Going Home

My mother grew up at Fort Benton, Montana. After graduating from high school, she attended nursing school at Deaconess Hospital in Billings. It was at Billings that she met my father. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps when the war broke out and she went on the train by herself to California where they were married. After the war and my father’s discharge, they lived briefly in Oklahoma where my father earned his Airframe and Engine Maintenance Certificates so that he could do certified aircraft maintenance. There are a lot of stories about their adventures finding a place to settle, but eventually that location was Big Timber, Montana.

Big Timber is a little over 200 miles from Fort Benton where our mother’s parents lived. As soon as they could afford a car they began to make the trip on a regular basis. By the time I came into the family, her mother had passed away, but there were still all kinds of family business in Fort Benton. Gradually over the next few years, the family focus shifted from Fort Benton to the farm at Floweree where my mom’s sister lived with here husband and where her parents and grandparents had homesteaded years before.

We made the trip to the ranch over and over again. At the time a 200 mile trip was a most of the day adventure. We’d pack our things, including a lunch into the car and head north out of town. After traveling through Harlowtown and Judith Gap we’d start looking for Eddie’s Corner. The truck stop wasn’t much like modern facilities. There was no convenience store and the trucks parked on a gravel and dirt pad next to the station. There were only a couple of trees and mostly it was a place where the wind blew all of the time.

Diesel pumps were on one side of the building and gas pumps on the other. Our car would make it all the way to ranch without needing gas, but with all of us kids we needed a stop as we approached the half way point of our trip. We’d use the rest rooms and eat our picnic lunch. Sometimes we would be treated to a burger or a milkshake, but most trips we’d share a roll of life savers because our parents taught us that you always give some business to the corner when you stop. The one thing I remember about Eddie’s Corner from being a kid is that we didn’t like the taste of the water there. We were used to water from the mountain creeks at home and the well water was full of minerals and not very good by our standards.

Over the years I spend a bit of time at the corner. Once we waited until nearly midnight for an employee from our shop to arrive with a truck to tow home the truck we were driving after a u-joint broke and we were stranded near Eddie’s Corner. The 24-hour cafe was a place to drink coffee and wait for help to arrive. Another time, I was heading home from the ranch with a pickup truck and had changed a flat tire a few miles from the corner and the old mechanic found a used tire for me to use as a spare for the drive home. I’m guessing that the corner no longer has a mechanic on duty at night.

From there it was a quick trip around the Belt Mountains and before long the tall smokestack at Great Falls would come into sight. After Great Falls, which for us was a really big city, it was just a few more miles to the ranch.

The trip took about four hours plus the half hour or more to stop at Eddie’s Corner.

These days I live in South Dakota and I don’t get to the ranch that often. But we’re at Eddie’s Corner this morning, having stayed in our camper at a campground with full hook ups right behind the new gas station, restaurant and convenience store. The parking for the trucks is paved and there are some really nice trees and lawns. One of the big differences is that a 200-mile road trip isn’t that big of a deal for me these days. We made over 450 miles yesterday and we didn’t get out of town until 11 am. After Vacation Bible School ended Thursday evening, there was a lot to do to get the church ready for the next activities and events. All of the while we were exchanging messages with our daughter who had just had her first baby in Japan. We didn’t get to sleep until after midnight and then there was a lot to do to get our house ready for us to be gone for an extended trip and our camper ready to hit the road.

We didn’t have any trouble with tires. That is one thing that has really changed over the years. It has been a long time since I’ve had to change a tire on the road. Tires are much more reliable and the roads are a bit better as well. I’m glad for that because we have eight tires on the road when we are pulling our camper.

Our only adventure of the day was that while we were driving on some really rough road near Lame Deer Montana, a screw came out of a latch for the silverware drawer in the camper. The drawer came all the way out and dumped on the floor. When I checked the camper there was quite a bit of silverware and a few other things we’d tucked into that drawer on the floor. I got to wash all of our silverware when we stopped for the night.

My home is now in South Dakota, but every trip to Montana, especially those that take us to familiar places, still feels like coming home. This trip is a bittersweet one for me because the reason for the rush is that this morning we’ll attend the Celebration of Life ceremony for my cousin. He lived all of his life on the ranch and was the one who always welcomed all of the family over and over again. His niece and her family now ranch the land. A new generation has come. But for us oldsters today is a day to remember and reminisce.

Its good to be home.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!