My Montana job
“Allow me to stock your freezer”
The night started out as an uneventful night. The temperature had risen to as high as 37 degrees. The snow was melting a little and turning to slush. As I began my bus route I realize this posed for more hazardous driving conditions. I could feel the bus lose traction at times.
I’ll simply take things slowly and be very cautious. I feel confident in my driving skills at this point, I have driven on ice and snow everyday since I arrived in Montana over two weeks ago.
As I drive through the canyon the snow begins to fall. The snow is a mixture of rain and snow. The road is covered immediately and I can not see the lines on the highway separating each side. In many places out west, and in Montana rumble strips are put in the middle of the street to separate each side of the street.
As I drive I notice all the crosses on each the side of the highway. The crosses represent the people that have parished on this particular stretch of highway. Within what couldn’t have been more than a mile, maybe a mile and a half, I count ten.
I have great respect for these highways. The curves are sharp as the highway continues through the beautiful snow covered mountains. Looking over to the right of me just off the highway the Galatin River can be seen by the light of the moon. The river appears powerful and cold. I remind myself as I drive through this dangerous canyon there are no room for mistakes.
After arriving up on the mountain the first part of my bus route is uneventful. I drive slower due to the slick streets. Passengers are happy tonight and thank me for driving safely. I drop ten passengers off at my last stop before a fifteen minute wait at a designated place.
I pull out into the street. I can pick up only one station on the radio and it is a classic rock station. I turn the radio up as I leave the driveway of the stop. Journey is playing. I sing along as I pull into the highway. I drive for a half a mile, still singing “loving, touching , squeezing,” suddenly out of darkness to my right something moves. I looked as I shout “oh God no!”
I let up off the accelerator. I cannot brake check on these slick road conditions and I know better than to swerve. I prepare for impact. I listen as the bodies of Elk, hit the bus. I noticed the antlers right at impact. They were huge. The Elk stood above the front of the bus. I thought to myself, please don’t come into the windshield of this bus.
I could smell the scent of wild animal as I pulled the bus over. I gathered my senses, found my phone and called 911. The dispatcher answers and I immediately let her know it is not a medical emergency, that I needed law enforcement because I hit several Elk.
I give her all the info she needs, she asks again if I am ok and welcomes me to Montana. I’ve been with this company for two weeks and had to be rescued from being frozen alive, now I hit a herd of Elk doing severe damage to the company vehicle. Yes, welcome to Montana.
I start to walk down the road to see how many Elk I hit as I see some still crossing. I watch them as they cross. They cross the street into a snow covered field. Suddenly I sigh to myself. I am looking at what appears to be a hundred ElK! They are in the snow. The moonlight shining on them in this field. The mountains appear as a backdrop. The sight is breathtaking.
I decide I better stay put. I do not know if it’s a good idea to go anywhere near the Elk I hit, in case more are around. Last thing I needed was to be trampled by Elk.
The parkranger shows up shortly. She appears to be mid twenties. She is a very pretty lady with blonde hair, a ponytail and no makeup except mascara. She introduces herself with a kind smile, firm handshake and a strong tone in her voice. She is a bad ass.
She asks if I am ok and that I am warm in my bus. I reassure her I am fine, just upset that I killed three animals and possibly totalled a bus. She smiles and says “Welcome to Montana” I laugh and say to her “Montana has opened her arms to me.”
The park ranger tells me that the meat from the Elk is salvageable. She called some guys in Bozeman and they are very excited about coming to get the Elk. They will have the meat processed and it will go out to help the needy. She also told me one Elk was still alive and she had to shoot it. I felt really bad for the Elk.
We walk together as I show her the damage to the bus. The bar is dented in, and losely hanging. The right front side is severly damanged all the way down the passenger door.
I am asked to hang out in the bus until the state trooper arrives. As I sit and wait for the trooper I have plenty of time to think. I think about all the times I’ve romanticized this place. I look at the mountains, they are glowing from the snow that has accumulated.
I should just leave, I think to myself. I look at the odometer and the middle numbers read 666. All my life I’ve been taught that is the number of The devil, is this some sort of sign? I shake my head to myself at my silly thoughts and again I look at the mountains.
I see Montana as being a female. She is alive, she has the kind of beauty that makes you stop and look at her. Montana is majestic. She makes you dream, and fantasize. Montana is powerful, she demands your attention and respect. Montana is also bitter. She can be very dangerous until she feels she has gotten your full attention and your total respect.
The trooper arrives and we go through the paperwork process. He is all business and crosses his T’s and dots his I’s. After we are finished he asks if I have any questions. I told him yes, how do I avoid this in the future? He said “Dont drive at night in Montana.” we laughed and as I exited the vehicle he said “Welcome to Montana”.
I’ve decided I’m not going anywhere just yet. I may end up frozen in the canyon, trampled by buffalo, eaten by wolves, but for now I am here, and I am bound and determined to be as tough as Montana wants to make me.