Friday, April 18, 2014
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
From guest blogger, Russell T. Dill, Manhattan, Montana
The Virgin Hole
The Virgin Hole
I live in a small town very close to the forks of the Gallatin River. It is a beautiful little Dutch community that was started based on the premise of growing grain and hops for brewing beer earlier in the last century. Alas the plan was a foolhardy one until recently (as several microbreweries are now rather close) and the original crops have been replaced by irrigated wheat and alfalfa.
I float the Gallatin so much I have names for certain stretches. My favorite stretch is right behind the house here and it goes for about 6-7 river miles to the next takeout. I call it” The Homestretch.” I love the homestretch because it is so short and so close and I am familiar with about every linear foot of it. It also allows for a quick afternoon float in the late summer after work.
Well, several years ago a major hydraulic change took effect on the homestretch changing the route of the river for some time. We had what I initially considered a 100 year flood but in retrospect it was just actually a better than average runoff due to an extraordinary snowpack, considering we were coming off of 7 years of drought. Unfortunately the virgin hole is no longer a floatable stretch but merely a boggy hole with excellent mosquito breeding characteristics. Alas, my buddy Holbine and I back paddled into the hole one summer afternoon and were run out of the remaining slough by the fetid stench and clouds of bloodthirsty bugs.
This is not what the virgin hole used to be….. It was a beautiful rock wall that the river ran headlong into and was forced to make a rather dramatic 45 degree turn, where it hollowed out an overhanging cliff where we once wedged a pair of rafts during a late summer afternoon thunderstorm and watched the lightning go by, drinking beer, relatively unscathed under the protection of the rocky overhang of the virgin hole. The river had also scoured a deep hole beneath the cliff face and the water was quite deep for that stretch of the river. It was a great swimming hole, only after its depths had been properly dredged with nymphs and streamers, and I have seen some of the local kids float by in inner tubes, scale up the left side of the wall and jump off. It wasn’t a huge jump but a nice 30 ft. leap on a hot summer afternoon could be quite invigorating.
I mentioned a proper dredging of the depths was mandatory once the boats were beached, as a pretty good riffle emptied directly in front of the swirling hole and we regularly would pull a few of the gullible rainbows from its depths before the games of the virgin hole began. I once watched a friend of mine get out of his canoe, walk smartly to the base of the riffle and pull a verified 22” rainbow out of the bottom of the riffle before the rest of the float crew had even rigged up yet. This very same individual was taught by the virgin hole that his future bride was not a very good swimmer as she and another gal attempted the swirling hole in a canoe, rather unsuccessfully, and my pal was forced to make a quick rescue of his lady in distress. Finally understanding the quote “No, I can’t swim” to the full depths of her meaning, Pun intended.
After beaching the boats on the gravelly sand bar, dredging the depths for hungry fish, and quaffing a few brews, the pace of the afternoon would slow way down as only the hole could induce. The hole was back along the north bend of the river, rather unattainable unless you came by watercraft and its isolation tended to lend itself to a nice long linger. After a while it was inevitable that a rock skipping contest would ensue, and after that had been going on for some time, the rock throwing contest that gave the hole its name would begin. The rock face of the hole was pocked along the upper edges with a few mud swallow nests and the Montana rock dove, i.e. pigeons, would also nest along its upper reaches, safe from any land born predators. But down along about midway was a nice round hole inaccessible to all but the craftiest of birds and it appeared to us to be uninhabited. This was the target of many a long afternoon of rock throwing. Many summers with many floats with many hours of throwing rocks at this inconspicuous hole that somehow always captured our attention, yet no one had every penetrated the virgin hole with a well-placed throw. I would surmise that over the years we had thrown at least a ton of rocks at that challenging little orifice. Whether it was 2 guys in a canoe or one of our weekend regatta’s with multiple crafts and a good blend of the genders, the men were always drawn to the virgin hole – now do you get the meaning?...Some of the guys were good athletes with strong and accurate arms, whipping the rocks in nice linear arcs within inches it seemed. Others were like me, with spaghetti noodle arms but with hopeless determination who would chuck rocks at the hole for hours until our arms hung limp by our sides and we knew the paddle out had become an offhand paddling affair, with the soreness only relieved with a healthy dose of liquid refreshment…
It was on one of these regatta type afternoons with both girls and boys swimming and fishing at the hole that a major event occurred. There were at least five guys, perhaps another or two that I don’t recall, and the contest was in full swing. In the heat of the battle, with a handful of guys all scrabbling over the beach, trying to find the best rocks, and chuck them as fast as we can in hopes of scoring the elusive goal, the rock chucking could be quite frenetic. A constant cascade of rocks would be tumbling off the rock wall, and occasionally someone would get very close to the object of our desire, eliciting oohs and aahs from the appreciative opponents. Probably due to the sheer number of stones thrown, victory was inevitable. I happened to be reaching down, fumbling for another stone while keeping my eye on the virgin hole, when one of the guys, we’ll call him Doug to protect his ego, stepped forward and with perfect balance and excellent form whipped a decent stone right at the hole only to see it disappear with a nondescript thunk. There were entirely too many witnesses with too much history in this game of champions; the beach erupted with whoops of victory and cries of anguish. Wild dancing and celebrating ensued. There was much shouting and carrying on that it would seem to our female observers we had just landed a beluga whale in the Gallatin. A group of men in their very late twenties, or early thirties had just been reduced to a bunch of ten year olds with a rather inconsequential toss of a rock. The celebration would not abate until the girls began to come over and question our sanity with a few probing questions that truly exposed the lunacy of the situation. It is truly a wonder that those girls eventually married a couple of the guys and later even acquiesced to breed with them as well, considering the behavior they saw that unforgettable Montana summer afternoon.
After several celebratory brews were quaffed, and a few hopeless conciliatory stones were thrown (with no success), we loaded our ladies and coolers and fishing rods and headed on down the river to catch a few more fish and get off the river. All the men sat in their respective boats with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and success, eerily quiet as there was really nothing left to say. We had all been witness to an accomplishment that had been attempted thousands of times over many rivers hours through many summers and now it was done. All that were there (the men anyway) had seen it and thus could savor the success. The women chatted among themselves, still not impressed with our accomplishment and the men just sat there and grinned like a bunch of ten year old boys who had just found a playboy hidden in a secret clubhouse…
There might have been a couple more rock throwing contests at the No Longer Virgin Hole later that summer, but that was the end of the trips through the Virgin Hole. Finally the drought that SW Montana had been enduring was broken with a great snowpack the following year followed by a very wet April and the Gallatin shifted in her bed like a restless lover, flopping her leg over to the southernmost channel and changing her course for who knows how long, for that is where she flows today, leaving the virgin hole in her current deplorable state…
As I sit here on an early spring day, the snowpack registers well above average and the runoff is threatening to begin in earnest this week. It has only been a few years since the river so dramatically changed its course, a mere blip in time on a hydrogeological time scale, but I know there are a group of friends who, silently, hope that the gods of the mountains and the rivers will change her course in another violent spring runoff and restore her path through the virgin hole. And perhaps restore a little of our youth as well….
Sunday, February 09, 2014
I've always messed in tropical fish. Started in junior high. When I was still teaching, I promised myself I'd start a salt water tank when I retired. I didn't. After I was virtually home bound for a while with Mother, I decided I'd reward myself. I converted the 55 gallon in the fall of 2012. I started with live rock. I have a few corals. I can't believe I spent time trying to get macro algae to grow because I missed the green. I now have plenty of green. I'd like to get rid of the green bubble algae for sure, but some of the volunteers I actually like. I forgot to load the photos I have taken since I got the umbrella leather coral. I'll get it next time. The bottom photo features the carpet anemone that I got to host the clown fish. We named him Waldo after the children's book. Anemones can move around the tank, and every morning I play, "Where's Waldo?" Usually the answer is "on the back of that rock where you can't see him." The clowns do sleep on him at night.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Christmas Day 2013. All these folks under one roof. Here is the text from the Christmas card:
As you see in the photo below, we have a new face this year. John Cedar Wilson Dill was born October 1. Actually, the Danville Dill count went up by two. James and Samantha have opened their home to an exchange student from Viet Nam. Phuoc has been a real blessing. She is Eliza’s new best friend and a very pleasant guest.
Brandy is a junior this year. We’re not sure how that happened. Seems as though only yesterday….
Brenda and Dewayne are still in Hot Springs.
Rusty’s in Manhattan, Montana.
Mark’s in Forsyth, Montana.
Nana and Pacha, as we are called, are still enjoying retirement—John working with PeaceWork and Susan with the Royal Players. Hopefully, we’ll get to put a photo of the whole crew on Facebook sometime around Christmas.
(And we did--get almost the whole crew. Missing Dewayne's Skyler.)
Text may not go with exactly each photo. I don't blog enough to remember how.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Abe is the sleepy one, and Rosie is stealing a glance to see if anyone has treats out. When we looked at the registration, it turned out that Flying O'Rosey is actually ten years old. She does swing her right hind leg out a bit when she walks, but she and Abe run around their new yard. They claimed it all this afternoon--wonder they didn't get dehydrated--and then started the race course. Abe has learned that the bed and the couch are off limits. Don't know if that would hold if we both left the house (I can guess). Patty in Mt. Home was keeping 15 dogs, so when she had them out of their kennels she was pretty lenient. The rescue is NBRAN.org out of Texas.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Right on time the baby arrived. Of course, he had been threatening to come for nearly three weeks causing his family to be back and forth from Danville to Benton. The stunned look on Pacha's face may be attributed to the fact that he just found out the baby is not just Cedar Wilson, but John Cedar Wilson Dill. Big Sister Eliza is ready for diaper duty--well, at least auxiliary duty. He came at 9:48 pm on October 1; 8 lb 9 oz.