Tammy Ward

Growing Up in Montana

   ~Tammy Ward

When I was a little girl, I spent every spare minute I could, riding my buckskin mare, Stormy, through the mountains. I knew that area like the back of my hand. I explored every park, every valley, and every mountain within riding distance. Any of the areas I wasn’t familiar with, I set out to find out about them. Learn the landmarks, and which trails to take. Most importantly how to get back to camp before dark! I had a few rules I had to follow so Mom wouldn’t worry. 

I would get up as early as I could, strap on my .22 magnum Ruger, grab that horse, bridle her and sometimes saddle her, pack up my lunch (matches, a royal coachman fly and piece of fishing line) and off I would go. Early on, Smokey, our Malamute/wolf dog and later, Snowy, our sweet little Spitz always following faithfully beside. 

We explored every nook and cranny within riding distance of the cabin. Quite often, I would stop at one of Dads mining claims and do some assessment work. Each claim had to have a certain amount of work done to it every year to stay valid. Dad usually had a shovel and pick stashed somewhere near the claim. Sometimes I would search for sapphires or pan for gold, but my attention span has always been short, so I was more thrilled to find the Calka Pyrite.. it wasn’t worth anything, but I just loved those shiny rocks. 

Over the years I saw deer, elk, Wolverine, badgers, Rock chucks, eagles, hawks, camp robbers, porcupine, brown bear, grizzly bears and all sorts of various other animals and birds. I remember listening for the different sounds of the animals, sometimes a coyote or a far away mountain lion, the assortment of birds, even the flies and bees. But I so enjoyed the soft whisper of the wind whistling through the pines.

I used to love to search for the different flowers, Indian paintbrushes, bear grass, deer tongue, sego lilly’s and was always so excited when I would find the Lady Slippers, so fragile and beautiful, usually hidden close to the creek, in the cooler spots and mostly in the shade. I can still remember the taste of the wild strawberries and raspberries, such a special treat! Occasionally I’d catch a brookie and roast it over a campfire, but I wasn’t very fond of fish.  I loved to catch them though, so I often took a few home for Mom or Dad to cook. And the icey cold spring water, was like heaven on my lips and the smell of the mountain air I can’t even begin to explain. 

Lunch was usually enjoyed sitting in a bear grass patch, with Stormy and my dog close by. Stormy would stay right beside me although I never tied her up. She would graze right near me, eating every single blade of grass around me. Other times she would lay down and I could cuddle between her legs and lay my head on her stomach. She was my constant companion and always such a comfort when I needed friend. 

You know, I remember very few moments of ever feeling lonely or afraid. It was my home, my comfort and the silence of those mountains would come alive.