beyond North Dakota, I was blessed to find a red van move to the shoulder ahead of me, and with my heart in my throat, I ran to meet it. Inside sat an elderly man, black cowboy hat shading his brow. He inquired as to my destination, which I offered with a “thank you so much!” He stated that his path would lead past Bozeman, and that I was welcome to ride along. I asked whether it was all right to smoke, which he affirmed, given I open the window, and we rolled along the way.
I offered my hand and name, and he reciprocated, telling me he was Tom, and that this was the first time he’d been to Montana in years, but in times long gone he was the owner of a ranch. Having bought it inexpensively during post depression years, he had managed to sell it some five years previous for near ten times the original amount. Thereafter he moved to Australia and fathered a daughter. I congratulated him on his successes, and mused on the beauty of the countryside. Tom then inquired as to my musical tastes, to which I gave a noncommittal, “just about anything, not too fond of Rap or new school country” and he responded that he’d a tape of extremely rare cowboy songs. I urged him to put it in, and for the next 30 miles we listened to the likes of “The Last Great Cattle Drive in ‘98,” and “The Bronc who would not be Broken.”
Soon we saw a young man and lady walking along the shoulder, and he pulled again to the side of the road. I commented on his trusting nature, and thanked again the generosity he had shown to me. The pair reached the van and, after thanking Tom, asked if he could drive them up to a tow yard where their VW had been taken. He affirmed that he would, and they settled in to make introductions. The man, a scruffy looking neo-hippie, declared that his name was Dog, and his girl was Rain. They had apparently been heading to the regional Rainbow gathering, a collection of holistic types who gathered to barter and share in good times, when the minibus they were driving in broke down. Fortunately, rain said, the area in which they broke down had a lot of traffic like that, and the part was fairly easy to get. All they needed was a lift to the shop so that they could get back rambling.
Dog wore a dirty hemp parka, deep blue and black, and some equally dirty khakis. Rain, on the other hand,
appeared somewhat cleaner in her sun-dress with what appeared to have forget-me-nots patterned on it. Tom himself wore a button up shirt with aqua and designs of cattle skulls and his black hat. Personally, I was wrapped in my Indian blanket, under which was some faded Levis and a sweatshirt advertising a Dracula play in which my uncle performed some years back. As the pair happily told stories about travel to an intent driver, I found fit to write some journal entries and a poem about broken rainbows.
Tom offered them some water or crackers, as he already had myself, and they joyfully sated themselves as we rolled into the yard which was designated on some instructions Dog had scribbled on a napkin. Tom then offered to give a jump, if needed, and they accepted, whereupon we worked to such ends until the bus started. They thanked us, telling me I should visit Missoula on my way to Washington, which I promised as I gave a poem. Then, waving farewell, we became only two again.
As we began to approach Billings, Tom informed me that he had seen a group of hippy kids in passing, that there were two vans and that if I wanted, he would drop me off at the next off ramp in hopes they would pick me up. I weighed the possibility, and he affirmed that they likely would do such, so at the juncture he stopped and wished me luck. I thanked him for all his kindness, and proceeded to walk on as he drove away.
Pulling out my notebook, I took a large breath of the mountain air and looked about for inspiration. It was not more than a glance and I was struck by an epiphany, watching a tawny horse glimmer in the sunlight. Taken by the muse, I penned out “My Glitterdust” and as I finished, the hopeful van did indeed stop.