Montana Authors Project

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On the fifth day out they came to the head of the Little Prickly Pear where it empties into the Big River. A short distance to the southwest lay the holdings of Malcolm Clark. Yellow Kidney had told how, before turning to ranching, Clark had been a trader among the Pikunis and had married Cutting-off-head Woman. The Indians called him Four Bears and the chiefs respected him, but he was also known for his ruthless ways and bad temper. Now he raised whitehorns and had a big say with the Napikwan chiefs. (15)…


Irene and I had done up the fair before—we'd done it up big.... In years before, we thought we owned the fair. But that August we haunted the midway like ghosts—stopping in front of the Tilt-A-Whirl, then the fishbowl game, watching like we'd already seen everything there was to see but couldn't quite pull ourselves away.... Everything was painted in ringing noises and flashing lights and shouting and screaming, crazy laughter, little kids crying, the smell of popcorn and fry bread and cotton candy thick in the air, but it all just sort of floated around me like smoke. (43)…


As the heat mirages on the river in front of me danced with and through each other, I could feel patterns from my own life joining with them. It was here, while waiting for my brother, that I started this story, although, of course, at the time I did not know that stories of life are often more like rivers than books. But I knew a story had begun, perhaps long ago near the sound of water. And I sensed that ahead I would meet something that would never erode so there would be a sharp turn, deep circles, a deposit, and quietness. (63)…


At the creek's edge he sat on an old log and listened to the water which, though night had come, was still awake, swirling in eddies, slapping upon stones.... There were odors of the thimbleberry, of wet gravel, and, he thought, of fish, but that was imagination. It was a peculiar thing how images of such things were nothing that could be touched and yet they had strength and substance. He had come a thousand miles because of their pull upon him.... (16)…


We rode off on our way to the cache on the other side of the Musselshell River. Everything had come out all right and I was soon in a joyful mood, an unusual thing with me for some time. As we rambled on I kept getting all the more joyful and began to think that I was a combined lark and nightingale. I started to liven up the surrounding country with my melody. Beaver Tom snapped at me, "What the hell is eating you anyway, do you want to bring all the Injuns in the country on us?" Nothing could insult me, for was not the wind whispering sweet music in my ears? (97)…


Clouds lift up Ruby Valley As the medicine man unveils Feelings of illusion. The poet paints with wails Of inner heart commotion, Life is a song of feelings.…


Scanlan Lake was a man-made sort of lake-pond that was Miles City's best stab at a municipal pool. It had two wooden docks set fifty yards apart, which was a regulation distance according to federation swim rules.... Every May the city released a flow tube and filled the then-empty lakebed with diverted water from the Yellowstone River—baby catfish, flukes, minnows, snakes, and tiny iridescent snails that fed on duck poop and caused the red rash of bumps known as swimmer's itch, the rash that covered the backs of my legs and burned, especially in the soft skin behind my knees. (12)…


Undoubtedly, our differences would not have seemed so great if we had not been such a close family. Painted on one side of our Sunday school wall were the words, God Is Love. We always assumed that these three words were spoken directly to the four of us in our family and had no reference to the world outside, which my brother and I soon discovered was full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the farther one gets from Missoula, Montana. (7)…


[Max] settled down and began to build his ranch. And on that he labored strenuously. In the work of those early years he rarely had anyone to help. It was not laziness, and it was not romanticism. While it was true that the old life was much cleaner than the present existence, it was still hard for a white man to stomach. (42)…


It was in the fall of 1878 before the Priest came to the Cree buffalo camp on the Musselshell River, nearly one day's ride from the Pend d'Oreille camp...his name was Father Landre. He followed the Cree buffalo camps in Canada and lived in the tepees with them like an Injun...and said Mass and preached to them in the Cree language. His church was a large one, the vaults of heaven and generally on a creek bank under a tree. His altar stood there, the tail end of a Red River cart. It was some sight to see, on the banks of the Musselshell, in that Injun camp, on that day when In-who-lise and I were married. (260)…

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