the not-a-problem hand wave

The driver’s window is gone. Inside the cab: a once perfectly good sleeping bag, half unrolled. Look away. If this is where someone sleeps, I should have thought to knock before I started taking photos.

Between the Irish oatmeal and bags of rolled oats in the Good Earth Market, a fresh sheet of notebook paper.  Before I could think to look away, I read someone’s misplaced grocery list.  Forgive me, but now I am curious: who  among us is shopping for trayed corn.

We have a map drawn by the friend of a friend. Fisherman to fisherman tales: the best place nearby to catch catfish. Nighttime fishing requires getting there by dusk. And before dusk, we find the Gritty Stone, a back channel on the Yellowstone. We rig our poles, hold our noses as we set smelly, bloody bait on double hooks. Downstream from our spot, a family with two boys teenagers has a picnic going on. The boys are swimming in the warm water.  Mitchell wants to punch  Patrick one more time.

But, Mitch, you already hit me once!

But Patrick, that’s because you told  Trevor I screwed Tanya!

Ha, we smile to each other. Now, even the whooping crane standing in the quiet water fishing for the evening’s meal has heard the news. Same with the beaver surfacing upstream from where we plan to cast. And the lambs baa-ing in the pasture south of us. If we can hear the baa’s, the lambs can hear Mitch and Patrick. And so can Mom and Dad.

We get busy and make a little noise; set up chairs, strap our headlamps on, dig mittens from under the front seat. It’s going to be a cold night sitting along the river bank, waiting for catfish to bite.

Car doors slam at the Mitchell and Patrick camp. Incredibly, silence immediately sets in. To our left the half moon is rising, and the full sun is minutes from setting. The whooping crane wings slow, strong beats across the water. Behind us we hear the quiet motor of a mini-van approach, tires on dusty gravel. The van comes to a stop, a window rolls down;  a mother’s voice clears and calls out to us:  Sorry about all that. 



About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

18 responses to “the not-a-problem hand wave

  1. Mary MacGowan Breckman

    S, I can’t begin to tell you how much I love your blog posts. So artful, so funny, so real, so poetic.
    A deep bow to you,

    • redmitten

      hey mary, hearing this from you means so much! letting some of this stuff inside my head come out and play is esp. good when you are here to play with as well.

  2. Rose Hunter

    This is a gorgeous truck. Trayed corn! I’ve never seen it. Have you? Perhaps the whooping crane knows….

    • redmitten

      the truck: a studebaker! when i was a kid my older brothers said they got to have every chevy and ford that we saw but i could have the “stterudebakers”. it was meant to be a put-down but the idea that every truck like this was “mine” lifted me up. ha!

      trayed corn- turns out it sounds better than it is. poetic corn, ya know? corn on the cob, cleaned and ready to eat, wrapped on a tray. wah.

  3. Hi Sherry,
    It’s been a while since I’ve been able to come in and read you. I enjoy your new format for your posts, very much. It puts focus on your words and photographs. I love the structure/nonstructure of your writing. It is always cohesive, open, and meaningful, in its own way. Trayed corn? Maybe corn that comes covered in plastic wrap and packaged in produce trays. I like the concept of this post- the look away, once it is too late or impossible to look away.

    • redmitten

      annie! i’ll have to come see your new place. glad you like this format. i’ve been watching for a new one and when this one showed up, i thought yeah! this is IT! it’s always good to hear if what i write outloud makes any sense. thanks!

  4. On a boggy-seeming, shoes-on-the-wrong-feet, missing a dear friend day, I am once again transported by how keenly your senses take in the world. Though things still feel off here, I take heart knowing there are spots on the back side of legendary rivers where things are as we would wish them to be. Does Montana have a poet/prose laureate?

    • redmitten

      oh my and oh my yes. these days i know. i’ve been missing a dear friend too and have yet to figure out what to do with the pain other than to accept it.

      montana’s latest poet laureate is henry real bird, a working cowboy and poet from the crow nation not too far from where i live.

  5. always love these pictures you post. When I got a big chunk of money falling into my hand one day, I’d totally visit these places you’ve been and of course, you, as well.

  6. Such a strong sense of place. Lovely.

  7. Such beautiful images, once again, and I really enjoyed your story. It pulled me along to my favorite line: the one at the end; funny 🙂 On another note…I’d really like a licence plate for my car in that color ~

    • redmitten

      karyn, i drove by that license place just this morning….i bet i could get you the plate, but you’d be so illegal (grin). am glad you liked the story…it was a timeless evening.

  8. I love how you create equally strong and clear images with words as with photos.

    And by the way, congrats on becoming the assistant editor at YB!

    • redmitten

      brigita, thank you! working with rose has been magical in so many ways. she is a true artist. and i am glad you like the way these photos and words work together. every time i look at a photo i realize there is another story left to tell.

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