Friday, October 06, 2006


Adventures in Spudland

September 29, 2006

I continue to be amazed with the changing terrain of this country. We’ve been winding around the mountains of Montana for a few days, it’s strange how truly unfamiliar they are to me.

Leaving Walla Walla, Washington for Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, we saw how farmland had adapted itself to blend into velvety hills. The mountains looked soft enough to curl your bare toes in, as if it were shag carpeting. The different grades of farmland were pieced together like a puzzle. Colors ranged from burnt toast to wheat to molasses. From a distance it almost looked like marble rye bread. On the way to Idaho, we also saw the Snake River, a sight I had come to associate with cowboy movies. We couldn’t stop, but Jeremy got a picture it through my driver’s side window.

September 25, 2006

While in Idaho, we met up with our friend C. who took us on a wild journey through upper Idaho and Montana. But first we had to do something we had been joking about for months:

We went to visit the potato fields.

I’m still not entirely sure how potatoes are grown, but they involve the greens sticking out of the ground and one machine tilling up the soil and pulling up the tubers, and a truck sidling up next to the tilling machine to catch the flying potatoes from a slide. That’s right, flying potatoes.

“It’s really funny, you come out here after a harvest, and people are out there picking up the leftover potatoes,” C. said.

I, of course, was determined to be one of those people. So we waited until the potato truck was filled and was hightailing onto the highway to what I can only assume would be the OreIda factory, and I snuck out in the middle of the day through a potato field to find some renegade spuds.

Since they were spread all over on top of the soil, they weren’t hard to find. Unfortunately, they were literally small potatoes: four could fit in my tiny hand. They were like the size of baby reds, but these were your average spuds.

“We can bring those home if you want,” C. laughed at my tiny spuds. “Then you can eat the very potatoes you picked.”

I thought better of it and threw them back into the field, like a fish that didn’t quite meet regulation size.

September 26,2006

Yet another cemetery

One of the advantages of having a friend show you around town is the insider information that doesn’t come automatically in a guidebook or a pamphlet from the local chamber of commerce. An old unmarked cemetery fit that category to tee.

The cemetery was on the side of a one-lane road by some private housing and overlooked a freeway, which ran next to the lake. In fact, the cemetery was so close to the freeway that a 40-foot wall had to be erected to, as C. put it, “keep the bodies from falling out”

It was a long and narrow cemetery, and the roots of the growing trees sprawled throughout had laboriously moved the headstones.

There was no fence, and if it weren’t for C.’s warning and a brief glimpse of a headstone, I never would have noticed it. Some of the gravestones dated back into the 1800s. One of the headstones said the occupant wasn’t dead--he just sleepeth.

The view from the cemetery was breathtaking.

Red leaves from a vine clung to the chain link fence and the view of the freeway gently curving around the mountain was a sight I hadn’t expected that day.

A small jump from Idaho to Montana (the details of which you probably read in Jeremy’s blog, but I’ll go into a few strange details of my own):

While in Montana, we stopped at the Big Sky Mennonite Pantry that was run by Mennonite women. I had seen them before at Winco in Chico. The men dress normal with cell phones and everything, but the girls wear loose-cut blouses and skirts with floral parents and a bonnet pinned to their head. Most of the time I see them with closed toed shoes, but these girls wore sandals.

The inside of the store was the picture of thriftiness. It looked as though they shopped at a bulk store (Winco), packed up the goods in clear plastic bags and put their own label on it. You could get 10 pounds of oatmeal, every flavor of Jell-O, and more bread mix than I could count. There were also little tubs of spices that were extraordinarily cheap. It was twice the amount of usual bottle spice at the store, for between 95 cents and $2, depending on the type. While inside, we ordered homemade sandwiches, which were made on homemade bread complete with fork venting holes and meat sliced on their industrial slicer. Looking at the girl’s faces, I realized what C. had said earlier: these were beautiful girls.

Perhaps the lack of gloss that most girls have now has really turned my idea of beauty inside out. These girls were fresh faced, as if their skin had never touched makeup and experienced the pore clogging effects. Their eyebrows were unplucked and what little hair I could see under the bonnet had a healthy sheen of virgin hair that had never been ravaged by the dying process.

While we sat outside eating our lunch, which was delicious, a Mennonite girl came walking out holding a CD and got into her Buick. It was a strange sight to see. Jeremy described it as seeing a reenactor on lunch break. And that wasn’t too far off from the truth. I don’t know much about Mennonite culture, but I had to wonder why the men would wear normal modern-day clothing and the woman could no. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of religion, I can respect one that chooses to ignore modern day trends. But I don’t understand why they must emphasize the inequality between men and women.

While in Montana, C. took us to the Ross Creek Cedars, which was a patch of Cedars in the middle of a pine forest.

In the forest were strange sights like trees decomposing into peat and young saplings rising up from the dead tree. There were also what looked like a landslide of rocks laying on the ground that had moss and lichen growing on them. The lichen produced such a strong acidic secretion that it broke down the rock and turned it to soil. I never though I’d see rocks rotting away like that, but there you go. It was also evident that the break in the tree line, which was so stark it almost looked like nighttime in there, matched up directly with the growth of moss and lichen on the rocks.

After the Cedars, we got back into the car to look at the swinging bridge and the Kootenai River. While we were there, we saw a pair of kayakers practicing in the strong current. They carved their paddles in the water and spun like a river stone into different currents. I was in awe of it.

We had gone kayaking with Jeremy’s friends A. and W. in Port Orchard in the Puget Sound, and it took a little while to get a hang of the placid water with the occasional motorboat. The kayakers in the river in comparison were amazing, carving back and forth in the water. We were practically children splashing around in a paddling pool.

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