I may be confusing my fountains. This is the only sentence I heard from the lady in red walking past me downtown. Both she and I—intent on separate conversations—brushed shoulders passing each other in the street. While I waited for my friend to unlock the car doors, I turned for a better glimpse of the lady who had confused her fountains. She was just disappearing around the corner from the horse statue the cowboys visit with their herding dogs (that’s another story.)
So, I’ll never know anything else about these fountains, or that lady. But I felt a kinship with her. She and her fountains, confusing. Me and my mountains, moving.
Last month my daughter and I were treated to a banquet in honor of my father for his work to promote Montana history. The organization didn’t know how frail my parents have become and how impossible it’d be for either to make the journey for this banquet. I was asked to give an acceptance speech in his behalf and share the details of his life with the audience.
I don’t know the facts of my father’s life.
What I do know are some stories. Would that be enough to share? The way he taught himself trigonometry without a text book while his five kids did homework at the kitchen table every night. The way he was called out at night during the 1964 Flood to become the man suspended from a cherry picker to cut stanchions from Black Eagle’s dam. The mountains of debris and driftwood were threatening to destroy the sixty-year-old dam and he was the one man in town who dared to wield the cutting torch.
Roadey is a one-hundred pound Rottweiler devoted to my parents. He lives for the early morning drive to the confluence of the Sun and the Missouri rivers, eager to bound from the truck and chase the scent of gopher and cottontail.
Lately, the six-year old pup doesn’t bound anymore, my mother confides to me during our weekly phone call. My mother is the brave one in our family, telling me how slow Roadey walks now, matching his gait to the pace of a cane and a portable oxygen tank. He knows something is changing.
All three photos by William O’Keefe.