Childhood Memories, Adult Discoveries

I remember the house–a big two-story white clapboard, with a large wrap-around porch, and the stairway inside that my parents had to block so I wouldn’t try to climb up with my stubby two-year-old legs and fall back down. I remember the scent of tea, the warmth of the coal-burning stove in the corner of the living room, the hardwood floor covered with a bright rug and horse blanket throws on the sofa. Granparents house Ingomar

This is the ranch–known then as “the McCollum Place”–my grandparents moved to in the early 1940s after years of moving around, following the grass for their horses. This was the place they lived the longest, “retiring” in the early 1960s. This was my first home that my parents shared with Grandma and Grandpa for about three years after my mother emigrated from Germany, striking out on a journey of unknowns to the promise of a new and better life.

I hadn’t been back since I was a teenager, but when I visited Montana recently I drove to Ingomar, the “town” nearby. Ingomar is one of those places that you have to WANT to go to–you’re not going to happen upon it while traveling the regular Montana routes. Once the sheep shearing and shipping capitol of Montana in the early 1900s, it then boasted 46 businesses including three banks, railroad station, two elevators, two general stores, two hotels, two lumber yards, plus rooming houses, saloons, cafes, a drugstore, blacksmith shop, claims office, doctor, dentist and maternity home. Now the population is 14 and the main business is the Jersey Lilly Saloon and Cafe.Jersey Lilly

I had a vague recollection of the direction of the ranch from Ingomar, but I asked for directions, and I’m glad I did. Boots, the proprietor of the Jersey Lilly, glanced out the window at my car. “Good, you have all-wheel drive,” he said. I gulped. He explained they’d had some rain recently and the low-lying spots might still be muddy. Since my car was new to me, I dug out the owner’s manual to make sure I knew how to put it in four-wheel mode, just in case.

We (my sister-in-law, Marylou, & I ) followed Boots’ hand-drawn map: turn right after the cattle guard, keep going past the stock tank and you’ll have to open and close the gate… for eight miles over the rough one-track road. Fortunately, no mud remained, and I didn’t have to test out my vehicle and my memory of Montana mud-driving.

We found the house, which is still inhabited by Lance & Connie Moreland, very nice, hospitable people who are leasing the ranch. I had to smile at my memory of this “big” house. It’s two-story, all right, but it’s not large. How cramped the quarters must have seemed to my mother! The porch was not wrap-around as I had recalled, but still was a good-sized one on the front. I remember a photo of mini me at the rail with a chicken egg next to several large hailstones.  The staircase is still there, and the hardwood floors. The Morelands told me that unfortunately the owner doesn’t want to spend any money to fix up the house, so it is a bit on the dilapidated side.

But I’m glad it’s still lived-in and not falling down. Heidi with egg & hail

Published in: on November 7, 2014 at 6:19 am  Comments (1)  
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Travels with Penske Pair Part II

Las Cruces, NM is the second largest city in the state, with a population of 95,000, and is home to New Mexico State University. For thousands of years, the valley was inhabited by ancient Native Americans, the Mogollon. Las Cruces was incorporated as a town in 1907 and New Mexico became a state in 1912. We drove to the small “old town” bedroom community of Mesilla, where I visited Bowlin’s Books and sold four of my books to the proprietor. This area is very windy and dusty and we’ve decided we don’t want to move here.

Continuing on I-10 east, we entered Texas, which would take us three days to cross. There are many things about Texas that remind me of Montana (the time is takes to cross it, for one, some of the terrain, the “big sky” with cloud shadows in the distance, and the friendliness of the people.) The countryside is brushy, plains desert, which must have been a challenge rounding up cattle for shipment in the old days (or even today, if that’s still being done). We didn’t see many cows in the area.

El Paso is a large, spread-out city, with lots of room to grow. (Reminded me of the old song “Out in this west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl…:” I used to know all the verses!)

We spent the night in the small town of Van Horn, dining on a great steak at the Cattle Company.

Ironically, the speed limit in most of Texas is 80 mph, however, driving a loaded truck, we are keeping to 65-70 mph to save gas. West Texas is miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. I kept wondering about the early settlers, how they managed to travel through this country and why they decided to settle where they did. The picture above shows the long, straight highway and distant hills shrouded in dust. Our windshield needed washing and my sister-in-law commented, when I sent her the photo, it looked like the ghost of a tornado that must have picked up speed and gone on to Missouri and other states to wreak havoc. (It’s just a streak on the windshield however.)

The next stop was in Fort Stockton Tx, where I’d searched on-line for a possible place to sell books and found the Gray Mule Saloon and Gifts. But when we arrived, the Ol’ Gray Mule wasn’t what she used to be, undergoing remodeling to  become a wine-tasting shop. Having not found our favorite Starbucks that morning, we were delighted to see Anastasi’s Pottery, Coffee Bar & Cafe right across the street. We purchased an excellent cup of brew and visited with Rhonda and Alfredo Ibarra. I mentioned I was an author, handed her my card, and Rhonda said she’d been looking for western-themed books to sell. Voila! Four more books sold!

Movin’ on down the road, we crossed the Pecos River, which reminded me of the saying “the only law West of the Pecos,” referring to Judge Roy Bean, the “hangin’ judge.” He established the Jersey Lilly Saloon in Langtry, Tx, and it is the namesake of the saloon in Ingomar, MT, where my grandparents lived. Bean reportedly was infatuated with the actress Lilly Langtree, and named the establishment for her. The top photo is the Texas Jersey Lilly and the bottom is the Montana establishment. (We didn’t actually make it to see the Texas saloon. Photo courtesy of 50Statesor Less.)

Onward ho, through Texas to San Antonio, where the climate and the terrain changes to lush and green.

Stay tuned for more adventures from the Penske Pair!

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