The End Of An Era

by SteveHulse on July 11, 2018 · 2 comments

B and I are in Montana this week, moving my lifelong possessions from
my cabin in Virginia City to Whidbey Island, Washington. I contracted Ray
Taylor to build this cabin for me back in 1979. He did a fantastic job on it
and it was my home base, and my heart, for 38 years. Much fun was had
here in that time, great people, good parties, a ton of music of all kinds. It
was a creative haven in the Rockies for many of us. We recorded 9 albums here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what happened? Well, the same thing that usually happens when a
paradise finally becomes not a paradise. Things change… and in this case
I mean damn near everything changed. The people changed, the access
to public lands changed (for the worse, with new fences and locked gates)
the fishing accesses along our rivers filled up with out of state cars carrying
fancy fishermen with so much gear they could barely waddle to the river.

The weather patterns changed, the wind began blowing nearly all the time
and the soft, beautiful Springs we knew when I was a child here were now
history, to be replaced by a fairly nasty muddy season that suddenly blasted
into hot summers around the 4th of July. Then fire smoke blew in ’til Labor Day.

At first I tried to ignore it, and when I finally accepted that it had indeed
changed, that much of the freedom of the outdoors was being taken from us
by people with a lot of money and absolutely no sense of the joy of living in
Montana in the first place… well. Naturally, I got pissed. Someone had moved
my cheese, right out from under my nose!

 

 

 

 

 

 

but I can’t blame all this on Montana… oh no. Somewhere along the way,
I got old. Getting wood, chopping it, carrying it stopped being fun around the
time I turned 67. I think I got my toes slightly frostbitten snowmobiling, and it
started getting harder to walk any distance. Warming up after being cold
became MUCH more difficult, and my window of comfort slowly shrank to
about 69 – 74 degrees. Pathetic, I know. But see, I changed, too! I hit the point
where I couldn’t do the Montana I’ve always loved so much… I lost my edge,
my tough, my resilience. And god, it hurts to admit that, but it’s true. Yes, my
cheese had moved, but I had moved, too… in the opposite direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being a believer that when one door closes, another door opens, I shouldn’t
have been surprised when my Betty Ann walked through the new door. but I
was! The more I got to know her, the more I came to realize what an
exceptional person she is. At the time, she walked through that new door
smiling, with fresh crab and salmon! Suddenly my cheese wasn’t even worth
pursuing, as this new “crab and salmon” fantasy showed real promise! I
carefully entered the new door, and BAM! Along came a new life, a new love,
new family, new possibilities and a new lease on life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How lucky was I to meet and fall in love with Betty? I can’t begin to measure
it. Let me put it this way… I have 4 or 5 friends who call every so often, and
one of the first questions they always ask me is, “Is she still letting you hang
around?” Or, “Hasn’t she dumped you yet??”

Betty Ann and I live together on Whidbey Island now, and life is sweet. But I
began missing my personal items… my books, my pictures, my tools in the
garage. So this year we decided to sell the cabin and get all my personals
moved over to the island. The cabin will sell at some point and the moving
will have to be done anyway. So now’s the time. I’m hoping that some of the
townsfolk will pick up some of my stuff and enjoy it the way I did when I was
younger. Some of my things simply belong in Virginia City, and here they will
stay, in one form or another.

It’s strange, to say the least, that when a place that has been dear to your heart
for your whole life suddenly isn’t. From the outside looking in, it appears a lot
like falling out of love. Who knows, maybe it is. But it usually comes on slowly
and there’s usually a reason or two for the fall, and some warning signs along
the way. I had multiple signs, but there were a lot of mixed signs too, as life
in Montana can be one hell of a good time, if you know good folk and have
a sense of adventure. The warning signs slowly took over… the chopping
wood, the cold, my getting old. It started to add up. I mean, even when you
aren’t sure what’s different in your daily life, if you’re not happy, there’s gonna
be the bittersweet smell of change in the air.

I wouldn’t say that we always need to be prepared to embrace change. But
there certainly seems to be an element of happiness for those of us able to
make that change from time to time. And being open to change doesn’t
necessarily always work… hell, it can backfire on us in a heartbeat sometimes.
I know. This change I’m making now, however, has already been road tested.
It’s a good change – the right change. We’ve all exhausted the possibilities of
a place, a job, a relationship… we’ve come to know when a thing is done,
when it’s run its course.

What B and I will miss are the good people here. We have a few fine friends,
precious friends, the kind it can take a lifetime to attain. We are so lucky…
these friends are so fun and inspirational to be with. We wish we could live
closer to them and see them every day. And that’s probably the element
that is the hardest part of moving. You can always get new stuff, but good friends?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I look around the cabin tonight… will I miss it? Sure. Such memories. Is it
making me sad? No. Am I rethinking this decision? No. If things were different,
could Betty Ann and I live here part time, in peace and comfort? No. I think
life has a mystical way of pointing us, guiding us to a better place if we keep
our eyes open and our hearts in balance. Life can be so damned complicated,
but it gets way simpler when we figure out the ebb and flow… when to move,
when to stay quiet and wait. The powers that be tell us, we simply have to
listen.

Steve Hulse

{ 2 comments }

Big Memories Of Small Times

by SteveHulse on July 8, 2018 · 2 comments

Being back in Montana for the 4th of July week has brought back some
delicious memories of my childhood here. I’m sure you all have these, and
I hope mine can stir a few of yours.

It’s the 2nd of July, 2018, and we just got to my cabin this afternoon. Betty
Ann unpacked us and our pals, Roger and Jack came up for a drink. We
were back into Montana Mode before we knew it.

After dinner B and Susi went upstairs to bed, and I sat down to have what
I thought would be a contemplative glass of wine. I’m selling this cabin, this
safe haven I have run to for 38 years… this place that, of all places on this
earth, was home to me… the place to be, for the sheer joy of life in Montana,
and the place to be when I was down, out, too tired to think.

So I was sitting here, running some of that in my head, when up in the
kitchen I see movement… and then more movement. I watch for a moment,
then I see two mice run across the kitchen floor, chasing each other and
squeaking. Squeaking! I set my laptop down and made a noise, a noise they
paid no attention to. Instead, they kept chasing each other around the kitchen
in a disgusting display of mouse tag, or grab-ass, or whatever the hell it is
that mice do. Wait… never mind. I know what mice do when they do this…

I mean, we’re in a cabin in Montana… a cabin that hasn’t been inhabited in
a year. What do we expect? You’ve gotta smile, right? And as I sat here,
sipping my wine and listening to those little bastards squeak across the
kitchen, my memory clicked in to another time when I heard mice… heard
little mice scratching at the wood outside another cabin… in another time.

I write this next section for my pals in V.C., some of who know, or have
heard of, the Dixon family. Now the Dixon family had a fairly high profile
here in the ’50’s. Two brothers, Carl and Ernest, both married and had
children here, who grew up and attended our V.C. school. Our interest
here is in Ernest, better known around these parts as “Mutt.” Yup. Even
us kids knew him as Mutt and would shout and wave to him on the street,
“Hi, Mutt!” And he would always wave back and smile. I could tell you so
much more about him, but suffice to say, he joined the Marines with Tuffy
Bergstrom in WWII, and from what I heard, they signed up only if they
could be guaranteed to serve together. The story says that they did, and
that they landed, and survived, the landing on Iwo Jima. They always called
each other “Pard” and we kids knew there was a bond there that could
never be broken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mutt Dixon

Mutt married Elizabeth “Doll” Cox and they had two girls and a boy…
Terry, Beth Ann and Jay. Terry, Jay and i were all about the same age and
we spent a lot of time together. In the ’50’s work got scarce around V.C. and
about a dozen of the men ( my dad included ) did any work they could to keep
the home fires burning. One of these random jobs that sprang up in the summer
of ’51 was at a saw mill up in Ruby Creek, an isolated spot up in the mountains
of the Southern Gravelly Range. About 40 miles north of Yellowstone Park,
it was remote… and beautiful.

Mutt took the job, and, making the most of it, he had his family up there for
a few weeks that summer. He had a tiny three-room cabin across from the
sawmill, right next to a creek. There were bunk beds in one of the rooms,
where the kids, we kids, slept. I say we because they invited me up there to
spend one of those weeks with them at Ruby Creek. A week I’ll never forget.

I think it was late July when they invited me up there. Mutt came to town,
picked us all up and drove us up to Ruby Creek in The Blue Mercury. Yes,
it was a Mercury, yes, it was deep blue, a ’47 teardrop model that had
already seen better times. But up to Ruby Creek we went, with Tuffy and
his wife Betty, along for the week.

From a seven year old’s point of view, it was a magical week. I would guess
it was a pretty damn good week for the grown-ups, too. We kids spent the
time feeding the squirrels and chipmunks ( we got the chipmunks to eat out
of our hands, sitting on our legs…) and swimming and bathing in the frigid
waters of the creek behind the cabin. The sawmill hummed all day, and we
got used to the sound, feeding the Blue Jays (which we call Camp Robbers)
and walking down the road to play in an old cabin that was falling down.

But I remember the nights the best, the clearest. After the evening meal, we
would climb into our bunks for the night and snuggle down for a good sleep
in the mountains. Someone would pull the curtain shut between our bedroom
and the main room, and we would be in semi-darkness… warm and safe, but
still on an adventure!

I can remember so clearly, being almost asleep when I hear this little
scratching against the wall… right next to my head! It startled me and I called
out, “Doll, Doll! Something’s in here!”

Of course Doll came in, heard the scratching and whispered, “It’s just a
mouse, Stever. It won’t hurt you, it can’t get in. Go Back to sleep.” And I did.
But before I did, I lay there for awhile, listening to the mouse, listening to
Terry and Jay breathing in the bunk below… listening to the sounds
coming from the other room. Beyond that curtain, the hiss of a propane
lantern floated through the air. The grownups were laughing quietly, having
some drinks and playing cards by candle light and lantern. That sound…
the sound of their quiet relaxation and contentment, the lantern, even the
mouse!… is forever imbedded in my memory as one of the most profoundly
peaceful nights of my entire life.

Steve Hulse

 

{ 2 comments }

An Empty Bucket

by SteveHulse June 28, 2018

We’ve all got a bucket list, right? Maybe not written down, maybe not in order of importance… but if someone asked you, at a cocktail party, what’s on your bucket list, you’d quickly be able to think of a few things. Don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “Oh, I don’t have a bucket list, […]

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A Forced Perspective

by SteveHulse June 19, 2018

Last year my B and I built a small model railroad together. it was a great winter’s project that turned out well, and we had a ball doing it. In the process I discovered that B built and painted small ( HO scale) buildings very well. Her crowning achievement was a sliver mine with an […]

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Way Back When In The Here And Now

by SteveHulse June 4, 2018

Try as I might to pretend life is still as good as it was in the 60’s and ’70’s, it simply isn’t, and won’t be. The comparable simplicity of that time, the almost naive sincerity of that time faded into oblivion somewhere in the mid-’80’s. Funny that it took me twenty years to notice it […]

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Sweet Inspirations

by SteveHulse April 24, 2018

Jazz Appreciation Month is inspiring me to get out all my pent-up thoughts and feelings about jazz while it’s semi-legal to do so. These days my memory continues to serve up some of the jazz piano giants that I struggled all my life to emulate. Oh, I finally settled in and played “who I was” […]

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Requiem For A Genre

by SteveHulse April 17, 2018

April is Jazz Appreciation month. A month for Jazz Appreciation? Really?? Sigh. I guess I should be miffed about the designation of a single month for a style of music that has defined most of my life. But the truth is, Jazz is fairly lucky to get its month at all, considering it is far […]

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Bitter Sweet

by SteveHulse March 22, 2018

          Today I sat down and signed away my old friend, Iron Jack. How do you sign away an old friend? Well, the “old friend” is a truck. That’s right, Iron Jack is a ’66 International pickup. And so, you might ask, why do I call a truck an old friend? […]

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Hey, Remember The Time…

by SteveHulse March 10, 2018

So today, the news of the day and the quiet time following the recent holidays have driven me back out on the sound on my trusty craft, The Aimless. Haven’t been out here for several months now, so time to enjoy a one or two-day cruise on the North Sound. It never fails to clear […]

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Remembering Billy

by SteveHulse February 11, 2018

This is for a dear friend of mine in Atlanta who we just lost. My Atlanta pals will understand this very well. Billy Degnats was a great drummer… world class. And some of us knew he was an even better person than he was a drummer. His wife, Suzanne, has beautifully given us an insight […]

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