Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear 1-21-13

Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.

Wind power. “They” are harvesting the zephyrs to turn the blasts into electricity to keep the energy bunny hopping … or something like that. Certainly there’s been plenty of the blustery stuff this week. I’d like to sell what whips past my place. At a nickel a gust, I’d be a millionaire in a couple of hours.

Then there’s my friend Bianca who leads life on top of a mountain along with husband, family, mules, horses, dogs, cats and just a few days ago, a brand new winter colt. Bianca, mother to the Universe, wanted to create a nursery for the little guy by padding the corral with straw. So she fired up the flatbed, drove 50 miles to a straw supplier, strapped two big round bales onto the bed and aimed the vehicle towards home — into the wind.

As she drove round a bend, the road led into a canyon. The wind put forth an air borne octopus tentacle and sideswiped her truck, lifting it — she swears — into the air. For some seconds Bianca felt like Mary Poppins or maybe the Little Prince on his magic carpet or possibly Harry Potter cruising the drag on his broom or … well, make up your own simile.

When the truck wheels once more grabbed earth, she glanced into the rearview mirror. The straw bales had decided to pave the asphalt. A golden carpet unrolled like a fresh bedsheet, lovely in the bright sunlight.

I’d like to sell the wind that whips past my place. At a nickel a gust, I’d be a millionaire in a couple of hours.

Bianca failed to appreciate the scene fully. Instead, she hastened to debark the truck (after bringing it to a halt, of course) and began using her foot as a broom. Naturally, several passing motorists plowed into and through the straw. Drivers paid no attention to the woman waltzing along the blacktop; possibly they assumed ’twas merely a local custom like rain-dancing.

Then along came a van stuffed with Russian exchange students. The driver stopped, the kids boiled out of the vehicle to “help” her. Their assistance included rolling like puppies in the straw, posing for photos, grinning, laughing and speaking in rapid Russian.

A round bale can weigh up to a ton. Two tons of straw mixed with playful Russians does not clear a highway with any noticeable speed. Using her handy cell phone, Bianca called relatives to ride to the rescue bringing pitchforks and muscle. They came, they saw, they forked.

About then, a county truck (Bianca felt sure Steven Spielberg was somewhere directing this entire scenario) drove into the picture. A figure about the size of Jesse Ventura extracted himself from the truck, eyed the situation and informed Bianca that she had to get the mess off the road post haste.

“Really?” said Bianca. “Thanks for telling me. How about the county bring in some equipment to help out here?”

“Can’t,” rumbled Jesse, “got to have a county work order. Take too long to process. You gotta git this stuff offa the highway. It’s a hazard.”

Bianca studied the fellow. She decided to try back-scratching.

“Your 4-H Club is struggling to raise funds to put a new roof on its club house, right? As you know, my family has donated generously to the cause. Perhaps you could think of something?”

Suffice to say, a county grader can bucket scoop hay onto a flatbed faster than a pitchfork. Even so, the task took awhile.

Loose hay doesn’t make nearly as neat a bundle as the original round form but still, with enough anchoring straps, Bianca got the untidy mass back to the ranch.

The new colt has plush bedding. The 4-H Club house has a new roof. The highway has lost its golden blanket except for a few wisps caught in roadside sagebrush. And a passel of Russian youngsters are spreading tales about how things are done in Montana, America. ❖