Leaving the Black Hills, we soon enter Montana. I have driven across the entire state to and from the Midwest many times. It never gets old. Some may not find beauty in this landscape of endless high plains punctuated with buttes and coulees. But rather than the “emptiness” that some see, I find this vast, sparsely populated piece of America full and comforting. We stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Dad had been a few times, bringing me here for the first time in 1976—and secretly loving that Custer got his tail whipped. Unfortunately, Custer’s demise only stepped up US efforts to “control unruly Indians.” Today, we are still fighting, only now it’s to prevent others from crossing the border, forgetting our own history as immigrants.
Our husbands arrived in Montana by plane, and all of our family are now gathered to share in bidding Dad goodbye. On Tuesday, Sister Mary Linn and family in Helena planned a fantastic outing on Canyon Ferry Reservoir, where they had taken Dad a few times to fish on past visits. My sister rented a private beach complete with picnic shelter, bunkhouse, and fire ring. Hot temperatures and dry climate were perfect for boating, floating, and splashing in the refreshing mountain lake.
Bro-in-law Carl ferried us by boat to Cemetery Island. Once gathered there, we had another scattering, each of us bringing a scoop of Dad to the shore and setting him alight in the water. Carl and Steve each took Dad for a dive beneath the water.
Later, we resumed our play, some of us being pulled behind the boat on a giant tube, others relaxing on the beach, all enjoying good eats, good laughs, and fun storytelling. Dad joined us on the beach; his can of ashes by our tent shelter; his spirit flitting among us. Next stop the Bitterroot Valley, where his grandmother was born and raised.