A Jaunt in Eastern Montana

I left for the Prairie County Courthouse in Terry, Montana at 6am, well before first light. I sailed out the 94 fairly quickly, slowing to 85mph or so when a little light came up in the east and the road showed a few curves. I wonder why it is easier to drive in total darkness than it is in twilight? (Or does that early morning half-light have a name of its own?).

I was driving Carol’s Navigator and so didn’t worry much about suicidal deer. The radio runs out fairly quickly, even when you switch from station to station because of all the little valleys.

MtheD was a little worried to start with as she usually wakes to empty her bladder at this time of the day, then goes back to sleep for another hour or two. The picture to the left is one of the main streets of Terry Montana. As I was walking around looking for likely pictures I heard the train passing nearby which reminded me of living on South 139th St, or maybe it was 239th St in Harvey, Illinois. That lonesome whistle sound has a way of hitting the old memory key on the keyboard of my brain.

Around 8am or so I stopped at McDonald’s, naturally, in Miles City for their best breakfast, a cup of pretty good coffee (I think it is Seattle’s Best) and an Egg McMuffin with Sausage. After allowing Mag to pee, I am back on the road to arrive in Terry at 8:30am.

Prairie County must be one of the few counties not to have one of those old-fashioned courthouses with the cupola so popular in Montana early in the 20th century. When I ask about this they tell me that a distraught defendant set the original afire about 10-15 years ago. I guess I wasn’t paying attention or was gone at the time. MtheD takes a crap on the courthouse lawn, which is difficult to see from this angle; I hope no one was watching. Otherwise she is a model dog.

Last night I checked on Terry in Michael McCoy’s Off the Beaten Path—A Guide to Unique Places in Montana, supposedly revised and published for the 7th time in 2007: It mentioned Evelyn Cameron, an English lady living in this area in the late 19th century/early part of the 20th century who liked to take pictures of ordinary people, nearby scenery and area events. Someone managed to save her negatives and now they are housed in a nice museum, which is only open, however, in the summer. And in addition it mentioned the Prairie Drive-In Theatre, which had been operating for 50 or so years. McCoy warned that it might not be open anymore. When I drove by it on the way in to town it looked fairly bleak and rundown and when I checked with one of the deputy sheriffs he told me that it had been closed for about 10 years, so I guess my reference book is more than a little out of date.

The trial has already started and there is a witness to testify before I get called. I chat with some of the law enforcement people and then with other witnesses, mostly from the state. It is a little unusual to have a trial in this sort of vehicular negligent homicide, so I suspect the defendant or his family think a good lawyer might be able to get him off, or maybe they are more well off than usual in this part of the state.

The Prairie County Attorney is a lady as is the lawyer from the state assisting her. She hurries through my testimony. The judge does not allow me to testify about the effects of alcohol because the defense objects and the prosecution did not identify me as that kind of expert. After being excused I have to hunt up the secretary to get the address for sending my bill.

By 10:45am I am buying a good-looking double dip Wilcoxson ice cream in a plain cone ($1.50) at the Scoop Shoppe and on my way home. Outside on the left and inside on the right below.

I can’t resist my usual double cheeseburger from the dollar menu (only a double cheeseburger is now $1.25!) at McDonald’s in Miles City. Rush is difficult to get on the radio until I get close to Billings. Arrived safely at Border’s about 3pm. Carol is using the house for some PEO affair so Maggie and I are banished to the bookstore ’til 4pm.

I noticed that I was getting low on gas around Hysham, so filled up there for about $60 and headed west on what was variously called Old Highway 10, and Hwy 311, and perhaps some other named roads, but anyway it looked like the “Old Road” to Billings. It petered out near Custer, so I went back to the Interstate. It’s meandering ways reminded me of the now paved gravel roads of my early years in Wisconsin. We always drove in the middle of the road until we met someone, which was not very often. During the day you could always see the dust trail a long way off.


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