By Mary Clearman Blew
In language akin to the wild fantastic thing about sizeable Sky kingdom, Mary Clearman Blew offers us a glimpse into the lives of her kin as she strains their connection to Montana’s average and human panorama. starting together with her great-grandparents’ arrival in 1882 in Montana--still a territory then--Blew relates the tales that make up her life.
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Extra resources for All but the Waltz: A Memoir of Five Generations in the Life of a Montana Family
I had brought Abraham to life, but his life and mine seemed mutually exclusive. As I had suspected from the beginning, Abraham and I had nothing to say to one another and no way to say it if we did. In the spring of 1990 1 went back to Montana, to Great Falls, where I spoke to the Friends of the Public Library about my fascination and disquietude with Abraham and his papers. An old friend from Northern Montana College, himself a great-grandson of plains settlers, listened from the audience. He was intrigued, he said, by the apparent contradiction of Abraham's choice of medium-his scrap paper-and his care- Reading Abraharn 3 7 ful preservation of such ephemeral texts.
Why did he so carefully preserve the scraps? The one common thread I find in Abraham's papers is the sense that he is recounting his adventures in t h e - ~ o n t a n a Territory to someone who has never seen a runaway bull team or heard cottonwoods pop on a freezing night. An unparticularized someone, perhaps back in civilized, stately Pennsylvania. His narrative has to do with how he sees himself, A. Hogeland of Bucks County, honors graduate of one of the most prestigious Presbyterian colleges in America, as he kneels in the alkali dust at the side of poor senseless, anonymous Frenchy and watches his bull team stampeding down the raw frontier grade.
Sometimes at night I lay awake listening to the wind ripping off the birch leaves outside my window and heard my father's words, like an unwanted legacy, censorious, deluded, deaf to any answer: Somewhere you got the idea in your head that you know something, but you don't know a goddamned thing. I I I I I I I I felt as ragged as the birch leaves, but I had a child to support. By 1987, I had left Montana and moved to Idaho, on the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake rivers, where the narrow gorge of the Lolo Pass spreads out beyond the soft hills of the Palouse and the Camas Prairie into the bare gray bluffs of the westward-seeking Columbia.