I headed up the Rattlesnake Saturday because the story is the beargrass is blooming this year, and I figured I knew exactly where to find some. To my recollection it is the first time I ever went out into the woods specifically on the hunt for some kind of plant or flower. I found it, along with many other blooming, beautiful wildflowers. The smell in the largest concentrations of them was intoxicating. It was a perfect day outdoors; several hours of sunlight, shade, and the sounds and smells of the natural world. It is a kind of soul work, have no doubt.
As for beargrass, this is from the wonderful reference book Rocky Mountain Natural History: Grand Teton to Jasper by Daniel Mathews:
Once you’ve seen beargrass in bloom you will have no trouble ever recognizing its wonderful flower heads again. But the flowering schedule is erratic. You often see only the bunched leaves. Communities of beargrass may go for years without one bloom — and then hundreds bloom at once. That often happens for several years in a row after a fire that reduces the tree canopy but leaves the soil cool enough for the beargrass roots to survive and resprout. Like the century plant, beargrass clumps grow slowly, accumulating photosynthates for years before venturing a flowering stalk. Having flowered, the clump dies, but its nutrients are siphoned off through the rhizome to a new offset clump.
Spring’s tender leaf bases figure in bear diets, hence “beargrass’; but the neatly clipped leaf bases you see here and there are more likely the work of a “brushpicker” gathering foliage for the florist trade.
By summer the leaves are wiry and strong. Native Americans wove them into baskets and hats.
Mathews writes more, but you get the idea. Speaking of hats, it was the trial run of my new Filson hat, which I think is quite snappy. Here are some shots from the outing, including the initial, post-tag removal moments of me under my hat.
I was only in 7th or 8th grade when I saw my first bar fight. I was standing out front of the Double Front restaurant waiting for a takeout order with my friend Mark Cranston. It was a warm summer evening, so we were just hanging on the sidewalk, probably talking about soccer. Two men came tumbling out the open door of Al & Vic’s, a bar directly across the street. They were pummeling each other. One guy got the other guy down on the sidewalk and was banging his head against it. Then the roles reversed, and more mayhem ensued. Someone inside called the cops. At the sound of sirens, the two men stood up. By the time the cops arrived, the combatants were arm in arm, backslapping, and while we couldn’t hear the conversation, it was clear they were claiming something along the lines of, “Oh, no, officer, no problems here!”
That’s what I recalled when Scott McMillion, editor of Montana Quarterly, asked if I’d be interested in doing a piece for him about the Double Front, which has been in the same family now for three generations. I said hell yes I’m interested. The results are out in the latest issue of the magazine, just hitting shelves today. I wrote and photographed the piece. Besides leading me to go back and back and back eating more Double Front chicken than I have for three or four years combined, it was fun.
It’s my second appearance now in the magazine and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I love print, and I was a huge fan of this particular magazine before I ever started pitching magazine stories anywhere. It’s the best Montana has to offer. You should subscribe.
Oh, and for you trivia buffs, my author photo in the contributors section in the back was taken in the restroom of the textbooks department at the Bookstore at the University of Montana. It has these great white walls. During my time helping out there last summer I referred to it as “Studio C.”
This is a shot I took last October just outside of Butterfly Herbs on Higgins in Missoula. I don’t recall this fellow’s name and can’t find my notes, but I do recall his goat’s name was “Deer.” And what a goat! I could smell him from a block away. They were hitchhiking around America, spreading a message of love and unity, organizing rides via Craigslist. He was in Missoula to join with a guy from Seattle who was running for President.
Some street photography. I love taking pictures of my friends. And when Mara, friend and occasional co-worker, texts me, even on a day off, and says, “Want to split some nachos with me?” the only possible answer is, “I’ll meet you on the corner.”