It was a day made-to-order. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, not a breath of wind blew. It was a peach of a spring day.
Determined to kill some time downtown, I made my way down to North 27th Street where I encountered an old friend of the cowboy persuasion.
Standing there in Tony Lamas, he smiled when I asked how crude oil sales had been and winced when I inquired about the price of cattle.
The conversation drifted into and out of the Middle East, touched on the lost Chinese airplane and took a hard local twist.
“Hear about Wes Wilkins?” he asked. I shook my jowls. “Hit oil last week,” the cowboy said. “It looks like he might be moving south.”
I truly doubted that an old hand like Wes would run from Montana’s punishing winters.
Cowboy pushed back the brim of his hat to hide from the sun.
How are those black cattle doing? I asked.
Cowboy and his family had switched to Angus after 100 years of raising Herefords. Cowboy’s grandfather hated the new stock. He said the lean blacks were not fit to eat.
I reminded him that there were not many four-legged critters as tough as Herefords when it came to calving in winter. He laughed and nodded his head.
“How are those black critters doing?” I asked.
“Well, granddad hates them, but they seem to bring good prices,” Cowboy said.
At about that time, my friend in the Tony Lamas glanced at his watch, excused himself and hurried off to see a man about a horse.
Drifting in, as if to take Cowboy’s place, a former classmate squeezed into the huddle with stories of skiing and drinking beer in the Senate Saloon.
I hadn’t skied since the last time I broke my leg. I wasn’t too eager to recall the incident.
The city boy saw he had skied into deep powder. He switched the palaver to new cars. I haven’t had one for half a generation but was willing to swap lies about sporty autos.
City boy reported buying a new sportster with a 24-hour roof and a 300-horse engine. His tale put any that I might conjure in the shade.
Cowboy returned, but he wasn’t hot for the topic either. He switched back to the black cows he had avoided earlier.
“The Angus are easier to work and the carcass sells for a better price,” Cowboy declared. “But granddad hates them.”
I could understand the old man’s dissatisfaction.
I never raised cows; I only ate them. But the extra-lean Angus meat did not rival a well marbled Hereford steak.
The thought of grilled cow meat set my stomach to growling. To avoid the discomfort, I switched the palaver down another path.
“Reckon it will snow again?” I asked the Cowboy.
He did not think it would. Most folks are that way. Give ’em a taste of spring and they think the golden days are permanent.
I decided that evening to make my late snow challenger a project. A fundraising project. Montanans are so certain that a break in the winter is the true sign of spring that they will bet on it at any opportunity.
In a couple of days I had a number of snow bets. Nearly a $100 in small denominations.
I hear you. You doubters out there. Think it won’t snow again before the green grass and pasque bloom. I say, “Put your money where your prairie flowers are.”