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Sunday, 5 June 2011

I Put Away the Moleskin Trousers

I have finally put away my thick moleskin trousers, the ones I hesitated even to bring out here. Thank goodness I did. The warm weather has been a long time coming. It only got up to about 78 yesterday, but it’s forecast much higher than that today.

I have been here two months now. I have got to know the place, settled into a few routines and feel pretty much at home. And now summer has come. I suspect that this is the way it’s going to be for the next three or four months: hot days, pleasant nights, and a constant war against insects.

I busied myself around the place yesterday morning. It felt like a typical Saturday at home. Started off by completing the screen-door project: it now swings shut with a satisfying slam. Then I gathered a barrow-load of rocks and assembled them in a neat circle to make an outside fireplace. I can see that if I want to sit outside on an evening – and I do - I need protection from nasty flying things. My arms are bitten in several places already. It’ll help when I get the long grass cut around the house. For that I need to borrow a mower, but just for fun I got out the old wooden-handled scythe that I’d spotted down in the cellar, rubbed some of the rust off it with a stone, and spent a few minutes swinging away. It works, after a fashion.

I had hoped to be reading Mari Sandoz’ biography of Crazy Horse by now, but find to my horror that I do not have it with me. I was sure I’d packed it. Apparently not. I’ll have to get that from Gordon library, and in the meantime get into Cheyenne Autumn, which I remember from twenty-odd years ago as a desperately sad story. I cannot look forward to reading it, but feel I must.

While I was going through my books and papers I stopped to flip through a collection of pocket notebooks I’d used over the years. It was a chastening experience. Much of what’s in them I could scarcely decipher, and what I could make sense of I had a job fitting into context. My usual habit when I’m travelling is to try to write a coherent journal every night, and  jot incidental observations into a notebook  during the day. If I’m disciplined about it, I transfer these jottings into the main notebook. But I’m not always disciplined. I have to hope that the long notebooks, those marbled hard-cover things I’ve maintained over twenty years, will tell some of the stories I want to read.

I spent longer than I intended arranging my papers. The fact is, I had them all in order before the wave of visitors arrived, ‘filed’ in date order along the settee here along with my research papers on Mari Sandoz, and had never put them back. That’s done now. I have no excuse for not being scholarly.

Late in the afternoon I walked downstream, mostly on the hills above the river. The sun was getting lower, and as ever the shadows started to spread, giving another dimension to this endlessly absorbing, and now very green landscape. As ever, I was looking for plants, and to my great delight found a small patch of the wild onions I’ve read about in so many narratives about this part of the world.

Both natives and settlers used to pick them, and I couldn’t resist digging one up. I’ll be fascinated to see how large the bulbs are later on in the year – if I can identify them among the grass cover, once the flowers have gone. Maybe I should mark the spot where I found today’s clump.

On the way home a couple of features caught my eye. One was this ant-hill – an the feverish activity taking place all over it.

The second was a humble, but rather a characterful fence-post.

This morning Matt is branding a few of the calves that escaped the earlier round-up. They’d sneaked off with their mothers across the river. I’ll drive up and observe. Later, at around , I have a date with the cowboy poets at the Sand CafĂ© in Merriman. I have no idea what to expect.

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