Urban Montana

Three days gliding over gently rolling hills full of flowers and berries, to the left the yellow velvet of the prairies, to the right the dark green of the fir, spruce and pine covered “not so rocky” mountains. Above: the BIG SKY that this state is rightly known for. Heard coyote song again for the first time in a long time. Also had the company of lots of young ravens, squaking and honking joyfully as they surfed the thermals next to us on the divide. A silent deer occasionally appears on the edge of our vision, looks at us solemnly and then disappears into the half-dark of the trees again. If I carried any butter, we could have had wonderfully fried mushrooms every night. They grow everywhere, big and brown as newly risen loaves of bread. But I don’t carry butter.

Two nights ago we finally got into farming country: cattle grazing in open meadows and thin woodlands. We camped with some cows in a herby meadow next to a fenced-off spring and a tank with water for cattle. The water came out of a spout and ran crystal clear so memories of New Mexican cattle tank gunk where quickly banished.

As we were eating our dinner (reclining in the tent like Romans at a feast), we heard a truck drive up – farmer checking his cows. Truck stops a wee distance away, quiet, then the engine is started again and the truck comes closer, stops again. We hear a door slam (we’re too tired to pop our heads out of the tent). And then someone suddenly pings the back bungee on our tent !!! I shoot out of the front door and see a cowboy in his mid 20’s with a big stetson, big mustache and 80’s aviator specs looking startled as he fiddles with the back of our tent. “Ah didn’t even know it was a tent! Don’t look like one to me. Just though I aint never seen that thing there before – goan check it out” he appologised once I had given him a potted version of what we were doing and why we were there. (We were on public lands, so there was no argument about our right to camp there).

That night we had thunderstorms (again) and rain. In the morning we were woken by sonorous, low moooooooing and huffing. We were surrounded by 30 odd cows and calves – and 3 bulls giving it lalldy: peeing on the ground, kicking dirt around themselves, rolling their heads in the dirt, head butting each other and generally making a big song and dance about their virility. The cows had obviously seen the show before because they congregated in a semi circle around our tent and instead of paying the bulls much attention, watched us nervously dismantle our shelter and pack our bags. We were very much hoping that the bulls didn’t feel we were stealing their limelight and wouldn’t turn their excess energy on us in order to impress the cows. They didn’t – we got away unmolested!

So much for camping on range-land! And to think that we’ve been worried about camping in the woods with the bears!

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