Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Real Montana Winter

Last Thursday morning, as fierce winds whipped several inches of new snow across the icy highways of western Montana, my dad, a girl friend, and two co-workers suggested I postpone the trip I'd planned to Dillon and Helena. I thanked them for thinking of me and drove off into swirls of white.

It's been years, maybe more than a decade, since we've had a real Montana winter. I'm not foolhardy, but I do love an adventure. And I wasn't disappointed. In addition to white-knuckle driving, I got to experience the thrill of meeting a dozen bright and fascinating people.

Judy Ansley from Dillon convinced several brave Montana Public Radio fans to leave their warm houses on Thursday evening and go over to the Beaverhead Museum. I recorded each of them reading a legal I.D. - that list of transmitters we're required to broadcast near the top of every hour - and making comments about Dillon and Montana Public Radio. I thought they would rush off to do something else after they were done, but they all stayed to watch me record interviews with poet Roger Dunsmore and fantasy author Diana Pharaoh Francis. Even though I'd just met everyone, I felt like I was sitting around in a friend's living room listening to stories on a cold winter night. It was wonderful! Train noises and all.

The next morning, Friday, I met writer and professor Alan Weltzien at the library on the UM-Dillon (Western to you older foks) campus. He gave me some great "tape" for The Write Question.

By ten o'clock I was back on Interstate 15, which had blown partly dry, and made it into Butte in time to beat the lunch crowd at the Front Street Market (only five bucks for a tuna sandwich, a cup of seafood chowder, a cup of tea, and a chocolate chip cookie). I met Caroline Patterson, a writer and an editor for FarCountry Press, at the Fire Tower coffee house and she gave me the key to her office so I could use it for interviews. I talked with Jim Robbins, Rick Newby, and Martin Kidston - smart and articulate all, more great tape for TWQ.

Next time I'll check the extended weather forecast before scheduling a winter trip, but I'm glad I ventured forth.

And what am I reading this week? Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey, by Perri Knize; The Open-focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body, by Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins; Poems Across The Big Sky, edited by Lowell Jaeger; and Wind From An Enemy Sky, by D'Arcy McNickle.

Listen to this week's program. Guest: John Clayton, from Red Lodge, Montana.

Thanks for stopping by. Send comments about The Write Question to Chérie Newman.

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