Evacuate This




Bebe’s thoughts on this whole situation

As I watch images of flying palm fronds and streets filling with water on TV while Florida braces for the full brunt of Hurricane Irma and while I read post after post from our friends who are finally allowed back into their mandatorily evacuated homes after almost 2 weeks away from them while a wild fire continues to rage outside our town, I’m actually feeling pretty lucky.

I’m lucky that Alistair made it back to Montana on August 25th.

I’m lucky that Deb answered her texts while having her hair done at a salon in Bismarck.

I’m lucky that Merielle, Brad, Gerry and Jessi all have a great sense of humor and that we were prepared for the worst and that we had a lot of boxes and a big old horse trailer with living quarters and 2 newer reliable, comfortable trucks and that Toni and  Jeff didn’t mind us moving our big equipment to their land on the flats.

I’m lucky we had somewhere to evacuate to.



View of our house & the raging fire behind it a couple of weeks ago.

The Rice Ridge fire that was sparked by lightning July 24th crested that darned hill behind us and kept wanting to make runs down towards our house.

I watched it grow and change and creep as I would walk the dogs down our driveway. I would see how it tried to envelope our town on the other side of the hill from the excellent vantage point of our lovely golf course.

I talked with Alistair every night and we checked reports on Inciweb and I made a point to move our ski and snowmobile gear and a box or two of photo albums into the trailer.



Smoke-filled skies at our home in Montana. This was when it was actually pretty good still.

I breathed the smoky air along with the 1 or 2 other golfers on the golf course and as I watched the helicopters fly into and out of our meadow, taking water or flame retardant to the hills right behind me.

During Alistair’s long trek from Bismarck to Seeley Lake we talked on the phone and we both realized it was ridiculous to stay in such a perilous predicament when we had a perfectly good home and ranch in a non-burning state.

So we mobilized the troops and we held our first Evacuation Party.


The party began with a parade. My good friend I’ve known since high school just happened to be spending a couple of nights with us and she and I got to be the parade marshalls!



Merielle… very capable Parade Marshall!

We led Gerry & our boat, Alistair and the flatbed followed by Brad and Big Red in a tidy formation to the Hatten’s land where they can watch the plumes of smoke as they billow above the mountains and be safe from any flames. They are also well out of the way if any fire or structure crews need to use our driveways.



Getting ready for the parade!



Parade trucks devoid of streamers and candies but full of Ram Toughness!


We all saw trees torching behind our house that day as we drove back and talked about how smart it was to leave. Brad and Gerry, who had driven 11 hours through the night settled down for a nap, Merielle and I packed up my bling and Alistair went to the dump after spending an hour and a half reminding Zeus how to load into a trailer (it had been 10 years.)

At the dump Alistair learned that the fire was making a run for Cottonwood Lakes road behind our place and mandatory evacuation was likely.

“Okay, Everyone. Change of plans,” he announced as soon as he got home and the party picked up its pace.



Evacuation party viewing that day.

Sandwiches were made, leftovers were re-heated in 2 shifts, Zeus broke the back door of our horse trailer, Brad and Alistair rigged up a solution, Zeus stopped bleeding and thankfully re-loaded, Maggie and Jake loaded into Deb’s borrowed trailer from ND, hugs were given and our horses and friends drove through falling ash to whisk our horses off to our safe farm 11 hours away.

Merielle, Alistair and I had one more night to spend before we planned to leave. As I cooked supper, we watched from our kitchen sunroom as the fire changed drastically and really seem to make a move towards the house.

The 3 of us ate our supper through a chorus of “oh my God”, “Crap, that’s getting lower,” “Did you see that one?”, “whoa!” and “holy shit.”



Rice Ridge Fire a couple of days before the Evacuation Party.

We were able to keep our senses of humor intact while packing a few more things that night and while we watched my summer friend, Pepe come out at twilight like he’d been doing (sometimes with a friend) all month.



Pepe, sometime mid-August.

And then, as we had planned to do when it got dark enough, us 3 happy souls who had a plan took our walk down the driveway to have one more good look at the fire to get an idea of what was happening.

We chuckled and made jokes about the situation because that’s how we roll.

“Oh, yeah, they’ve got a handle on that,” said Alistair after a preliminary turn-around halfway down the driveway. Each of us took peeks as we walked but we knew the full effect couldn’t be appreciated until we reached the turn. We all discussed how relieved we were that Zeus did load up and how I hadn’t had to make a choice to leave them if I had needed to evacuate before we had the party. It was a great feeling knowing our horses were headed to safety ahead of time.

And then we turned around.



View of our house in front of the Rice Ridge Fire. This is Merielle’s photo.

Our mood became somber as we stood there, motionless, wordless.

Our beautiful dream home stood in front of an ever-growing line of fire that changed with every second. We saw an outstanding but frightening intense red glow on both sides of the hills behind our home and we actually felt some heat on the gentle breeze that fanned the fire towards us.

After half an hour we made our way back to the house. We did end up with laughter again when we met up with Pepe in the dark. Well, we laughed when we eventually made it inside, un-skunked.

I called our friend who works with Forestry in town and he assured me we would be alright through the night.

But we all left the next morning. Merielle back to Canada and us to North Dakota in our 2 trucks, the dogs with me and the 3 crated cats in the horse trailer with Alistair.



Evacuation party. Do we know how to party or what?

Which wasn’t without more drama. Through our walkie-talkies I was able to let Alistair know he’d blown the first trailer tire on the Interstate by Butte. The dogs and I sat in our truck with vehicles and rigs hurtling by at 70 mph, shaking our own one-ton ride as Alistair saved the day.

The walkie-talkies were helpful when the second trailer tire blew, necessitating us to limp off the Interstate by Bozeman and onto an off ramp. Never have I been so happy to see a Wal Mart in my entire life!



Evacuation party temporary HQ at Bozeman’s Wal Mart


Despite having a full schedule and it being only a couple of hours before closing, ‘Dave’ took pity on my frazzled-sounding evacuee voice and got us hooked up with 2 new tires. The dogs had a nice walk and the cats were all talked to and the Evacuation Party Caravan pulled up our driveway in Bismarck at 2am.



Our backyard in Bismarck

Where we have woken to mostly clean air and clear skies ever since.

Where the cats are all making an effort to get along because the barn cat, Jockey, has mostly been inside.

Where the horses are all together after Brad and Gerry brought the Montana trio back.



Our happy herd today.

Where I’ve washed load after load of smoky laundry and where we’ve washed the smoke off ourselves and where the dogs and cats don’t smell like bon fires anymore.

Its also where we have watched much of our community get put on mandatory evacuation as the fire made run after run towards Seeley Lake. We’ve watched our little meadow be on high alert as plumes of smoke rose high into the sky and the big converted DC-10 flew overhead yet again as fire crews struggle to take control of this beast.

We watch post after post about the horrible air quality and how people are struggling to breathe while struggling to stay positive after close to 50 days of this damned fire.

And we continue to watch as the Liberty fire that threatened other friends once again makes noise and structure protection is in full effect for both fires .




Today’s Inciweb map. Our ranch is in Kozy Korner Zone 8.

I just read that a newer, smaller fire burning to the east has actually joined into the Rice Ridge fire and we are now over 130,000 of burned acres.

Acres where we hike, snowmobile and peace out. Acres we love to look at as our little slice of the “Last, Best Place” in our peaceful, almost hidden world. Acres that tourists and summer people usually flock to but were empty as they burned this year while our local businesses tried to stay open if their employees weren’t all evacuated. Acres our neighboring guest ranch would run a successful outfitting business in but will be devoid of strings of pack horses and guests this year.

At times tears of frustration burn the back of my eyes and threaten to leak out when I think about all the people affected by this terrible, epic fire. I know many people who feel as if the country neglected them or just hasn’t cared or maybe doesn’t care. I want to do more than watch from my air-conditioned house in the smoke-less state of North Dakota but its all I can do because we had to leave on our terms.

We had to take care of the spirits we love and who we’re responsible for. We chose to leave the stuff that’s just stuff and trust that they’ll find some money for the state to keep fighting Rice Ridge and Liberty and that our home will be standing when we choose to go back.



Cleo & UB relaxing in Bismarck.

Thanks to everyone who was a part of our Evacuation Party and to Jessi for keeping our fish fed. Thanks to our friends in Montana for keeping us up to speed on everything that’s happening, particularly in our little meadow. And thanks to friends & family & bling sisters for checking in to make sure we’re okay.

Heck, we’re better than okay. And I’m so lucky to be able to say that.



Lutefisk Babs, able to Sunbeam here in ND!



Jockey… seeming to transition just fine.



Happening now at our ranch in North Dakota.




Us, better than okay.

























Anyone seen UB?


UB Fyfe… surveying the farm

UB Fyfe.

UB Pickles Napolean Jumping Jack Flash Moves Like Jagger Savard-Spinorama Tight Buns Fyfe.

This little guy is a character.

UB joined our family about 5 years ago.

UB New

Just a little fella back then!

The economy had tanked, our town had few jobs and the young couple who owned him just turfed him onto the street when they packed up and moved to Missoula.

He had been born in Seattle and a sister of the “breeder” took him and brought him here.

Then they ditched him.

He found his way to the local animal rescue/shelter that was located in our town back then.

They brought him to my clinic where I thought he was the most peculiar looking little guy! His outstanding underbite is hard to miss but his big dark brown eyes just envelope you and you can’t help but fall in love. The day I neutered him was a slow day and he sat on my lap most of the afternoon. We bonded.

UB ears

Coming in for landing… air traffic control….

I told Alistair about him and we did that “what’s 5 dogs when you have 4” thing but we still weren’t sure. Until a bit of a farm tragedy occurred.


Our beloved Hissy Phitt

2 young mountain lions were wrecking havoc on our neighborhood and in the space of 2 days we lost 2 of our special barn kitties, Hissy Phitt and little Jinxie. We were both pretty devastated but then we remembered that the cute little black dog with the underbite was still at the shelter.


Jinxie in one of her many hiding places in the back of my vet truck

We got him that afternoon.

It didn’t bring my cuddly kitties back but UB went a long way towards filling that gap and now he’s practically taken over both of our hearts.

Granted, the first thing he did inside the house was take an enormous dump in our living room but, for the most part, he has fit in just fine.

That’s not to say he isn’t mischievous or sometimes a bit naughty but its so hard to stay mad at him for very long.


C’mon… just look at those eyes!

There was no other name that suited him besides UB (‘you be’). For his underbite.

And its easy to do his voice- just jut your lower jaw out, get a serious look on your face, sound authoritative and you’ve nailed it!

UB is in charge of the forest behind us which is why we are often saying, “Anyone seen UB?”

This statement is usually followed by the silent realization by both of us that the other 4 dogs are around and UB is nowhere to be seen.


UB loves his ‘smoking jacket’ and riding shotgun in our Ranger, “Steve”

One time we came around the front of the house to look and we were captivated by a large herd of elk running the entire width of our field.

But then we saw that half the herd was held back.

Then they would run to join the others. It was quite the spectacle.

Until we saw the little black dot in the midst of everything… like he was directing traffic.

“YOU, elk… run that way. FAST.”
“YOU, elk, stand back and wait.”
“Ok, now you can go but run FAST….. oh, wait, is that my Mummy calling?”


UB and Mummy…. post bobcat experience

Another time he disappeared we heard him shriek in the trees and then yelp… while moving very quickly.

It was a strange sound… a moving sound… a frantic sound.

About 30 minutes later he came home, tail between his legs, limping, with a wound the shape of a paw on his side.


Kind of hard to see but the poor guy definitely got swatted!

I’m sure he pissed off some sleeping bobcat probably trying to lick his ear hair like he does to Mouse and Mulder. Oscar used to let him suck on his pointy little ears but now UB has to be creative. And careful!

The worst trouble he got himself (and Daddy) into was when he was still pretty new and was out back barking. Barking and barking. And barking some more.


“I’m pretty dashing, aren’t I?”

Alistair (in flip flops) went out to see if there was a poor squirrel or porcupine trapped by our ferocious hunter.

He froze when he saw the enormous grizzly bear standing 2 feet from our barking boy, just staring at him.

Enter growling, hissing, spitting, frothing, hackles-up, who-the-Hell-are-you-never-seen-this-kind-of-aggression-from-you Casey and that’s when the bear looked up.

At Alistair.

Without bear spray.

In flip flops.

The bear stood up and Alistair thought, “This could be bad.”


“Did I do something wrong?”

Maybe the bear wasn’t up to a confrontation with the rabid-looking Labrador and the annoying little barking thing.

Alistair and the bear both slowly backed away from the scene, which got UB’s attention.

UB, Casey and Harry (who was probably spinning circles a few feet away) were right behind Daddy when he felt it was safe to turn and run.

I’m sure in UB’s head that was just another grand adventure!

Another way to exercise and maintain those tight buns he’s so proud of.


Tight buns enable you to leap higher than a tall building in a single bound!

His voice pops into our heads as Spirit of UB no matter where we are.

If we’re on the treadmill its, “Come on, lets go, those buns aren’t going to tighten themselves!”
“You can do it, Mummy, run faster!”
“Come on, Daddy, my buns are still tighter! Do you want to see? C’mon, you can bounce a quarter off of these things!”


UB helping Mummy at work on Hallowe’en

If we’re outside with all of the other dogs its, “Is Casey really that stupid? He just walked into the tractor blade.”
“I know, I know, I’m not supposed to chase the cats but the rules change if they run away!”
“Can I chase those elk? No?”

On the golf course we hear, “Brilliant. Just brilliant. Do you want me to go get that?”
“That would have been awesome if you had actually hit the ball, Mummy!”


“10 and 2 in my Subaru, you dreadlocked, patchouli smelling, bra burning hippie!”

Or, lately, “Oh, GREAT… a SUBARU just drove by….”

With all of the miles Alistair and UB or Spirit of UB drive every month, they have figured out 2 things:

1. There are a staggering number of Subarus in the Missoula and Seeley Lake area; and,

2. Almost all of them are driving ridiculously slow. Leading a pack of semis and old trucks pulling boats and moving vans. Old Subaru is right out in front.

Once I started to pay attention, I realized there was some truth there.

So UB has started shouting out comments from the passenger seat.

“TREE HUGGER!” (this one is particularly hilarious if you’ve seen the recent Subaru commercial with the little girl…)


Discussing the merits of Subarus with my bar buddy, UB

UB appreciates that there are exceptions, like Aunty Dona.

But then Aunty Dona and Uncle Gary bought him this.


Somebody is SO impressed with his new bandana… thanks, Aunty Dona & Uncle Gary…. can’t wait to pee on your Subaru’s tires next time you’re here…

So that’s the story of our strange little mixed breed stray (DNA blood testing says he is a 50/50 mix of Boston Terrier and Cocker Spaniel. We’ve decided he is a Bostonocker Sperrier.)

Shelter dogs all have their own stories and they often make fabulous companions.

He adores everyone he meets, usually preferring humans to dogs if given the choice.


UB just basically helps himself to anyone’s lap, including Uncle Pete with Cleo right there for cuddles


Visiting Aunty Angel up in Canada this summer

He does take his job as Loki’s seeing eye dog very seriously and has been quite concerned about her injured left eye.

The eye is maybe starting to heal but her new heart murmur is a bit alarming and her probable zero thyroid is also something new.


UB, making sure Loki had someone to cuddle up to under the covers

Our merry band of misfits fits right in on the Fyfe Farm. They love and we love and its kind of like another Happiest Place on Earth.

With tight buns.

And grizzly bears.

And an underbite.

And a bizarre dislike of Subarus.

By the way… has anyone seen UB?


“Why drive a Subaru when you can drive a snowmobile? I’m an excellent driver, right, Daddy?”