Trees, Trees, and More Trees

I suppose one of the reasons I’m so drawn to the trees in eastern Montana is because most of the land is treeless prairie or grain farms, so trees become pretty special.

The morning sun made the golden leaves on this black cottonwood (If that’s what these trees are) even more impressive.

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The trees below are like tall characters with many arms, having animated discussions, gesticulating wildly, talking with their hands.

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The tree in the photo below is growing in the side of the riverbank. Probably it was far from the river’s edge at one time, but as the river has flooded and eroded the banks, the tree found itself closer and closer to the water’s edge.

DSCN2613Many a gallon of water has swished past the tree’s roots, taking more and more soil away. Seems like some part of the tree has already succumbed to nature, as you can see from the broken piece lying beside it, and more parts of the trunk, if not the whole tree, are in imminent danger of being washed away if the river comes up high next spring.

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Another tree had chicken wire wrapped around the lower part of the trunk. I wonder which chewing, gnawing beastie was meant to be deprived of a meal of bark. A porcupine? A rabbit?

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 This tree was not so lucky. If only it could talk and tell us its story.
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But those who remain healthy certainly provide a beautiful canopy of protection for us as well as for the vegetation that lives beneath its shelter.

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The Old and the New

Near Wolf Point, Montana.

In February 1926, two young men, James and Rolla Cusker, perished while driving home after a basketball game. With no ferry service during the winter, travelers crossed the Missouri River on the ice. The boys had crossed on the ice earlier, and followed the ruts they had made on the frozen river on their way home that evening. But the river had warmed and they drove into an air hole in the ice. Their bodies were not found for several days. [Paraphrased from http://ci.wolf-point.mt.us/destinations/]

This led to a demand for a bridge over the Missouri and four years later the longest Pennsylvania through truss bridge was built, at Wolf Point, Montana.

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The 1930 bridge was 1074 feet long with a span of 400 feet, the longest in the state of Montana.

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Below the bridge and beyond it, you can see the new bridge that was built in 1997. It’s more modern but not as impressive.

Here they are side by side.

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The historical society of the Wolf Point area is taking the responsibility for maintaining the old bridge, not for vehicular use, but  for historical purposes.

Tree Survival

In the harsh winter conditions of eastern Montana, it must be hard for any living thing to survive out in nature. The trees in this region are so beautiful, especially in the fall when the leaves change colour, and so I paid particular attention to them on my walks through the fields with my camera.

One type of tree that is prevalent here is a huge poplar type whose name I’m not sure of. It might be a cottonwood type. Perhaps there are readers out there who can tell me what the proper name of these trees is.

I stood under this tree and listened to the wind rustling its leaves. It was such a beautiful sound that I did a very short video of it just to record the wind in its leaves. Unfortunately I can’t load the video here, but I can show you the tree and you can imagine the sound.

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Nearby, another of its type  showed signs of a history of major trauma. Was it wind, or snow, or bitter cold, or a combination of these conditions that broke the tree so badly? But look at its survival instinct! A new shoot is growing from the old broken trunk.

DSCN2517Yet another damaged tree is clinging to life in a few small branches. The broken branches on the ground tell of the terrible winds and possibly blizzards that worked the tree over.

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The same is true of the tree below. It clings to life desperately but appears to be losing the battle.

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There must be strength in numbers. Here they are like a little city of trees in a park along the Missouri River.

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There is something noble and grand about a tree. These survivors beautifying the river’s edge are a treat to see.

A Calamity of Errors

Bad things happen in threes, right?

One of our favourite places to stop for the night as we travel eastward in Montana is  the community park of a tiny place called Zurich. We arrived  in the early afternoon with enough time to go for a walk with our two dogs. At the park entrance and we wondered what they would do about the cattle guard that was set into the ground between two  stone gateposts.

Emma tiptoed across the separated metal bars, but slipped on the last ones and fell through to her shoulder. While we were reacting to this little slip, we hadn’t noticed that Ruby had gone around the post, squeezing between the strands of barbed wire instead.

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Just beyond the gates, we wondered what was on Ruby’s leg. It looked like a thin red leaf was stuck there, but on closer inspection it turned out to be blood. She had given  her shoulder a corner tear on the barbed wire. It looked like it needed some stitches. “No walk today,” Gary said. “We’ll have to go back to the vet’s in Chinook.” I was glad it was only 15 miles back.

As Gary prepared to unhitch the truck from the trailer, he said, “Looks like we aren’t going anywhere yet. We’ve got two flat tires.”

Sure enough the two trailer tires on the driver’s side were both flat.

On taking off the lugs, we noticed that one of them had lost the cap over the nut and now it didn’t fit snugly into the tire iron. The truck’s tire changing equipment was in metric and the trailer in imperial measurements. Luckily one of the friendly campers brought over a socket wrench and helped us out.

We loaded two tires and two dogs into the back of the truck and returned to Chinook.

I stayed with Ruby while she had her leg stitched up and Gary took the tires to a shop to get them repaired.

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All fixed up.

 

All fixed up.

All fixed up.

We wondered about bad things happening in threes. Two bad things had already happened. “I know,” I said. “We can count each of the tires as one bad thing, and that will make three.”

But as it turned out, I was wrong. The third bad thing happened a couple of days later when we got stuck in the mud, as you already know from the post, “Things Take a Turn.”

I hope that means we’re done now for mishaps.

 

Acceptance, At Last

This morning I hurried to get outside to snap a picture of the gorgeous skies before the light changed. It was a beautiful beginning to the day. On each side of the horizon, the sky was colourful.

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The best part of the morning, though, was the fact that a day before Emma reached 6 months, she has finally been accepted by Ruby, our older dog. This is the first time Ruby has allowed that pesky puppy to lie down beside her and even snuggle up to her. After months of jealousy and heartbreak, Ruby has decided that they will be friends. I’m so happy! Acceptance, at last.

DSCN2554aIn the next blog post I’ll explain about Ruby’s leg.

Things Take a Turn

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I love the quietness of the prairies, and yet, when I thought  back on the morning, it wasn’t all that quiet. On my approach, the sharptail grouse jumped up out of the grass and flew low over the land cackling with that laughing call they make. I scared up two sleek and well-furred rabbits – not at all feeble like ours at home on the coast. Could they ever run!  I could almost hear their thumping feet as they bounded away.
Twice, I almost walked on hen pheasants that held tightly to their hiding places in the grass, hoping I wouldn’t come their way. But when I was about six feet from them, the hens shot up into the air and flew away, leaving me with my heart pounding in my throat.
Hawks flew overhead shrieking and then diving down on coveys of sharptail grouse.
No … I guess it wasn’t quiet after all.
Almost done for the morning, my husband thought it would be good to check out a small copse of trees and bushes
and give Emma, our English cocker spaniel puppy, a chance to find out what a pheasant smells like. To get there, I assumed we would walk. After about six miles of walking, what’s another half mile?
But no. The man in charge thought he would show what his four-wheel-drive truck could do. Down into the dip he drove.
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 And there we stayed!
“But I went through here twice yesterday,” he said.
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It doesn’t look so bad, except the wheels just kept on spinning into the muck. We were going nowhere but lower into the ground.DSCN2474
  Notice how close to the muck the bottom of the door is.
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Mr Four Wheeler walked for help.
The farmer who kindly allowed us access to his land, was busy working on it elsewhere, so his very capable wife and daughter came out in their truck.
If you noticed in the second photo, there is a farm gate (an extra post with the barbed wire wrapped around it). This is where the smart farmer’s wife drove through, to go around the muck and tow us out on the other side of the mudhole. Mother and daughter got right into rescue mode and pulled the Man-no-longer-in-charge out of his predicament.
To his credit, the grateful man gave the farmer’s wife a very heartfelt thank-you-hug.
Then he and Emma went for one last walk. Notice Emma’s legs? None of them are touching the ground. She was one happy dog.
And I was happy to get out my Kindle and wait in the not-stuck-anymore truck.
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By the way, happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians. I almost forgot it was Thanksgiving weekend because of being in Montana where they have Thanksgiving in late November.
We really do have a lot to be thankful for, whether we live in Canada or the United States.

Beautiful Beginning

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I know there must be a way to get rid of that ring below the rising sun. The reflection on the camera looks like a grapefruit half. Anyway, you get the idea: it was a beautiful morning and we were up at the “crack of dawn.”

Off we drove to the tracts of land our farmer friends so generously gave us permission to hunt on. What a beautiful walk we had there. We probably put six miles under our legs for the morning. My camera was very busy.

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I found a very interesting rock but I should have put something beside it for size comparison. It was about two feet in diameter and the colours were unusual.

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In many of the areas where the seepage water has receded, the alkali deposits were left behind. Some of the growths were quite crystalline.

 

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Usually at this time of year, eastern Montana is quite dry, but this year has been much wetter. Still, I was quite surprised to find a mushroom, and a big one at that!

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In my next blog post, I’ll tell you how this beautiful day took a turn for the worse.