Day 7, WLBT June 21, 2018

First Day of Summer

We begin with an addendum to Day 6 recounting retired Congressman Williams’ encounters with Donald Trump years ago when Trump was a casino operator in Atlantic City putting on boxing matches. Pat had been a boxer as a youth and maintained an interest in the sport and the safety of the participants as a member of Congress.  He was invited to Atlantic City to meet with Trump, expecting to talk about safety in professional boxing.  After all, other guests included the promoter, Don King.

Boxing, however, did not come up. Trump talked instead about the gold content in all his hotels and offices.  Trim, wallpaper, fixtures, etc. Pat was hopeful that a second visit might be more substantive. Alas, Trump’s only interest was in Trump.  Pat turned down a third invite, saying he did not need to waste his time listening to a narcissistic self-promoter with no interest in any discussion on issues, even those dealing with boxing. WLBT doesn’t think Pat’s opinion has changed.

Later on, a discussion about “Charlie Wilson’s War” led into a revelation by Carol that during a dinner party at Rep. Wilson’s apartment she asked to see his hot tub, which she’d heard had views of Washington’s monuments.  Wilson showed her, then said she was the first fully-clothed woman to ever see the gardenia on the tub’s floor.  Another remarkable honor for Carol.

Now to Day 7.  After breakfast and a settling-up stop at Shakespeare and Company (They’d never sold that many books at a reading, they said), WLBT departed Missoula on our way to Yellowstone for a weekend of nature.  At the Williams’ suggestion, we got off the interstate at Drummond to take the scenic Montana Route 1 to Butte.  A must stop for the WLBT on this route is the world’s largest candy store (WLCS) in Philipsburg.

But just outside the village of Hall we passed a museum and gallery with a sign saying “Usually Open.” Huge metal animal sculptures marched around the sprawling yard, including one that looked like an elephant and a bear. We did a UTurn around to get a closer look.  And, as we admired the zoo, the artist, John Orhmann, emerged from his studio wearing his blacksmith’s apron.

John and his father Bill (1919-2014) were ranchers, as well as artists.  The indoor museum was stuffed with projects his father had completed while alive, from glassed-in ceramics to more metal pieces and dozens of paintings with environmental messages.  Our favorite a barroom scene with Carrie Nation waving a flag saying, “No lips that have touched wine, will touch mine – again.”

The Orhmanns  work with new metal, since, “If you spent all your time looking for used steel, you wouldn’t have time to do anything.”  The elephant turned out to be a 10-foot high mammoth. The bear was as tall, and there were also three-foot high roosters and other whimsical creations. You could lift a little flap in the mammoth’s chest to see his heart. All the animals have hearts, even if you can’t see them, John told us confidentially.

To our chagrin, none would fit in the loaded down Fusion, so we settled for a couple of cards and a picture of John and his mammoth. www.orhrmanndesign.

On to Philipsburg, a charming village of Victorian cottages and stores.  Indeed the WLCS has an unimaginably large (over a trillion) number of varieties, starting with more than 16 kinds of fudge. “Want a sample?” the tour was asked.  David got penuche, like his Mum used to make at Christmas.  With us on departure was a quarter pound of salty caramel fudge, an assortment of malted milk balls (David) and a bag of dark chocolate covered almonds, raisins and cranberries (Deedie). Not long after this stop, Harry & David reminded us on our cells that it’s National Candy Month. We were proud to be ahead of the candy curve.

All those calories did not deter the tour from the Williams’ next recommendation — Matt’s burger stand in Butte, the first ever drive through restaurant in the state of Montana with a menu that matches the years of the place, 86. It’s no longer a drive-in. Sixteen stools surround the horseshoe counter and there are always people waiting. The burger and BLT were terrific, but the chocolate milk shake (made with ice cream made on site) brought back memories of the New College Diner in State College, PA.  Everyone along the counter had a milk shake – the couple on the left had marshmallow which they declared fabulous, while a man around the corner had raspberry.

In such close quarters, it was impossible not to chat with your neighbors. On Deedie’s side was a young man who consults on environmental clean-up work around the country. His eight-year-old son and he are regulars and like always, they left having eaten all their fries and drunk all their milkshakes and boxed up their burgers for dinner.  After he left, Lisa our waitress said he had paid for our lunch.  What?  Yes, he paid. We were astonished and at a loss as to how to respond.

On David’s left was a young couple (20) who attend the University of Missouri, St. Louis campus, traveling from home to Vancouver Island, Canada and then eastward, and following the Mississippi River from Minnesota back home.  She’s an engineering major and he’s into computer science.  Their Prius is packed with camping gear, but after driving straight for 24 hours, they had spent the previous night in a motel.

Deedie decided it was only right that we should pay for their lunch.  Lisa was happy to take the cash. No credit or debit cards accepted at Matt’s.

Lisa had her finger on the pulse of the place at all times. When she heard David’s her colleague Sheri and said she’d had three former husbands named David! The menu had a column on Old Laws, which said Montana state law prohibited married women from fishing alone on Sundays and unmarried women from ever fishing by themselves.  This, in a state where Jeannette Rankin was elected to Congress before women had the vote! She went on to vote against US entry into both wars and now stands in Statuary Hall in the Capitol.

We arrived at the West Yellowstone B&B, five miles away from the hub-ub of that town on one of the main entrances to the park, in time for a rest and then a decision that a beautiful sunny evening was the best time to see Old Faithful erupt.  It’s a 30-mile drive after entering the park and we had to wait only 15 minutes for the early evening performance. It occurs every 90 minutes, every day for years and years.  It was met with silence from the modestly large crowd, Cameras and cellphones on sticks and other electronic equipment abounded.  One young Japanese man clapped.

The WLBT shared the genuine awe, and then went off to dinner in the lodge, which is spectacular in its own right. Soaring beams, scads of people and merchandise, and local music students performing made for a bustling scene.