Friday, June 18, 2010

Fort Peck, Portland and epic journey

The impressive Fort Peck earthen dam

The even more impressive eastern Montana skies above Fort Peck Lake
I haven’t been inactive, just occupied.
I had a 10-day stretch of family-related travel that took me as far east as Park River, N.D., and as far west as Portland, Ore., with a three-day stop at Fort Peck.
Some random thoughts:
 Fort Peck in Montana’s far northeastern corner where the Missouri sits behind a massive earthen dam, is neglected as a vacation spot by those of us who reside in the western half of the state. I was there for a Humanities Montana committee meeting and spent three days at the Fort Peck Hotel drinking in the beauty of the surroundings. The dam, a make-work Depression-era project, is an engineering wonder. I visited the Interp Center, the Fish Hatchery, and prowled about both sides of the dam. Just studying the dam building itself is worth the trip, not to mention the beauty of this badlands country, enhanced by all the rain. I stayed at the Fort Peck Hotel, really a large hunting lodge that reminded me of the Glacier Park lodges. Our meeting there included a session on Ivan Doig’s book, “Bucking the Sun,” about the construction of the dam. I would have liked to attend a play at the Fort Peck theater, but just ran out of time.
 I visited family in Portland and Seattle, attending a niece’s graduation at Seattle University and spending time with my mother, daughter and my sister’s family in Portland. The weather there was as rainy and as unsettled as that of Great Falls. A highlight of the trip was a visit to the Portland Art Museum where my daughter and I spent a couple of hours viewing Robert Crumb’s drawings of all 50 chapters of the first book of the Bible, “Genesis.” This artists might be remembered as the “Keep on Trucking” artist of the ‘60s, whose profane and explicit art defined an era. His detailed art of Genesis filled two full floors of the museum, and even taking a couple of hours, we rushed through it. We also stopped at the Rose Garden (it was Rose Festival Week) and enjoyed Portland in all its quirkiness.
 The drive to Park River, N.D., was epic. I got a call on Monday, June 7, at 8 p.m., that a dear friend was in the last stage of cancer and dying. I hopped in the car by 8:30 and drove some 743 miles through the night, arriving at 10 a.m. It was a sad time. My friend died on Wednesday, June 9. She was Carol (Sipma) Franks, 61, on the English faculty at Portland State University for more than 30 years, who though moving to Park River, continued to teach online. Carol was an exceptional writer and teacher whom I met while a freshman at University of North Dakota some 44 years ago. She married my best friend, Wayne (now deceased) in 1970 and I was best man at the wedding in her home town of Hettinger, N.D. She won a national poetry contest with a $10,000 prize and took the money and bought a bookstore in Park River she operated until her death. Carol contracted skin cancer that spread to her other organs, killing her. I’m convinced that her writing, most of which had regional North Dakota and rural themes will be discovered.
 Now I’ll start my hiking season when this rain finally subsides. Fresh snow at Showdown last night.

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