Dog days of summer, Montana style – and more

2 June, 2019           Dog days of summer, Montana style – and more

Me, Ivory (left) and Nicky, southern Alberta Canada, June, 1999

Ivory and Nicky THIS WEEK 20 years ago, 11,000′ above sea level in Montana

I’ve mentioned in this space before some internship work I did twenty years ago. Those pictures were taken twenty years ago this month – in JUNE! – in Canada (top picture) and Montana (bottom picture). That’s what the first full week of June looks like in Montana at 11,000 feet above sea level. I didn’t have a digital camera back then – this is all film. Taken with a cheap camera by an inexperienced photographer (me). More at the bottom of this post.

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail in the parking lot at Pony Pasture at 11:30 this morning:

We didn’t see a whole lot at the river today. If you don’t count the river itself, and people and dogs and trees and flowers and creeks and rocks and clover and the rest of the reliably soothing background at Pony Pasture. But just as we got back in the car, that lovely female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) fluttered to the ground next to our car and posed gracefully while I gratefully caught a quick image. The background isn’t breathtaking, but with a beauty like her in the foreground I hardly notice. The blue hindwing is how you tell she’s a female. In males it’s black. I also read that “Females lay their eggs singly on the leaves of woody plants, mainly tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera)[…].” Tulip trees may be second only to sycamores as far as large hardwoods go at Pony Pasture. I learned while reading about Tiger Swallowtails – stop me if you already knew this – that they’re the Virginia State Insect! Not only did I not-know that fact – I didn’t even know we had a state insect! But they represent us well. 

I flew twice this week, both times in a Tecnam P92 Eaglet. That I love to fly. We went to Farmville, Crewe, Blackstone, Lunenburg, Petersburg – it’s been a great week for flying. Here’s the plane we flew Thursday, N162SF. I took this picture at around 4:45 in the afternoon as I was walking out to the plane, just before I untied it:

How can this not look fun? I LOVE flying. You cannot imagine how joyful it is to fly up a few thousand feet and sightsee around the state.

Along with all the other treasures Evelyn’s brought to life in our yard, this week she added this glowing hibiscus. Butterflies and hummingbirds are both attracted to these enormous beauties; we’ll see what follows them into our yard:

Hibiscus newly blooming in our yard. If I were a butterfly or hummingbird I would find this difficult to resist. It is undeniably voluptuous.

I was surprised to get a “double” red-tail on the cell phone tower within sight of our house early Friday afternoon. I didn’t get brilliant shots of the pair, unfortunately. I never got to a position where I could see all four of their eyes at the same time. That’s a requirement for a picture of two birds. Or of two people or dogs for that matter. Here’s one alone, I believe this is the male:

Baby Red-tails look cute. But adults are incapable of it.

Here’s the substandard picture of the pair together. I shouldn’t include it at all, but I’m always just so tickled to see both birds at once. It feels like a special treat, every single time:

Poor light with eyes blocked. But still.

I took a moderate picture of my current dogs at the river this morning. Turner lying down – we’d just gotten there! – Mackey facing upstream, Yuki facing me. You are looking at three wonderful boys right there: 

Turner, Mackey and Yuki at Pony Pasture at 9:30 this morning:

Have a great week! All best! Come back next week! Have a great day,


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Evelyn sent me a quote earlier this week from Rachel Carson; it was posted on “If you write what you yourself sincerely think and feel and are interested in… you will interest other people.” That may be true. But I sincerely think a lot of boring stuff. I feel happy more often than not.

Brief synopsis of my summer 1999 internship for my Masters in Montana: After my 1988 traumatic brain injury (TBI) and subsequent recovery and education, I had a lot of experience, from bedside to bureaucracy. Arguably that should make me proficient in many areas of the post-TBI continuum. My thesis adviser at MCV had finished her PhD and moved to Montana – to work with people with TBI’s. Montana has HUGE Indian reservations, with high rates of TBI. So for my internship I spent the summer of 1999 traveling that vast state and presenting at every one of the  state’s seven Indian reservations. After Alaska, Texas and California, Montana is the largest state in the US. It is simply mind boggling. We drove ALL over the state, and had to spend the night in a lot of places. Because it takes a day to drive, then you present, then take a day to drive back. My presentations were short and I knew them by heart so I had plenty of free time to explore. I did a triathlon and a couple of other races that summer in Montana too.

I kept a journal, but I also wrote long emails to my family and to my teacher in grad school, the late, great Dr. Warren Rule. My dogs then were Ivory and Nicky. They taught me everything I know about dogs. They taught me a lot about people too.

If you’ve seen this blog for more than a month, you know I like to get outdoors with my dogs on Sundays. This journal entry is about what I did outdoors with my dogs on a Sunday twenty years ago this month, 2,000 miles and two time zones away:

6/27/1999 Sun 7:00 PM

A letter I’m just about to e-mail:

Sundays in Montana

On Sunday mornings, Ivory and Nicky and I like to get outside and get as close to nature as we can given our location at the time. Three Sundays ago, we were on the banks of the James River in Richmond, enjoying the late Spring flowers and watching the ducks and blue herons calmly wading in the warm water. Three hours ago, we were at 10,940 feet in the Bear Tooth Pass where Rte. 212 straddles the Montana/Wyoming border. At one point we were driving on the lee side of an eight foot snowbank, and snow was blowing off of it so thick I almost couldn’t see the end of my hood. Quite a contrast from three weeks ago. When we were in the open, it wasn’t a blizzard, but it was pretty close to it. The wind was whipping across the ground, blowing the snow perfectly horizontal. It was the hardest snow I’ve seen in about four years. And it’s almost July. Luckily I had worn jeans and boots today instead of my customary shorts and sneakers. I was wearing a shortsleeved T-shirt, however. I also had a jean jacket on, though, which was the only thing that made it so I could get out of the car at all. We found a few good spots where I could pull off and get out for a while and go walking for a while with the dogs; there were almost no identifying features. I don’t know if this stuff met the true definition of “tundra”, but there were just lots of rocks sticking out of the snow with lots of lichen on them, and no plants larger than about eight inches tall. Anywhere. This little snow had only covered the rocks about half an inch deep, but the snow that was still left over from the winter was still several feet deep in places that were out of the wind. We came up to one big patch of snow and Ivory and Nicky went dashing across it. I stepped onto the edge of it and sank over my knees before I took one step. So I climbed back out and went around. At one point Ivory and Nicky were about a hundred yards away from me, sprinting through the wind and the snow after each other. They looked just like a pair of wolves.

It was about 25 miles back down to the National Forest campground from there, and the temperature went up a degree or two for each mile we went down, but it was still only in the fifties or sixties at the bottom. The “bottom” was at around 7,000 feet. I’d guess the temperature was in the thirties on top, but the wind was blowing so hard it felt much colder. I took them for a longer hike down at the bottom because I could stand the temperature a little bit better, and it wasn’t snowing down there. There was also a nice deep creek running along the trail down there so they could get a drink from time to time. The place seems to have about five different names if you look at maps or signs on the road. My personal favorite is the “Absaroka — Beartooth Wilderness Area.” Also, when you’re up on the pass there, at the Montana – Wyoming border, you pass from the Custer National Forest (Montana) into the Shoshone National Forest (Wyoming). This area is immediately east of northern Yellowstone.

Next time I go back there, I’m definitely going to have my good coat on and some warmer clothes so I can stay out of the car for more than about fifteen minutes before I start to freeze. I’m glad I brought my heavy coat with me. It sure would have been nice to have today. I think that next time we have a free weekend we’re going to go camping up there, although not on top. That was like being on the moon. It was really nice down around 7,000 feet, though.

We drove through some pretty heavy rain on the way back, but it’s clearing up and turning nice now. I’m about to go over and check on MV’s horses. I won’t forget the carrots this time either. We’ve got a big week coming up at work; on Tuesday morning we’re going to Helena to the Brain Injury Association of Montana headquarters so I can meet the people there. I think there are only about two or three people in the office, but a guy lives there that I know from a TBI listserv. We’re also going to visit a couple of TBI survivors and their families. After we come back next week we’re going to visit a couple of the reservations near here, probably the Crow and Blackfeet. We’re also going to meet with the family of a TBI survivor at the Indian Health Service (IHS) office here in Billings tomorrow afternoon. However, when I was talking with the mother of a young Indian man with a TBI, I asked her what kinds of services the IHS provides, she said “handing out cough syrup.” She sounded very jaded. I think her son hasn’t been getting great services, but that’s what I’m supposed to help with while I’m here. We’ll see what happens.

Anyway, wish me luck, and I’ll talk to you soon,


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About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
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2 Responses to Dog days of summer, Montana style – and more

  1. Tony Gentry says:

    Jay – Another reason we need to get together! Over the past few years, I’ve been to Montana four times, doing workshops in Missoula (2x), Bozeman, and Helena, always bookended by long drives across the state to visit Yellowstone, Glacier, and some of the state parks affiliated with the Lewis and Clark expedition. I too fell hard for Montana. Was not able to visit the reservations, though, and would love to hear more about your travels there. Some day, let’s go back. We’ll book a talk or two, take our dogs, and while we drive you can take photos and I’ll scribble notes!

    • Thanks for the note Tony – I didn’t know you’d spent time in MT! I was based in Billings (at MSU Billings) but traveled all over the state all summer. I would LOVE to return. The reservations were not esthetically appealing, but the people were wonderful. I first told them I was with the BIA (Brain Injury Association) which I learned on the first reservation was the wrong way to introduce yourself. BIA is also the initials of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an organization not held in high regard on the reservation. Think “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” But once we established clear communication (and sincerity), our tasks flowed smoothly. Communication, as you’re aware, is king. It would be great to head back out there! Have a great day,


      PS We went to a powwow on one of the reservations, and it was a rich, rich learning experience. I thought it would be like a county fair but quickly learned I didn’t really have a cultural template for an experience like that. It’s another world in many ways. The reservations are not even the United States – they have separate UN representation. It’s eye opening.

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