This post concludes “WOOL TROMPERS”, making it the last of the excerpts from that book. With that done, future posts will likely be few and seldom.
The Billings office had expanded by now to the point that there was a Customer Engineer Field Manager. What seemed to be the ultimate came when Con introduced me to him. As he shook my hand, he looked me over and said, “You are at least two feet shorter than I expected you to be.” I have been wearing a larger hat ever since.
Interstate #90 was in the early stages of construction in the Whitehall area and was completed during the time that we lived there. The Milwaukee Railroad was operating and ran electric engines across most of the state. They had a substation just outside of Whitehall where alternating current electricity was changed to direct current and fed to the overhead electric lines along the tracks. The trains crossed the continental divide between Whitehall and Butte and required enormous amounts of electricity to climb the grade. However, when they had reached the top and started down the other side, they generated power that went back to the substation where it was converted to alternating current and fed back to the electric power company’s lines.
It was during our years there that America forged ahead in space travel. I will always remember the evening when I was driving to Dillon and listening on the car radio to the progress of our astronauts as they made their first orbit around the moon. I could see the moon up in the southwestern sky and hear their conversation as they emerged from the back side of it and resumed radio contact with earth. To understand how truly remarkable this was to me, you have to remember that I grew up knowing that such a thing was impossible. A common expression in my youth was, “Why I could no more do that than I could fly to the moon.” Up until that time, the only one to get near the moon had been a nursery rhyme cow that jumped over it. In my early life, there hadn’t even been radios. Even to this day, I sometimes look up at the moon on a clear night and find it almost unbelievable that men have been there. Later, when men landed and walked upon the moon, my father drove over from his home at the mouth of Deep Creek Canyon to watch the event on television. He did not have a television set, and so, accepted our invitation. Think, for a moment, of the change for a man who grew up with horses for transportation, to one day get into an automobile and drive 60 miles to watch, on television, as men step out of a space vehicle and walk on the moon!
When we went into the business, we decided that we would give it ten years and then decide whether to stay with it longer or not. As the end of the tenth year came into sight, we were sure we had been at it long enough. Bonnie was getting married in September and Ron would graduate from high school in the spring. So, it looked like a good time for Fay and me to shift to a lower gear.
We sold the business late in 1974 and began waiting and planning for spring. On the 22nd of March, I arrived at my great-grandmother’s former homestead with my truck loaded with a couple of tents and other supplies. We had chosen a homesite less than a half mile south of where her cabin had stood and about a half mile west of my childhood home. I had earlier hauled building materials so the only thing needed now in order to start building was spring. Spring wasn’t here yet but it was due any minute so I set up my tents and set up housekeeping. Tentkeeping? Not only did spring fail to arrive, but winter came back. When the wind-driven snow sifted in under my tent and filled the space under my bed, I gave up and returned to Whitehall until the middle of April. Fay also came over after school was out. By midsummer, we had the garage building up and abandoned the tents in favor of the garage. With much help from relatives and friends, we proceeded with construction of the house and began living in it by the middle of the next year.
This, of course, is not the whole story by any means. In the first place, the story began uncounted generations before the point where I began. In the second place, there are countless branches of the family, both known and unknown, that I have only barely touched or not touched at all. Thirdly, the story will go on from here indefinitely. No matter how much I wish that I could know the story from the beginning, the knowledge is lost. The future can only be told by someone who will be there to see it. As for the far-flung branches, the task is too enormous for me to even contemplate. Perhaps there will be others who will write those stories.