As I inched forward every so slowly in yet another Portland area traffic jam, I kept repeating the time-worn phrase…”you can’t go home again.”
Having survived countless such wastes of time in the Seattle area and now again along the clogged lanes of Interstate 5 my mind was racing almost as fast as my blood pressure was climbing.
There’s got to be a better place, one where honking horns and stressed out people was not the norm.
Then, as I waved off another “driving finger” gesture and added another quarter mile, 15 minute advance toward my urban destination, the solution came to me….I’m going back home.
With my three children solidly on the path toward independence and the working world I decided then and there that the call of the Big Sky Country was the answer.
Having grown up (although many over the years have accused me of never growing up, to which I have always replied ‘thank you, put that on my tombstone’) in Billings, I remembered how it always felt during my journeys back to Montana. Crossing the Idaho-Montana line at the crest of Lookout Pass I swore I could feel my blood pressure easing and a smile taking over my face.
A few resumes and phone calls later, I received an offer to come to Townsend and help them install and activate that town’s first Cat Scan machine.
After a brief career in Spokane as a reporter for the Spokane Daily Chronicle and the Spokesman-Review, I decided to chase the money and entered the radiology field. During my 40 years of Cat scans, MRIs and X-rays I encountered all manner of humanity.
That path led me to Plains, where I worked for a bit over a year scanning and radiating patients until it was time for me to retire. I joke that I have been around so much radiation over the years that I no longer have to purchase light bulbs, I just glow in the dark!
In the first few years back home, I worked hard to shake off the effects of living among millions of human beings. No more obscene gestures from folks who thought I was to blame for traffic entanglements. No more standing in one line after another, sometimes to buy an over-priced cup of fancy schmancy “coffee” or shell out big bucks to attend a football game.
Here in Plains, no more parking meters, sold out parking lots or traffic lights on every block of any main street. Imagine my surprise to learn there are not only no traffic stop lights in my new hometown, there are none in this entire county!
Even though it’s a good idea to be vigilant, most folks still don’t lock their vehicles when they run into the store or stop for a cold one. On cold fall mornings the air is crisp and clean…..you can see the bottom of most streams and lakes.
And my favorite, the folks who give the classic Montana wave when driving past from the opposite direction….folks I don’t even know! Perhaps most importantly, genuine civility that does not include endless, mindless attention to political correctness!!
Yup, Montana is still a special place. It ain’t for everyone for sure.
Too many people, in my humble opinion, seem to thrive on the hustle and bustle of city living. I would rather have my background noise be an occasional passing train or a flowing river than the mind-numbing drone of clogged freeways.
If there has been a “negative” to my return to the real world, it may be that I’ve become stingy.
When I talk to friends in the Seattle and Portland areas I often tell them the story about no traffic lights, which, thankfully, most of them can’t fathom or believe. I tell them they wouldn’t like it here…too much snow in the summer and wild bears that terrify residents who seldom venture out without at least a .44-caliber anti-bear weapon.
I tell them of the occasions during the summer in which mosquitos have landed at local airfields and have had hundreds of gallons of aviation fuel pumped into them before folks realize they weren’t 737s!
I’m a Montanan!
That fact became crystal clear to me when a short while back I found myself “moseying” from my Dodge Ram to the grocery store.
But the clincher was when I found myself nodding in agreement when a discussion with a friend about the not so likely possibility of total electric failure here in Montana involved him saying “if all the power goes out and stays out, I will become the biggest horse thief in Sanders County, cuz I ain’t walking!
Dang, it’s good to be back home!!
Chuck Bandel is the new reporter for the Mineral Independent and Clark Fork Valley Press. Look for his “Kvelve’s Comments” column in upcoming issues.