There’s a little town, and I mean teeny town in Eastern Montana. Pompeys Pillar. Named after the 200′ sandstone look out tucked up in the cottonwoods on the banks of the Yellowstone river.
Now that place is a tourist attraction with a cabin set up to look like a turn of the century family just stepped out to pick berries or walk trap lines in the pine covered bluffs across the low, wide river. You can’t really climb to the top anymore. Fences and signs keep a limited liability for the company but when I was a kid and you were even remotely interested you could climb the fence surrounding the property in the off-season, climb to the top and see the vista of small farms, the criss-cross of roads and canals and in the distance another set of low hills.
It’s where I grew up and wandered and where the farm house I grew up in is located. On the springtime overflowing banks of Fly Creek.
The house I grew up in started out as two houses. One an early 20th century farmhouse and the other built a bit later. At some point in the 40’s? 50’s? someone put the two houses together and that’s where Grandma and Grandpa lived. With Weimerainers and heelers, horses, cows and a few chickens. Across the driveway under a massive cottonwood and right behind the gas-tank stood a mid-1800’s, two story log cabin with a clapboard front room which had been turned into a shop and storage. The big wood stove became a nest for mice and the rare huge pot of hot chocolate in the winter.
The reverse LX quarter circle. I’d write the brand if I could but WordPress doesn’t have cowboy emoticons or shortcuts.
There was a chicken coop, a shanty barn and an acre or two of seepage we called The Swamp. The house was set in a little valley with hills on one side and big trees on another. A really nice setting. Poplars on one side kept the wind from blowing the house down in the January winter storms that would whip around the eaves.
In the summer the smell of fresh cut alfafa would linger in the still, hot air. Sunsets were limitless and brilliant and the purple, orange and gold would splash across the sky throwing the trees into sharp silhouette. Sometimes we’d even see the Northern Lights dancing across the sky. On more than one night my dad would wake us to go lie in the yard and we’d be captivated by the ephemeral wisps of color teasing and whirling across the sky. Sleepy wonder would give way to the delicious shivers of amazement before just simply turning to shivers because we were cold!
When we all left for our own lives Mom & Dad sold the farm to a guy who turned into a hunting lodge, re-decorated/re-modeled the house, and filled it with enough kill-shots and stuffed pheasant you couldn’t turn around without some proud bloke with a carcass smiling down from the wall.
The last time we were there, in the kitchen, on the wall over the little door that hid storage under the stairs, is a picture of a white haired man with a handsome craggy face, white beard and the justifiably proud look of someone who has had a successful hunt.
Tommy Lee Jones.
And since I have slept in every room of that house.
He slept in my bedroom.
12 years after I left it.