Saturday, June 09, 2007


Last week my brother, his daughter, and I flew from SAC to PDX, then boarded a train for Rugby, ND. We were in Portland long enough to meet up with a friend and have lunch with my son. The weather was beautiful. Portland was beautiful. Portland always feels like home, even though I only lived there for a few years. We met up with our friend and my son again on the way back.

The flight was fast (an hour and 20 minutes or less) and the train was, well, not exactly slow. We were doing 79 mph across the middle of Montana. Saw a Bald Eagle, lots of antelope, deer, bison, horses, sheep, cows...But it takes ALL DAY to cross Montana! Very pretty country. Lots of sky. Have not been able to get that song line "somewhere in the middle of Montana.." out of my head.

This first picture is of the gravel road Grandfather Voeller's farm is on. Grandpa has been gone many years now but our cousin Dennis lives on it. The driveway into the farm is on the left. We may have seen or heard a total of 6 vehicles, including tractors, on this road during the 4 days we were there. We heard but one plane; a crop duster. It was silence punctuated by bird songs, an occasional whinney, and the distant drone of a tractor, and our chattering and laughter. Mostly though, it was bird songs. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I fully understand why our Aunt Marie left Sacramento every summer to spend time "on the farm". Its 15 miles SE of Rugby and if not for the nasty winters, I'd be very tempted to move there.
The view from the farm house is of many of the trees our Uncle Walt planted in the 1960's and '70's. I gather some of the locals thought he was nuts since he planted trees on what was very good farm ground but the birds and the 4-leggeds have been elated. I kicked myself daily for not taking my binoculars, my Sibley's Guide, my wildflower book, and a tree book but I think those all give me a good excuse to go back! At night the fireflies come out. Like magic, they appear and dissappear, wafting off across the grass and into the bushes like little fairies carrying lanterns. I'm pretty sure the twinkles in my cousin's eyes are due to the fact that fireflies are in them. ;>)

Yellow seems to be the popular bird color. The trees were filled with yellow warblers and American goldfinches. Almost every pond, lake, and swale had large populations of yellow headed blackbirds. There were also black capped chickadees, nuthatches, red-winged blackbirds, common grackles, barn swallows, purple martins, tree swallows, and a large variety of waterfowl. I must learn my waterfowl! We also spotted the two wild turkeys that recently showed up and a male pheasant.

Grandpa's barn was built in 1907 and painted in 1912. Or thereabouts. I'm sure either my brother or my neice will correct me if I am wrong. Last year I dreampt that I was walking up the stairs to the the loft of this barn and my late father met me on the stairs. He said "You have no idea how difficult it was to arrange this family reunion." All my late relatives were dressed in their best clothes and were milling about in the loft. So of course I had to go check out the barn. I had been on the farm back in 1959 but had not set foot inside the barn until this time. Other than the stairway being to the rt instead of to the left, and the fact that it went to the side instead of towards the back, the loft appeared as it did in my dream. Sans deceased relatives of course. And in my dream, the loft was not all dusty and filled with debris.
It was a bit eerie when my cousin told me that the stairs USED to be on the left...

This is a view of "the lake" that Dad always talked about. They used to pick choke-cherries along the lakeside. There is an earthen dam across one end of the lake and a beaver house out in the bigger portion. There are an awful lot of lakes in North Dakota. Maybe LAKE is too big a description. Ponds? Swales. Depressions, that are ALL filled this year due to an extraordinary amount of rainfall. Now that I've seen the area from ground level, the Google Earth photos will make more sense!

Today I must return to the real world and go back to work. The trip was wonderful in that we met and/or re-met many of our cousins and second cousins, our 90 year old aunt, and various extentions of our family shrub (believe me, its not a TREE), we sort of connected with our roots, and we were able to enjoy silence of the very best sort. My brother and I didn't kill each other. I got to know my neice better. I realized that when I move, I will not be happy in a town, even if it is Corvallis. I will need some space. A half acre minimum. But that's another story....
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amy said...

are you a voeller? my grandmother as a voeller from north dakota, rugby.

weeder1 said...

yes I am a Voeller with, obviously, roots in Rugby. Who was your grandmother?