Mothersell Montana

Town of Bannack, Montana, current time 2017, sister city to Mothersell, Montana. Looking down Main Street towards the East past the Spokane Mining House during an Autumn Snowstorm

 

This is primarily a story about Mothersell Montana, a mining town in name only most of the time. It is located on the Little Locust river eleven miles upstream from the confluence of the Little Locust river and Grasshopper creek, and is nestled into a low valley surrounded by hills containing some of the richest gold ore ever assayed.

Mothersell is similar in nature to Bannack, Montana, its sister city, which is also a mining town located six miles below the confluence of the two gold-laden water sources, but different in one major aspect. The difference will become apparent as we learn more of the town’s history. Bannack was a major player in the gold rush days being the first capitol of Montana, and a center of much of Montana’s history, but it is best known for making early miners rich as they mined and pulled gold out of Grasshopper creek at a huge rate. Those days were the town’s high point but after the gold panned out the town’s days were numbered. Folks began to move out, marching forward in the eternal quest for wealth and the better life.

Bannack still stands in a faded slightly rundown state, a mere shell of its former glory, near Dillon, Montana in the Southwest part of the state. Now a State park and tourist attraction where well meaning folk come to see what it was like to live in an early Montana mining town. The buildings, most of them now saved from certain destruction by the elements, neglect and time itself stand proudly along the towns main street and can be entered and explored at will. It offers a glimpse of what towns looked like in the mid 1860’s. The good people of Montana have seen fit to invest time and money into bringing the town back from the brink of disaster, not to mention oblivion, and should get a hardy thank you and any other kind of support one is willing to provide.

The difference between the two towns is dramatic and unbelievable if you are able to suspend belief in the story itself. Bannack is rooted in history and the present in a very tangible way. You can go there. You can walk its streets. You can enter the buildings and feel the presence of the souls of those who lived, loved and died there. Whereas Mothersell couldn’t be more different.

Mothersell exists in a place where time acts differently. It is a place where its very existence depends on your good fortune, not its own. If you are one of those people that luck has smiled upon you can stumble across the actual townsite where Mothersell is located and if you have been particularly fortunate the town will come into focus and solidify and exist as it was, or always is, if you will, and you may become a part of its life for what ever time is allotted to you.

As mentioned before time has a particular strange way of occurring here. When you enter Mothersell you leave the current world around you behind and become an active participant in its daily life. But remember, time is strange here, what may be a day or so in your other world may be a year or more in Mothersell. During that time you forget about your other existence and live instead in a golden haze of happiness and contentment. Everything you ever wanted is now available to you but only so long as you reside in Mothersell. The town itself will soon recede from its current existence and return to its place outside of your time. If you are fortunate enough to be accepted by the town you can and will remain with it and leave your old life behind you. If through some terrible act of providence you aren’t accepted, you return to your normal life except you get to keep your memories of that glorious time spent within its confines. Which you will find are both a treasure and a curse. Fate has a way of playing cruel and unusual jokes on the unwary. It’s been said “Make a plan, God needs to laugh.”

Unlike Bannack which will undoubtedly be there for you to visit for the near and foreseeable future, Mothersell is a fleeting unattainable place to revisit. Once is all mere mortals get to have and if it doesn’t work for you it is not available again. It is still there just slightly set aside on a different plane from our existence. Sometimes if the light is just right and you are paying particularly close attention you can see it floating just out of your reach, a treasure, like gold, but even more difficult to obtain.

Unfortunately cameras don’t work in Mothersell. All you get for an image is a golden glow instead. So instead images from her sister city Bannack have been used. The two towns were very close in the style of architecture and placement of their buildings so these images almost convey what it was like to be there. Of course there is no way to convey the actual beauty and undeniably wondrous presence of the town itself but for that you have to have had the most precious gift of all. Being able to have been there for awhile. Who knows, perhaps if the gods decide to take part in our lives again the town may reappear but that of course is up to them. If so I’ll be waiting.

 

 

 

 

11:00 o’clock And All’s Sort Of OK

We had gray skies and Camelot rains here the last couple of days and this morning as I was making my rounds inventorying the trees here at the top of the world I was suddenly struck with the realization that one of my oldest friends was not doing so well.

We’ve known each other for over 25 years and have weathered many a storm together. Although old and past its prime it always appeared to be strong and vital and nowhere near ready to give up and lie down as so many of its peers have done. It has withstood one hundred and one mile per hour winds. Incredible snow loads. During the storm of the century the snow was half way up its trunk. Every bird that could peck holes in its slowly softening trunk have done so. Flickers, woodpeckers of several varieties, anything that could make a hole in it has. It has been the home of legions of Canyon wrens, black-capped chickadees, even a family of bluebirds. It has participated in life to its fullest.

Through it all it has stood steady and resolute, Nature’s own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Defiantly strong in the face of all adversity while its lesser brethren gave up, tottered and fell to the ground to begin their long journey back into the earth that had nourished them for so many years. Not so my friend. It was as if it seemed to say “Is that all you have? Come on throw it at me. I can take it.”

As the years passed we both have been through our storms together. As each wave of turmoil swept over me I would look out and there my friend would be leaning into life with a strength I envied and tried to emulate, not always doing the best job of it, but buoyed up by seeing my old friend still standing firm. There were the successes too, some monumental, at least in my life. Great huge highs that were caused by family, or business, or simply being in a place that I loved as much as life itself. Always I shared it with my friend just outside the window.

Sometime ago I went and stood next to it feeling the texture of its rough and weathered surface. Pieces flaked off beneath my fingers yet it still seemed vital and present. Not fragile, not at the end of its road. I even pushed at it, testing whether it was as firm in its stance as I thought it was. It didn’t budge. I thought, well there’s a lesson there bucko. Keep grounded, keep a firm grip and you can make it too.

Of course at that time I wasn’t taking in the fact that time marches on and all things change. Now I see that the slow passage of our journey together has finally caught up with my old friend and it is calling its name. It is a tired old tree now. I fancy that if I look real close I can see it shiver in the wind, slightly swaying. Then I don’t. I really don’t want to see that. I’ve always thought that my friend and its sons next to it have represented the hands of a clock. The hands pointing to eleven o’clock, measuring our friendship in its own slow way. I, unable to see the slight movement of its hands but knowing they were moving even if I can’t see them do so. Now it seems the hands have stopped moving for my friend, even reversing themselves a little. If their position is eleven o’clock now, it is inevitable that as it must do, they will move to nine o’clock some time. When that happens my friend will have completed its journey.

Soon my old friend and I will part company. I to a new place where hopefully there will be new old friends. It to its final journey and rest on the earth that has sustained it all its life. I hope that it waits to complete its mission until I’m gone. I need it there to be strong and resolute in its constancy so I can be too.

 

 

3 O’Clock

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Time passes differently in the desert. It conforms somewhat to our notion of how time should behave. It gets light in the morning and dark at night, and high noon is roughly what shows on the face of your Rolex when both hands point straight up, but it doesn’t feel the same. And as you know if you’ve ever spent time alone somewhere like this desert at Coral Pink Sands Dunes State Park, time is as much a feeling as it is the passage of seconds and minutes.

You can come here with your time if you want. The dunes don’t care. Have your schedules on your smart phone set to tell you how long you can stay, how long before you have  to go if you want to make it to Zion before the afternoon rush for rooms begins. But be careful when you step out onto the sands here. Watch out for the fact that the hands on your watch may move but the passage of time here on the dunes doesn’t always agree. Finding a place to sit where you can watch the winds sculpt the dunes into new shapes, erasing footprints, sharpening the edges of the dune tops until they look as is they could shear the wind in half, or slice little eddies off the breezes to form new ripples down the face of the sand. That’s when you notice that the 15 minutes you thought you were spending has actually been an hour and a half. The desert is showing you how time works here. It’s not your watch that’s at fault. It’ll work just fine when you get back to people places and that time takes over again.

Forget also about making it the 45 miles from here to Zion in time. You’ve been caught by desert time. Sitting there watching the sand change color from a yellowish-tan to a rich, deep coral as the sun moves across the shifting dunes, listening to the low moan of the winds as they scrub across the dune tops, feeling as much as hearing the low humming that comes from the movement of untold billions of sand crystals rubbing together, as the wind slowly but surely pushes the dunes along, moving these massive collections of sand some fifty feet a year. Sitting there you’ve been moved with them, not very far, a short journey actually, but as a new part of the desert you’ve been added to the structure and affected by it, unaware that your presence has been noted and taken into account. You’re on desert time now.

It’s time to put your smart phone away, pull your sleeves down over that watch and tune into desert time. Make other arrangements in your mind as schedules don’t work well here in the desert. But it’ll work just fine if you let it happen and don’t fight it. It will still get light in the morning and dark again the evening, noon will come and go just like always, it’ll just feel differently is all. Once you understand how that works you’ll find its a pretty good system. If you need to know things like hours and so on, the desert will tell you. As you can see by the image above it’s three o’clock. Now that you know that, does it make a difference?