Friday, August 30, 2013

Rescues and Rescuers

Oooops! I just lost a page or more of blog immediately after changing the title of the post. I was working on the idea that problems typically have remedies waiting for us when we are open to them. And, those remedies often come in the form of other human beings.

Two of my recent dilemmas resolved themselves very quickly with help from strangers who became friends - or were they friends I just hadn't met yet? 

The first happened outside of Colstrip when the front wheel bracket suddenly felt off my buggy when we were about to take a break in front of the Rosebud Power Plant. I put my right thumb out and held the wheel in my other hand for all to see. The second vehicle passing towards town stopped.

80 year-old Annie Purdon didn't pull over. She just put on the brakes, stepped out of her van and invited me to ride to town with her. We quickly got the rig settled in the back of hers. I was a bit worried about her parking in the middle of the highway. Annie thought nothing of it.

She drove me to her favorite tire shop looking for assistance, but the only regular mechanic there and in town was getting ready to make a towing run to Spearfish. We considered options in the middle of which Annie took me to the local supermarket.

I needed some cold liquid refreshment. While in line, I asked around, "Does anyone know a welder in this town?"

Immediately, JoAnn Kofford spoke up from another checkout line. "I do. What do you need?"

Annie Purdon & JoAnn Kofford

Within minutes, the buggy was transferred to JoAnn's SUV. She then drove us to Josh Clark's CTA Performance in Colstrip's industrial park. Josh was out, but his helpers assured me that they could fix the problem.

We left the Buggy and JoAnn drove us to her home. There I met her husband, Dale Kison, and two granddaughters, Chalon and Deja. I was made entirely at home, like family, and joined the four for chicken fried steak dinner.

Life in Colstrip revolves around coal mining and coal-fired power generation. Dale works for power company. JoAnn used to.

Around dinner JoAnn and Dale and I talked about Colstrip and coal and power. Later on, JoAnn and I discussed life and philosophy as well as her Mormon heritage. Eventually, I got a tour of the Kofford-Kison property and several gardens. 

Before the evening was out, Mr. Clark appeared to repair the fuel pump on Dale's truck. He had welded the Buggy back into working order dropped it off. "No charge." I have been wondering about that ever since. (JoAnn told me weeks later that Josh is also a Mormon.)

In any case, my Colstrip benefactors took kind and generous care of me. I slept comfortably in the house's storeroom - no spare bedroom. JoAnn supplied me with goodies and a map to find my way out of town and Dale got me started in the morning as he went off to his shift as operator at one of Colstrip's power plants.

Thanks to a mishap, breakdown, and problem on the road, I got to know some Colstrippers, spend an evening with family, and make a friendship. JoAnn and I have traded a number of emails over recent days. Thanks once again.

From Colstrip, I was off to Lame Deer. That stretch was relatively uneventful. I met many friendly people there, especially at Dull Knife College.

During the middle of the day, a former US Marine stopped to visit as I was approaching Ashland. He was supportive of my "mission" and offered to lift me into town where he was to meet an old friend. If he had twisted my arm, I might have taken him up on his offer. Before long, I thought, "Maybe I should have accepted. Look what I got myself into."

Around six o'clock, I approached Ashland with rainclouds building on the north. I thought nonchalantly to myself, "When it starts to rain, I will have time to get my poncho on."

Well, I was overly optimistic. As soon as the first drops began to fall, hail followed immediately. A lot of hail and even more wind. I barely got the poncho unfolded from its pouch. (I hadn't used before.) 

The wind was BIG. It very nearly tore the poncho out of my hands. With supreme effort, I got it over my body. I couldn't manage to get my head into its covering. But, maybe that was for the best. 

The hail was pounding down. I decided to sit myself on top of the Buggy. The welding job held, thanks to Mr. Clark.

I sat there with the wind and rain and hail having their way - mostly - with me for what seemed like a long time. It would have been totally unnerving had I not remembered, "Hailstorms pass quickly."

And, that one did. The whole episode was only ten or twenty minutes with the hard part lasting half that long.

I was soaked to the bone. But, the sun slowly returned to assist the wind in drying me out.

I marched the last few miles into Ashland. I hadn't a clue what to do with my wet and bedraggled self.

A convenience mart appeared and I headed toward it. I parked my rig and moved to the front door. A young woman, filling her SUV with gas station, addressed me saying, "Were you in that storm?"

"Yes, I sure I was."

Koyatu Jorden took charge and decided she would make room for me and my rig in the back of her vehicle. She was heading for Riddle on the other side of Broadus to her second job of the week working as a flagger on a road construction project.

We traded stories as she barreled down the road, making calls and texting much of the while. She was a multi-tasker, to be sure. Koya cranked up the heater to help me dry out.

By the time we reached Broadus, we had become friends. Koya insisted on taking me to the local motel office. But, all three plus campgrounds were full up. Against resistance, she eventually dropped me at the local park. She did insist in leaving me with a blanket which has already come in handy. 

Interestingly, Koya - also called Tutu - filled me in during our excursion on some of the details of her Mormon background. I told her about my reading of the Book of Mormon the previous winter spurred by my several interactions with LDS people on my 2012 Walk to Nevada. 

I kept my critique of the Book of Mormon to myself. I will merely say, "There are kind, generous people everywhere. How interesting that I was 'rescued' by two Mormon women in the early days of my latest expedition."

I had for a time planned to walk through Utah on this trek. I may now have already had my Utah experience thanks to new friends, JoAnn Kofford and Koyatu Jorden - KJ and JK.

Koyatu Jorden

I failed to get a photo of Koyatu on that rainy night, so I borrow one from her Facebook page.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Seams Right

I have known Janet Ecord for almost 15 years. We crossed paths a few times beginning over a decade ago when I lived in Lavina and she in Melstone.

I helped her get started in Medical Transcription and Janet did the hard part of finishing my one and only quilt. Janet and I also traded services on another occasion. She sewed some curtains for (Ginger Arnold and) me. I painted the inside of her sewing shoppe which sits next to her house on Highway 12.

Those seemed like the right things to do some years ago. And, another course of action seemed right when I presented myself at her door several days into my current Walking Venture. 

It was late morning when I appeared at her house on the east edge of little Melstone. It had been several years since I had last visited Janet while passing through on a trip to South Dakota. Janet was away from town and I missed her when Walking through in 2002.

This time when I knocked at her door, she appeared immediately with her two dogs behind her. We talked for a few moments while I filled her in about my latest adventure. When she invited me into her home, it was clear that Janet was working on a new venture of her own: remodeling the interior of her house.

Much of the floor was bare as Janet had pulled up the old shag rug. She had been busy scraping the old popcorn ceilings clear of their period texture. Janet was also planning to tear down a number of kitchen cabinets which jutted out into her present work area. She was in definite need of help on the latter operation.

I thought, "Wow! This is a big project. Maybe I should lend a hand."
I made those thoughts audible within a few minutes and I joined in Janet's remodeling effort.

I stayed with Janet and her dogs J.D. and Sam for 9 days. During that time, I got to know the grocery and cafe, senior center and church. As well as a number of Melstone's citizens.

But, the main object was to help Janet get her house in order. We got much of her ceilings scraped and cleaned and painted. A couple living room walls got covered with paint as well. The kitchen cabinets were removed from their posts of the last 20 years.

When those tasks were done, Janet put her sewing machine to use and repaired my tattered flag. (She has just now finished a replacement flag as the original Fannie got mauled in a hailstorm outside of Ashland and needs to be retired.)

Janet Ecord spends up to 12 hours a day at her computer keyboard transcribing dictated medical records. In years past, she taught at the Melstone High School.

But, it is clear that her favorite work and talent is with a sewing machine. Janet told me that her mother explained sewing to her when she was a little girl. But, Janet really taught herself and became a seamstress from an early age. She could and did sew practically anything during much of her life.

Alas, Janet has hardly touched any one of her several sewing machines for the last five years. My little projects gave her an excuse to sit again at her Bernina. 

It also gave us a chance to visit the building next door to her house. Once upon a time, it was a grocery store. For a short period, it was her sewing shoppe called Seams Right. While the shoppe has been quiet for some years, it still holds many of Janet's creations some of which I induced her to let me photograph.

Along with her children and sewing, Janet is most fond of her two dogs J.D. (Janet's Dog) and Sam who go with her most everywhere.

Recently, she purchased a Scamp trailer to take her home and pups with her. She can visit her two daughters (Carol and Jamie) and son (Will) most anytime, carry space for her and dogs, and set up her transcription equipment for work while on the road.

Some day, more opportunities will arise for Janet to get back to her first talent. If you ever need help with a sewing project, I'm sure Janet Ecord would be happy to help make your Seams Right. Contact her at

Contact me, if you wish at

Amity and Unity to you.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

This Bud's For You

Following the early miles of my travel route allowed me to visit friends from recent years. I also passed over the same miles Lavina to Forsyth, Montana, as I did on my 2002 trek to New York City. And, that gave me the opportunity to revisit memorable spots on the previous journey.

Even before I made it to Melstone, I was planning to look up Bud Hjelvik. We had met unexpectedly in 2002 a few miles east of town.

My dog friend Leo accompanied me in the early days of that trek. To provide breaks, relieve the pace, and cool Leo off, we stopped every few miles at ponds and streams, ditches and rivulets of the Musselshell River. At most, I took my boots off and dipped my feet. Leo played and laved himself at the same time in the cooling waters.

But I made an exception when we came across an extraordinary expanse of irrigation ditch near Melstone. It was wide and clear and bounded by concrete. It was like a shallow swimming pool. Furthermore, the pool was hidden from the nearby highway by a high grassy berm.

Well, it was a fine place for Leo to refresh himself. And, why not his master?

I stripped naked, tip-toed in, and started throwing the cool element all over my tired and sweaty body. The moment was wonderful but short-lived.

Of a sudden, a pickup appeared atop the berm and its driver stared at the naked bather as he passed by.

I quickly dried my body, dressed myself and regrouped. Shortly thereafter, the unexpected intruder returned. He introduced himself as Bud Hjelvik, nearby rancher and sometime ditch rider. I returned the favor and explained our presence in his ditch.

Bud and Leo and I had a great visit. We found that we had common "family" in Lavina. Lois Boe, Bud's sister-in-law lived there and owned the FastGo Gas Station with her husband Sid, the Mayor of Lavina.

Bud Hjelvik

I took a favorite trip photo of Bud and Leo. Whenever I saw Lois in later days, I had to ask about Bud. 

On passing through Lavina just a few days back in 2013, I had to get on the phone to Lois and ask how to find Bud when I made it to Melstone.

After a couple days in that micropolis, I - along with new dog friend Sam - hiked the 3 1/2 miles to Bud Hjelvik's ranch home. 

We caught up on intervening times. Bud thought out loud, "It was only 4-5 years since you passed through here."

I had to tell him that 11 years had gone by. Much had happened in my life. Bud's wife had died and he had dealt with a number of health problems. And, he had had a recent injury to his shoulder - another story. Still, at 82 years old, he is very busy and active on the Hjelvik Ranch with his son Brent and grandson Dylan.

Bud and I got together once more a few days later. And again unexpectedly, in Ingomar after I resumed my 2013 Walk.

It was Saturday night at the Jersey Lilly. Charlotte McDevitt and I had made a birding excursion near the Yellowstone River. Birds were scarce, but we had made a day of it and returned to Ingomar for beans and burgers.

The Lilly was not quite busy for a Saturday night, but people slowly began to collect and move tables into a line. Then, of a sudden, I thought I descried Bud H. near the entrance to the bar. And, it was he - along with his favorite crony and fellow guitar picker, Joe Kanta. The two moved towards our table and introductions were made.

We talked for a while and the two older gents eventually settled in with family and friends. But not before I asked if "you are going to play tonight?"

Gnarly old Joe, who is slowly going blind, had to say, "You have to talk to my manager about that."

Well, one might have wondered who the real manager was. In any case, food was eventually eaten and guitars appeared.

Bud Hjelvik

The two entertainers pulled their chairs out from their tables and started to play a string of old country standards and favorites from their repertory. Bud and Joe have been jammin' and playing for small groups for years.

The watchers hardly gave them full attention, but they clearly enjoyed their gift of strumming and singing.

The two oldtimers played for most of two hours. Before the night was out, they had emulated Cash and Owens, Haggard and Robbins, and a host of other country greats and not-so-greats.

The highlight of the night was a long rendition of Kenny Rogers's The Gambler: "You gotta know when to hold 'em, you gotta know when to fold 'em, you gotta know when to walk away, know when to run."

Bud Hjelvik and Joe Kanta

That was a touching lyric which most surely had keen meaning for the musicians. They had both passed 80 years and were still energetic and generous enough to share their talents with neighbors and strangers alike.

The Gambler drew out some voices from the audience as did a few other closing tunes. Then, people slipped away into the night, but only after hugs and thankyous were shared. This blogger took several photos to give hints of the sweet moments at the Jersey Lilly Bar in the tiny town on the lonesome prairie spot called Ingomar, MT. 

Google it for more info.

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Amity and Unity to you.