Big sky country

On the roadside about twenty miles outside of Buffalo, MT, a herd of cattle, walking on the street. Maybe 30 of them, mostly black angus to my non-expert eye. The stroll was apparently not planned, as there were several men in trucks scratching their heads and, I think, trying to get the cattle onto a truck. Hell if I know, though, I was whizzing by at 70 mph.


March 30, 2022

The speed limit is 80 in much of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana, but kiss my accelerator, I am comfortable at 65, feasible at 70, and willing to pass at 75, but I am not driving at 80 mph all day.

Skipped breakfast and wanted a caffeine pill, but after crossing the border ("Welcome to Montana!") the first two rest areas were closed. Isn't that illegal or something? I stopped at the third rest area, 200 miles into the morning, swallowed a wake-up pill, and peed, and noticed the sign on my walk to the building: "Rattlesnake area. Stay on sidewalk." I stayed on the sidewalk.

Couldn't see much of anything. It was cloudy all day, with a near-constant mix of snow and rain coming down, blocking much view of the mountains or scenery. As we were approaching the start of the pass, an electronic sign offered these words of encouragement: "Wind gusts ahead. Expect 60 mph side winds. Gusts currently 45 mph." So it was not a relaxing drive, but hey, I made it to Missoula, MT. 

For a hundred miles or so I saw a phenomenon I'd never seen before — fairly heavy snowfall, but driving at 65 or 70 mph was just fast enough that the snow was caught in the car's airfoil effect, so the snowflakes never hit the windshield. I was driving in a sometimes heavy snowstorm with my windshield wipers off, because the windshield was dry.

All the snow in the air, though, severely limited visibility, and recent reports of big Interstate smashups danced in my daydreams. I drove two stretches of 10 miles or so with my hazard lights flashing, an idea that came from the truck I could barely see a quarter-mile ahead of me. Good times! And still a few locals with gun racks on the back window flew past at 80.

When I was a kid, Montana mounted little white crosses at the side of the highway wherever there'd been a fatality. Guess they still do that, and it's an effective reminder of the danger, though the cross symbolism seems the opposite of inclusive.

There were far fewer white crosses on the side of the highway, though, than when I was a kid. Fifty years ago, I remember counting the white crosses for a few hours, and there were hundreds. Yesterday I saw perhaps fifty, all day — which means, Montana is removing the white crosses after some set amount of time, and it must not be much time. The white cross is a short-term memorial.

Still only able to see a short distance through the snow and rain, I never knew when the mountains had been passed. Lots of steep upgrades and downgrades, and then just when I thought it was over, another sign that says, "Chain-up area ahead." Why do the Rocky Mountains have to be so gol durn high?

Christian stations were more than half what I could hear yesterday, and the hate-talk successors to the late Rush Limbaugh. On one station, the host spent an hour talking about how he's been unfairly censored by Facebook for posting untrue statements ("as if Facebook knows anything about The Truth!"). On a 'morning zoo' show, the running joke was about "blue idiots," basically dumb things Democrats say and do.

In the mountains, radio stations fade away before Bohemian Rhapsody can finish. In a flat area, though, imagine my surprise at hearing Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez and Democracy Now for almost half an hour.

Here in Missoula, checking in at the Clark Fork Inn (no website), they told me the wi-fi was out and offered me a $5 discount. For a moment the thought of watching television or hell forbid, reading a book, floated across my mind, but fuck that shit. I canceled and found myself a room at the local Motel 6. So much for mom-and-pop hotelling it, but I was tuckered.

At Motel 6, the guy checking me in was black — the first non-white face I've seen in person or even driving a car since Sunday in Wisconsin.

I haven't seen a cop since Wisconsin, either. There are signs every fifty miles telling me to click it or ticket, stay sober or be pulled over, and what seems an *inordinate number of billboards urging people to report their suspicions of human trafficking. But there's been no sign of any highway patrol (not that I'm complaining).

If traffic flows smoothly and nobody's fender bets bended, I'll see the Seattle skyline this afternoon.

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"Cats are resilient," someone told me when I worried that my high-strung rescue cat with a history of abuse might not survive the move. Hoping that's true.

In both the first two hotels, I opened the door of her carrying case, and she came out for a few minutes but crawled back inside — and she hates the carrying case. Last night, she came out, hid behind the fridge for a while, then jumped onto the bed to be petted and (finally) ate and pooped and at the moment she's rolling around on the floor asking me to rub her belly. 

Now, of course, I gotta shove her back into the carrying case... 

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And now, my internet history from yesterday, minus the porn…  

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Out of appeals and with the National Labor Relations Board against them, ironically-named coffee shop chain is forced to recognize union 

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Donald Trump, John Eastman and the Silence of the Justice Department 


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COVID-19 coverage for the uninsured is ending 

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LiveJournal is currently serving as one of several platforms for Russia’s “covert social media propaganda efforts.” 

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Aw, fuck. 

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One-word newscast, because it's the same news every time...
copscops • cops

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There will probably be no updates for a few days at least. Things are gonna be hectic.

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♫♬  Sing along with Doug  ♫
"Seattle" — Perry Como

Cranky Old Man is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.
Tip 'o the hat to All Hat No Cattle, Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks.
Extra special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S., and always Stephanie...


  1. >"Cats are resilient," someone told me when I worried that my high-strung rescue cat with a history of abuse might not survive the move.

    I said that, and yes, it's true. She will be fine. I promise.

    1. Hope it's true. She hated the road trip, but arriving was even worse for her. The house I'm staying in is full of residents' dogs and cats, and Izzy always wants to hide, so she's stuck in her carrying case 23 hours a day. And yet, when I feed her and let her out (in the car) she's happy and purrs. So yeah, I think she'll be OK once we get settled.

  2. Re: Yuri Gagarin

    I'm kind of a 20th century space exploration fan (I'm just the right age: John Glenn made his historic 3-orbit flight on my 12th birthday). Gagarin could have been a significant ambassador for peace and some level of cooperation between the two superpowers, but the superpowers weren't very interested in either peace or cooperation. John Kennedy, my own favorite prez, banned Gagarin from traveling to the States, and, while the Soviets let Gagarin travel a fair amount, he was pretty heavily chaperoned.

    Sixties Soviet ATC finally killed him seven years after his flight by giving him weather information that was just plain wrong, then vectoring a supersonic test plane within a few hundred feet of his MiG trainer. He was bright and funny and a natural public speaker. He could have represented the Soviets or Russians in a global space exploration effort but never got the chance.

    A bright commie with a sense of humor? Yup.


    1. I've always found Yuri an interesting guy. Do you think the Russkies set him up on purpose?

      I've known commies with a sense of humor, but you never get many yuks from committed socialists.

    2. There's no way of knowing. Soviet Air Traffic Control was notoriously inept, particularly under difficult weather conditions. I think Soviet leaders actually valued Gagarin; there were very few Soviet "heroes" who were allowed to leave the country in the '60s, and Gagarin was one of them. I think the ATC folks just fucked up.


    3. ATC is a kooky high-pressure job, here or there. I'd never sign up for a career where any moment I maybe misspeak or my mind wanders, 118 people are dead. Had a nightmare about working air traffic control, many years ago, and turned it in to a short story I was proud of but of course it's long lost. Spoiler: People died, so I didn't get a raise.

  3. Doug,

    Sorry Montana was fogged/snowed in. It's the beautiful country I was talking about that you could enjoy on your trip. My Mom was born in Miles City and spent her first seven or eight years there. Montana isn't as green as Washington, but it has a bigass mountain range that just keeps going and going.


    1. I have family history in Montana, too. My dad was born there, and my granddad on the other side (I think).

      Kinda glad it was snowed/fogged in over the mountains. When I caught a few glimpses over the edge of the pass it was more than a little terrifying...

    2. It's really good to see your voice. As an old man, I'm turning into a bit of a mother hen, and since prayer isn't an option for me I was hoping that you'd arrive safely and without incident.

      My maternal great-grandfather, Nels Sorensen worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad in the 1880s as they were laying the transcontinental tracks for full passenger and freight service from Chicago to Tacoma (which they named as their western terminus). He hunted buffalo to feed the crews who were building the track bed and laying the track. He told stories of being caught out in the frigid plains of Montana and skinning a buffalo to provide sufficient warmth to survive the night when he couldn't make it back to the worksite before dark. After the rail work was completed, he settled in Miles City and eventually moved to Tacoma in his old age. He lived a long life but I missed him by three or four years. Some of his children and grandchildren opened business in Miles City that thrived for decades, including a coffee shop, a soda fountain, and (I think) a tobacco store. We have some early 20th century photographs of a couple of the stores that my sister and I have kept.


    3. Gotta be great to know your family's stories so well, and even better that the stories seem to be worth knowing. Don't think anyone in my family history ever did anything except work, rob banks, and procreate.

      I wonder if any of the businesses started by that branch of your family tree still remain...

      Ate lunch at a diner in Missoula that bragged it was 75 years old. Great looking place, constructed like a bridge over a small river, and the food was good too, but I was the youngest customer in the place -- by far -- and there weren't many. 4B's.

      I ordered a hamburger and they brought me a cheeseburger, but what the hell. It was a good cheeseburger.

      Glad there's a few good folks out there like you, keeping me sane amidst my family. Thanks.


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