Chapter 28 - "smalltown smalltalk"
Unbeknownst to me, the place where Doug’s truck was getting a facelift, rather, a buttlift, (since it is, technically the bed of the truck having extensive cosmetic surgery) was an airplane hanger/welding pole barn/helicopter storage/heavy equipment repair garage/whatever-you-could-imagine-having-to-do-with-raw-steel epicenter.
We walked into the lobby and were greeted with hugs and handshakes and high-fives. Doug had a history with the owners of this operation and they started swapping old stories and inquiring about each other’s relatives. After about 25 minutes of hospitable conversation, we moved to the garage to talk to the mechanics about the truck and the installation of the heavy flatbed.
There were a couple of Indians, a couple of callus-covered Montana lifers indigenous to that region, and a few family members hired on to keep things in the family. It seemed like a relaxed place to work for the most part, even though the type of work was labor-intensive and quite specialized. We stood around and talked for a couple hours about everything from oil-drilling to the dying Montana economy to helicopter crop dusting. I didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation, but I was enjoying the backdrop quite nicely…it was a welcomed change of pace from the conversationalist my life back home expects me to be. The role reversal was refreshing.
Eventually, our stomachs were growling like guard dogs. We decided to appease them by hitting a local diner in town. We swapped trucks with the owner and made our way into the heart of the quaint village. It didn’t take long to find a greasy spoon. And before you could say, “Jack Black” we were scarfing down the classic American lunch…a cheeseburger, some fries, a pickle and a coke. I think I chewed, but I was hungry enough that it wouldn’t surprise me if someone told me I missed that step in my zeal. I was nothing short of ravenous.
We made small talk with a waitress just before scooting out the door and returning to the garage. After about another hour of chewing the fat with the guys who would be working on the truck, we decided to push off and head back to the cabin. We had talked to one of Doug’s friends, Guss, about taking us fishing.
Guss was a 65 years old Augusta local who took tourists on Elk hunts, trout excursions and various expeditions into the dangerous terrain of the inner Rockies. He also has had several of his pictures published in National Geographic putting him a select league of photographers. There are stories of him lowering himself in a basket over a rock face in the dark of night next to an eagle’s nest just to get a one in a million picture of eaglets being fed by their hunting parents at the break of dawn. He has a genuine love for the land and the creatures that inhabit it. He is a nature purist, often going out of his way to make sure his interactions with creation are unadulterated and honorable. He’s a deeply devout naturalist and prides himself in treating Montana land with reverence. Like never before, I’m all about that environmental conscientiousness. There is something Edenic about this sort of care for creation. I resonate with that kind of heart.
Upon returning to Augusta, we found Guss and talked about the idea of fishing. I could tell by the way his eye’s lit up that we were in for a good time.