Monday, October 27, 2014

Lessons in Ranch Living for City Girls: Back in the "City"

So the beloved and I are in the big city, population of 70,000, for a few months while he pursues his Master’s degree at the University of Montana, or as he likes to call it, The School of Nuts and Raisins.  Missoula is a lovely little town, full of quaint little shops, trendy restaurants and bars, and more health food stores than you can shake a free range, hormone-free chicken at.  It’s an eclectic, pretty town, with the beautiful Clark Fork River running right through it.  The university is a picturesque place, especially during this time of year when the leaves are changing to beautiful shades of red, yellow and orange, falling, and rustling under your feet.  The scent of fallen leaves is heady!  

Bayley likes to take advantage of the Autumn abundance and does her “business” regularly in the piles of leaves that are raked to the curb in our little neighborhood.  Thankfully, I don’t see too many kids playing in the leaves…  I DO pick up her more, um, solid, deposits, but for some reason, she feels the need to mark her territory in the maples…  Bayley is not a city girl and while she is a people magnet and draws them to her furry self like flies, she has also caused more than her share of hand-over-mouth reactions from various up-scale diners at a lovely little outdoor café which is on one of our frequent walk routes.  Ah, diners at Caffé Dulce, Bayley is a ranch dog extraordinaire and cares not that you are dining on your POACHED HALIBUT CHEEKS (wild Alaskan halibut cheeks poached in white wine, beluga lentils, grilled radicchio & a grapefruit & Serrano relish for $28).  She will poop right smack in front of you, shamelessly, half on the sidewalk and half on the grass.  And largely.  And be very proud of it.  The lesson I learned that day:  bring two bags or be willing to drive back…

One of the very best things about living in Missoula is the city's extensive walking/cycling trail system which is very dog friendly even if the bicyclists are not so much.  I find that I need some of those rear view mirror thingamabobs to strap to my head so I can see what’s coming up behind me.  The bicyclists around here are a different breed altogether from what I’m used to. Which is no bicyclists.  Albertans, yes.  Bears, yes.  The occasional imagined wolf, yes.  But none of those things will strike fear as much as a flip flop wearing, back pack sporting, dread lock topped, non-rules of the road obeying university student.  EVERYONE complains about them and I fear the day that the beloved clotheslines one who gets a little too close to his peacefully walking self.  Our landlord is a Missoula police officer, but I don’t think even he could do much for us if Bill was arrested for going all postal on a Schwinn boy.  For now, we have remained jail-free, but it may only be a matter of time.  Probably half of the population of Missoula would rise to his defense, though, since he’d only be doing what each and every one has fantasized about doing.

Missoula races chartIt fancies itself a progressive town, and it is, but one thing Missoula is not is racially diverse.  I wondered at the lack of that in such a university-centric place, especially because the University of Montana is a research oriented school, which usually attracts a very diverse student population.  Wondered so much that I had a look and came up with a handy pie chart and found out that one of the many things that Missoula shared with her sister in nutty raisin-ness and another town I have been to many times, Boulder, Colorado, is an overwhelming whiteness.  I have lived in Honolulu (as culturally and racially diverse as it gets), Tulsa (a hodgepodge of cultures and a surprisingly progressive city) and the East Glacier Park area (wonderfully, and also surprisingly, complex for anyplace, much less a very small town in far Northwestern Montana).  There are small pockets of diversity here in Grizz Country, but not many.  I have seen one non-Caucasian person in our neighborhood, which is a really nice little area with sidewalks and tree lined streets, and is populated with normal people who work for a living.  Seems odd to me.

Another lesson I’ve learned over the past few weeks that the universe has a sense of humor and smacks me with it every once in a while.  One of the few things that the Horseman and I disagree on is hunting and the issue has caused some slightly high pitched discussions in our home.  Now I am all for sustenance hunting.  Harvesting an elk or deer, while it’s not something that I care to do myself, is a rite of Fall in most areas of the country, and especially so here in Montana, and I say have at it.  I don’t agree with trophy hunting, but I don’t say a word to anyone about it.  If it’s legal, it’s your business.  I won’t do it, but I defend your right to.  Heck, I live with the trophies of hunts gone by right in my very own home.  However.  In the past few weeks I have been on the road behind vehicles carrying the following:  a dead moose on Hwy. 2, two dead mule deer, strapped very precariously to the back of a truck on Hwy. 93 and today, a dead elk on Reserve Drive at lunch hour.  Yep.  Me.  The animal loving, tree hugging wife of an ex-outfitter, forced to stare at critters that I am still in awe of being able to see regularly in the wild, now bereft of life.  There’s some irony, eh?  The universe reminds you to suck it up and put on your big girl panties once in a while.

I’ve been putting on a lot of big girl panties lately!

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