The Summer of 1998 Part XIX

The next day was Sunday, so I coasted down to Lochsa to catch some NFL action at the Friendly Lounge. Both the bar and restaurant were bustling with business. It was especially entertaining, since I and everyone else at the bar enjoyed watching the Cowboys de-feather the Cardinals 38 to 10. I kept hoping Arizona would show up, but he never did. I wondered where the old geezer was. A young couple came in, and soon were engaged in a dart-throwing contest. At first, I wasn’t quite sure, but the more I watched the young lady, the more she resembled the movie actress, Meryl Streep. It was another one of those uncanny situations, where I tried not to conspicuously gape, only furtively glancing every now and then. Finally, curiosity got the better of me, so I approached her with my usual introduction (just like I did with the check-out girl back at Raley’s in South Lake Tahoe) asking, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Meryl Streep?” With a complimentary smile, she responded, “‘Ay yes, it’s happened several times. Thank you.” Hot damn, I was right on again. I loved it.

Between halves of the second game of the double-header (Oakland versus Kansas City), I strolled across the parking lot to use the pay phone in front of the General Store. I called cousin Serena in Missoula and told her where I was, what I had been doing, and that I was planning on coming through the next day (I had called her a month in advance to give her fair warning). Her initial response was, “It’s hotter than blazes here. I suggest you stay up there where it’s cool.” I replied, “I wasn’t planning on hangin’ out up here until Thanksgiving while things cooled off down there. Your little city was right on the way back to Dallas anyway. I’ll call you when I get into town.” She confirmed what I already knew about her being exhausted from two weeks of guests pouring in and out of her abode. Well, I understood, and left it at that.

I purchased a few more comestibles at The Store, and hightailed it back to my little “niche in the woods”. As I was preparing one last conflagration, a medium-sized RV rolled into the clearing. Oh, great, I thought, I’ll have a new neighbor for the night. I greeted the family of four with a sanguine salutation, “You people have stopped at just the right place. As you can see, there’s plenty of room…you won’t be bothering me one bit. There’s even a general store just two miles down the road.” I couldn’t believe my effluent mannerism. It was like I was some sort of zealous promoter from the chamber of commerce. As it turned out, I guess I was a little over-solicitous in my approach. Utah decided to move on down the road to a sanctuary far removed from this delirious camper.

All I wanted was someone to talk to for awhile. Anyway, they were as red-necked as a Mississippian…probably couldn’t have used a word over two syllables. I guess I’m a roving contradiction – I cherish my privacy, while at the name time, I like having someone around with whom I can share traveling experiences. It sounds kind of corny, I know, but I enjoy it all the same. The moon-rays sifted through the billowing smoke from the relinquishing coals, as I sat in my easy chair, remembering the beautiful places and friendly faces that I had encountered all the way from Boise to Lolo Pass. It had been one heck of a trip through the Potato State. I was getting somewhat maudlin, recalling how helpful all those strangers had been along the way…the gas station attendants, the security patrolman, Ed the radiator man… they were all super-heroes in my book.

It was up and over Lolo Pass and into Montana. I had only driven about fifteen miles when I noticed a sign which read: ‘Thistle Dew – Antiques”, a creative play-on words (This’ll Do), don’t you think. I was immediately polarized to the place. I made an urgent U-turn, and eased up the gravel drive towards this magnificent, two-story farm house. I had a good feeling about this place. As I entered the house, I was met by a congenial, healthy-of-girth woman named Stella. I was stupefied by the collection of retrievables they had amassed. But I had one mission in mind, and without mincing words, I said, “I’m a collector of license plates. What have you got?” Well, she had the mother lode of classic plates, mostly of the western states. I ended up buying three Montana plates, one of which (a 1957 issue) was embossed with “Prison Made”.

I jumped on that like flies on a picnic ham. I ambled through the ancillary wooden structures that were stacked to the rafters with “junk”, as a matter of courtesy. I found my way back to the main room (a combination of den, dining room, and kitchen), where her husband was watching a ballgame on TV. Ol’ Roy simply said, ‘Have a seat, youngster. You can’t be in no hurry. Sit a spell and watch history in the making. That feller McGuire is about to break the home run record.” He was certainly right…I did have time to spare, and I was most obliging to sit a spell and banter about baseball stories with the old codger. After an hour of friendly palaver, I decided it was time to go. Stella handed me my clean plates that she had thoughtfully scrubbed down in the kitchen sink (plus carefully wrapping them in newspaper). I told than how much I had enjoyed the visit, and added, “I’ll never forget you two. If and when I ever get through here again, I’ll sure stop in.’ Geemenee, another fun chapter along the way.