He spent his weekends on the Continental Divide. He’d leave the house with a rifle thrown over his shoulder, a bedroll on his back and not much else. It didn’t matter if it was summer or winter. Up he’d go into the mountains where he’d literally eat off the land. And sleep on the ground. Then, having his fill of it, he’d head home and go back to school the next day.
No one knew where he was. He couldn’t check in. He couldn’t call out. It was just him, Mother Nature, and the open sky.
My mom used to say that if ever the end of the world was at hand, she wanted to find my dad. He’d know what to do.
He was a boy who grew up with boys. Strong to the point of imposing, fiercely intelligent, he was the epitome of a boy from Butte. He had guns, dogs, and beer with him always. He knew how to load his own bullets, chop wood and hunt. Quick to a fight. Smart as a whip. He rode around Butte on motorcycles with Evel Knievel (“Bobby” to my mom; “Evel” to my dad). Getting in trouble is what boys from Butte were good at.
I’ve always wondered if the fact that he had girls vexed him. Especially the kind of girls who prefer cities to wilderness. Hotels to tents. Tofu to steak.
I don’t much care for the outdoors. It is replete with bugs, bears and dirt. Not to mention questionable bathrooms. And air so clean I get light-headed. Which makes my upcoming camping trip with my husband fairly ironic.
We are busy packing and preparing for our Great American Road Trip. We plan to fill the car with plenty of gear. We’re both pretty sure I’m a glamper. The walk-in six-person tent is a dead giveaway. As is my request for a hammock, a blow-up bed, and wine glasses. My plan? To read books from the comfort of my bug-free shack, to spend my days under the sun and in my bug-free tent. If I could get a bee suit before next week, I’d never take it off.
I’m going to write in a journal with a pen. On paper. I’m going to write postcards. And lick stamps. It’s so very reminiscent of 1998.
I don’t know this for sure, but I think my dad used to go into those mountains for clarity of mind. For connection between himself and the land. For a breather from interruptions, from small talk, from big responsibilities, from whatever pressing modern day requirements existed for him all those years ago.
Pressing modern day requirements haven’t changed over time. But our access to one another has. Technology has evolved so that we can be in touch whenever we want, no matter the hour, no matter the need.
It’s an always on, non-stop world we’re living in. We literally have the power to change each other’s attention from wherever it is to wherever we want it to be with the tap or click of a button. Without pause, concern or question.
In this day and age, thanks to voicemail, email, text messaging and social media, we are constantly connected — sometimes whether we want to be or not. Thank you digital dopamine addiction! And that connection is often first to others and secondarily to ourselves.
My father used those trips up into the mountains to get away.
Turns out, we’re not so unalike after all.