Picture This

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I chuckled quite a bit this past week as a few orange boxes arrived with the daily mail.

And I’ll chuckle some more this coming week because a couple more are due to show up.

 

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Orange box #1.

If you’ve ever created something with your photographs with Shutterfly then you know they do a great job and they have all sorts of neat things to make. I’ve made personalized, unique calendars, playing cards, canvas collages, tote bags, stationary and more through the company over the years which has been fun for gift-giving at Christmas time.

Its especially fun to create useful items that share our memories when I want to give something to Alistair. And its even better when its something we’ll see or use on a regular basis!

 

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Fun ways to feed our cribbage habit.

But this recent round of orange box deliveries has me giggling because its an order that should have cost me about $300 but instead I only paid the shipping.

This is all because of Alistair’s former diet Coke habit, which has since become a diet Ginger Ale habit. It is also because I’m a relentless point-scorer if there are points to be tallied up on the off-chance I could win or earn something for cheap.

For years (I mean it, years), we’ve entered codes from every 12-pack of pop that Alistair brought home and apparently those points added up. You could go in and redeem points for gift cards or more pop or a mouse pad that said Coke on it but I just let our points add up.

And up.

And up some more.

 

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The 2017 wall calendar that went out to my family for Christmas last year.

Until Coca-Cola decided they were ending the program and we had to use up our points by Sept.30th. It turned out there were a lot of Shutterfly things we could get!

Like 3 14 x 10 canvas prints! (due to arrive this coming week…)

And 4 8 x 10 photo enlargements (coyote pups shown below…)

A cute tote bag and a deck of playing cards featuring the beautiful misty grey morning Alistair captured in 2011 at Holland Lake Lodge (playing cards shown above…)

A 12-month wall calendar (which won’t have actual photos from Oct, Nov or December in them from this year thanks to the deadline…) (also due to arrive this week…)

 

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Free 8 x 10 of the pups from this spring next to our beloved husky, Harry.

 

And we were also able to snag 800 4 x 6 photo prints.

Yes. That’s right. 800.

800 photos I got from memory cards, my phone, old computers, old cameras, Facebook and Instagram. Photos that took me hours to find and then download to the main PC and sort through and choose and then eventually load onto my Shutterfly account.

It was as tedious as it sounds but I’m a cheap Doukhobor who wasn’t going to let those points and something free slip away from me!

 

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Me. Cheap Doukhobor.

Most of the photos have arrived, which is what led to my chuckling last week.

You see, there’s tremendous irony in all of this in that we will now have to buy a bunch of photo albums. Albums that we’ll spend a couple of days packing into boxes and loading into the horse trailer when we get evacuated again thanks to the forest fire in our back yard 10 years from now.

 

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Where every photo album we own currently resides only the truck & trailer are now in North Dakota after our evacuation party in August. 

Which brings me to our unevacuation a couple of weeks ago.

We drove the 2 trucks with 2 dogs and 3 cats and some of our belongings back to smoky Montana after being gone for a month. The pets came through with cuddles and purrs and no tires blew!

The resident deer and bears had happily moved onto our property, which prompted a bit of a startle from Alistair as he and Yogi were just about face to face when he was checking our back yard after the long drive back.

 

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By the time I got my camera Yogi was trundling off, just outside our bedroom. 

The fires took a hit from some much-needed rain and cool weather and we finally don’t see any plumes of smoke behind us.

Seeley Lake’s homes and buildings all survived but its a huge question as to how the actual businesses are going to hang in there.

Tourism is our community’s big thing, particularly in the summer. Not only were many folks forced to evacuate, some weren’t able to work to earn the paycheck that they rely on to pay rent and put food on the table because the tourists weren’t here.

Most resort or lodge rooms were empty.

Gift shops sold coffee to fire fighters and the few locals who weren’t evacuated but locally-made jewelry, carvings, wall hangings, pottery and more didn’t move from the shelves and walls that display them.

Servers had nobody to serve so nobody made tips and the few restaurants that we have in town were down to skeleton crews who all breathed in the thick, dry, smoky air that surrounded our little world for so long.

 

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Some of our hiking areas behind our house when trails to access them still weren’t open after the burn. 

A rainy weekend and snow on the ground this morning have finally made for fresh air. Cold, crisp air, but nobody is complaining.

And you know, not many folks are complaining about the loss of revenue just yet. There will be a time for that and a time for businesses to apply for grants to help them survive the long winter ahead. There will be a time when folks will vent about the anxiety and frustrations we all shared this summer when the fire kept growing as it wrapped itself around all areas of our little town and it hurt to breathe.

And there will absolutely be more photos to take of the snow that will accumulate as Big Red and I begin the winter ritual of keeping our driveways open. More pictures for more photo albums if I can rack up more points for some other thing we discover.

Right now, though, our schools are open and the local Blackhawks are back at it on the football field. We, and others, are trying to eat out when we can to support our local cafes and the Chamber is trying to boost things with a Friday night program that brings a band to town for locals and maybe even some out-of-towners. Each time a local business will be featured during that Friday and I heard my friend’s resort on the lake, Tamarack’s, held the first Friday’s open house.

 

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Enjoying the backyard view a few days ago with blue skies above. 

Its Fall in the most beautiful part of an incredibly scenic state where the Rocky Mountains frame our world to the north and dark blue rivers swirl through the grounds in all directions around us. The season of change is upon us and we’re all ready to move forward, even as bright orange boxes keep arriving on our doorstep containing 800 photographs of our past.

I think most of us here are just so happy we made it through the smoke and fire to this most gorgeous of seasons. We made it with our families, our land, our pets, our laughter, our senses of humor, our dignity, our bling, our photo albums, our golf course, our golf cart, and our pride in this stunning piece of the world we call Home.

 

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Front yard. Happening now, with rain, hail & sunshine.

 

I hope that even if you haven’t visited western Montana that you can try to picture our beautiful world or that you look through the photos I share with you all. And I hope if you do, it makes you smile and inspires in you a dream to some day come and check it out.

Seeley Lake is once again open for business!

 

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Saying goodbye to Shilo and the gang before we unevacuated back to Montana!

 

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Just about home after a month in North Dakota. Snow was a welcome sight!

 

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Back on the 10th tee box in Seeley Lake with no smoke or raging fire to watch.

 

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Back to Fall golf in Norman. In Montana. 

 

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‘Cause we just didn’t get enough fire in our backyards this summer….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happenings

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Fall colors on our local golf course just off the 16th green

Its been a few weeks since I last blogged.

Its cool at night and the mountain world we live in is awash with crimson, gold and brilliant amber.

The smoke is gone and most of us aren’t living with the fear that the next lightning strike could be The One.

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Outside of Lincoln, MT on my most-recent road trip.

My silence in the blogosphere wasn’t intended.

I just haven’t had time.

I went to Bismarck twice in September which is a ten or eleven-hour haul one-way.

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Cruising through Great Falls, MT!

The first trip back was for a wedding in our old community of Watford City. The bride was radiant, the ceremony was lovely and the reception was fantastic.

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Showgirls! The beautiful bride, Kira was in my Tiny Tot skating class back in 1997 and toured with Disney On Ice. I’m so proud she can blame me for this corruption!

A great part about the day was exploring highways, houses, ice rinks and medical clinics in towns we used to live in.

We reminisced together about people we knew and adventures we shared in Hazen, Beulah and Watford City.

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Our former home in Hazen, ND

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Alistair’s former clinic in Beulah, ND

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Our ice rink (brrrrr!) in Hazen where Alistair drove the Zamboni, we co-coached high school hockey and I taught power and figure skating.

We joked during the drive about names and faces we may or may not remember. Who would be at the wedding and what their spouse’s name was. How the town of Watford City, the heartbeat of the oil patch, had changed and what incredible developments had taken place since we left in 1997. How so many license plates were not from North Dakota anymore.

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Our former home in Watford City, ND. We couldn’t give it away when we moved!

When we first moved there in 1994, we were as foreign as it got being from Canada.

Now Watford City is a melting pot of cultures, colors and beliefs.

While so much within the town itself has changed, it was wonderful that our relationships with great friends had not.

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Alistair & I with Corey, one of our Junior Gold hockey players from the late 90s!

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Alistair and Gretchen (the mother of the bride) together again!

It was a beautiful day, a beautiful time, and now a beautiful memory.

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The ice rink in Watford City doubling as rodeo grounds during the off-season.

Then it was back to Bismarck where my hair, teeth and garden were tended to and I was again amazed by the jobs that are out there.

I’ve said it before- that you have to be a fool to not be able to find work in Bismarck right now.

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Jobs of all types for all skill levels exist on almost every road I drove on. Its a sea of neon signs offering why THIS is the place you should work!

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There aren’t enough workers for the jobs so each business is trying to out-entice the other.

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I think they actually spelled their name wrong… seriously, if you want to impress people you should know how to spell your company’s name!

Restaurants, delis, hotels, driving companies- you name it, they want YOU!

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Most of the jobs are entry-level but that’s why the imbalance. The pay, while quite decent from the looks of things, is entry-level. Rent, sadly, is not.

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Its an employee’s market right now. Why stay someplace where your demanding, asshole boss rides you about being online all day when you can work just about anywhere else in the city? Bosses are having to curtail their complaints!

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The moral of all of this is that regardless of training, education and maybe even motivation, if you have a place to stay and you want to work and you don’t mind a bit of wind and you don’t care about oceans or mountains but you like pheasants and Labrador retrievers and wearing camo and driving your pick-up with its gun rack and you are totally cool with winter temps, Bismarck might be right for you right now!

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(I joke about the camo and pickups… we have just as many in Montana and Bismarck is really a very nice city with universities, golf courses, fun restaurants, a nightlife and bustling airport.)

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most of the herd in Bismarck

My most recent trip back was to help Alistair out for a planned surgery to scope his knee.

Again.

He came through with grace, his terrific sense of humor, less ratty cartilage in his right knee and a ridiculous need for greasy food.

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Post op that afternoon. You have to love him!

I brought the 3 dogs with me on this trip. They did great and seemed to like “helping” their Daddy with his recovery.

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UB making sure Daddy rested like the doctor told him to!

And everything was going well as I drove us home across highway 200 until little Loki reminded us all of the year we have been having and that she’s got some issues.

Loki had her first seizure.

In her crate in the back seat of the truck at a rest stop between Jordan and Lewistown.

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Loki and step-gammy in Bismarck.

It lasted 20 to 30 seconds (which feels more like 2 to 3 minutes) but it ended and she got a bit of a walk before we felt like we should continue.

And Alistair and I pretended we weren’t medical professionals for a few minutes.

“What do you think caused that?” asked Mr.Fyfe.

“I don’t know,” Mrs.Fyfe replied.

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Snoozing Loki loves being under the covers!

Pretending was fun but it didn’t last long.

We both know that epilepsy isn’t a disease for older animals or people. And we know that she is about 14 years old.

And we know she doesn’t leave our eyesight when she’s outside because of her own blindness and that we didn’t change her food and she had no access to toxins or medications and the other dogs were fine and that she has had her share of personality changes that we like to call quirks this year on top of some unusual infections that might mean her immune system is busy elsewhere.

Like maybe in her brain.

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The same rest stop on a previous trip back to Bismarck.

But that’s all I want to say about that because she has been absolutely fine (albeit a bit yeasty… one of the new issues) since then.

Eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, playing, kicking up the grass, bonking into Chiddy Pats, snoring, begging for Chicken Mozarella and cuddling into us at night.

She is tolerating the various meds & shampoos I am trying to combat the yeasty smell (think wet tortilla) and we are loving her much as we can.

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Loki’s winter gear.

And we’re heading towards her least favorite season but we will make it as special as we can for her.

So seasons change and houses sell and kids grow up and young adults get married and jobs are everywhere and dogs get old and some get tumors and knees get operated on and golf balls get hit and we try to enjoy every moment because sometimes our special old companions might not be with us.

And that, my friends, has been our happenings of late and why I haven’t blogged until now.

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Our old property outside of Watford City, ND

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One of the bride’s skating classmates, Zane from Tiny Tots all grown up!

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My writing “assistant”.

The Smoke Has Lifted!

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The smoke from the forest fires made for some scenic sunsets.

As I sit at my computer on a dreary, chilly day with the heater turned towards my legs, I am thankful for the rain.

It is what most of us out west are hoping is a Season-Ending-Event.

The end of fire season for another year.

I’m not sure, though, because it could heat up again but they are calling for snow at higher elevations and we’ve had our propane fireplaces going the last two nights.

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Jockey & Mouse, starting their annual quest for inside-house-membership

We are all loving the fresh air and actually being able to smell the live green forest trees versus the burning ones.

The smoke and the fires were pretty intense this year.

Vast acres in Washington, Idaho and Montana were consumed by flames.

29 homes in Rock Creek, British Columbia were lost, not to mention the nearby campground thanks to a relentless surge of fire that came on too strong.

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The smoky view at Holland Lake a couple of weeks ago.

It was a bit creepy just last week playing late afternoon golf in the thick smoke, hearing the unmistakable “whooka-whooka” sounds of the helicopters flying low with their buckets over the 14th fairway.

Every golfer on neighboring holes stood still and looked upwards, like something out of War of the Worlds.

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View straight up from the local 14th fairway. Not your typical golf scene.

So we are all breathing sighs of relief that we can breathe fresh air again.

But as thrilled as I am to hopefully see the end of this year’s Fire Season, I’m sad that it could be taking Summer with it.

Didn’t Summer just start?

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Sunny Saskatoon earlier this summer!

Weren’t we just up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for my 10-year veterinary school reunion?

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Alistair… my man of golf!

Weren’t we just getting to explore some golf courses in Bismarck and planning to spend some time playing on them?

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Also my man of hay.

Weren’t we just hauling hay bales?

Didn’t we just have our July wedding anniversary and weren’t we talking about getting the canoe out this year or planning to ride the horses and improve our golf game and maybe get the big boat out on the lake?

What the Hell?

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A fun afternoon last month on our beautiful local course.

We did manage to do a ton of things, though, even if a ride in the canoe wasn’t one of them.

And we laughed a lot, too.

A LOT.

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Ooooops!

You can’t help but laugh when you turn the corner on the golf cart path and see this.

Okay, maybe the assistant golf pro who was standing with the father of the 2 young girls who did this weren’t laughing but we sure were.

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I was pretending to take pictures of Alistair on the neighboring hole as I watched this…

The course superintendent showed up and managed to get things sorted out.

And we actually have improved our golf game this year even if it meant playing with smoky skies.

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A smoky day with big smiles, great friends, and just a few ‘mulligans’. Its golf, Fyfe-Style.

Alistair and I also played in a club member tournament, which generally isn’t our style. We were told it was all for fun and most people wouldn’t care but one of the guys in our foursome cared.

He was a bit intense about how much he cared and he complained way too much about “only” making par on several holes.

He relaxed as the day went on and he made more pars and I kept hitting trees and Alistair had a beer and the guy finally admitted having a bottle of Captain Morgan’s in his cart.

He laughed a lot more and a lot louder the more he sipped.

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Golf cart parade the morning of the club member tournament!

He wasn’t overly relaxed when I snapped our foursome photo at the end of it all.

He and the other guy started to get really nervous and anxious about me sharing it on social media.

Or my blog.

It turns out they were both involved in some special ops overseas years ago and are probably still Wanted by some foreign individuals.

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This is what I think about that!

Which is par for the course when you live in the middle of nowhere. I have always said a large part of the population is here because they are hiding.

But I digress.

Back to my laughter this summer.

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Zeus and Frankie were pretty worked up one smoky afternoon last month…

I had UB and Cleo out for a walk along our driveway when I saw the 2 geldings kicking and bucking while they snorted and huffed.

Then they just stood there.

Staring.

At the Cottonwood trees.

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My new friend!

And the black bear within.

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My vantage point between 2 anxious geldings.

I spent a long time watching my new friend (after I got the dogs back in their kennel). I wondered how close I could get without risking being THAT photographer and I tried to keep Zeus and Frankie calm so the bear would relax a little bit.

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He made his way over to the berry tree and spent an hour defying gravity.

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Up the tree, down the tree. Up the tree, down the tree.

A little video action of my new friend:

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My little circus bear!

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This is not photoshopped!

Eventually he came down when Frankie just couldn’t handle being calm anymore and he hid behind one of the cottonwoods close to the fence.

Then he peeked out at me, which I took to be a sign that it was time to head back to the safety of the house.

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Peeking at me and the crazed horses.

He has left his evidence everywhere around the farm and Loki has peed on all of it and I check the trees every day and the berry bushes next to the house and I haven’t hiked out back since that evening and I keep my eyes peeled.

And I got to see him once more further along our driveway a few days ago.

He let me get another picture, too.

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More berries!

I have smiled often this summer.

We continue to enjoy the harvest from our lush garden in North Dakota, where they are experiencing a rainforest type of ecosystem which is in stark contrast to the dry west.

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Bright bounty from the ND garden!

The brilliant reds, greens, yellows, purples and oranges lightened up the smoky days and continue to offer crisp color during today’s thunderstorm going on right now.

There is light when there is dark, just as there is humor and happiness when there is sadness.

Which we have certainly known this year.

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From hubby when he got back to Montana this last trip. Just because.

So if Summer decides she has had it for the year and Fall moves in we are going to be okay with that.

I’ll take it if it means Fire Season is done.

And I’ll take it because its not our nature to complain.

Its our nature to adapt.

In typical Fyfe Style.

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Adapting to the chilly temps yesterday on the local golf course in our cart, Norman.

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Making the best of it. Fyfe-Style.