Big Sky Country Where are you?: Big Sky Country

Spider on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 05:25 pm:

    Hey y'all. This is just a brief note to say I am doing very well in Eastern Montana. Today was my first actual day of working at St. Labre Indian School, and I basically hung out with the two 1st grade classes in the morning, and decorated my reading cubicle in the library in the afternoon. I'm living with 6 other people (it was 7 but one girl quit and we took her to the airport this morning), 2 guys / 5 girls, and we all get along so far.

    Last night we were all invited to a sweatlodge, and I was sadly (miserably) unable to go through with it because of my claustrophobia -- I crawled into the lodge and crawled right back out. But while my housemates were together with some community members in the tiny hut and the suffocating heat, I sat outside alone in the wide open field and the bracing cold, and they prayed, and I prayed, and it was cool.

    Last weekend, we went hiking/camping at Bighorn National Forest outside of Sheridan, Wyoming -- if you're ever in the area, don't miss this. It's even prettier than Yellowstone, IMO. And little did we know it would get below freezing at night. Heh.

    My aunt was right -- this is going to be a very challenging year because of the high level of drug/alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and poverty in the area, but I'm up for it. I've met some really cool people out here, and I can't wait to complete my year here.

    Before I go, check out some of the neat family names there are out here:

    He Does It (as in Nathaniel He Does It)
    Knows His Gun
    Kills the Pretty Enemy
    Sees the Ground
    Dives Backwards
    Froze on Ice
    Little Light
    Twenty Stands
    Bear Below
    Bad Hair
    Pretty On Top

    I have to go now, but I hope you all are doing well, and you can try emailing me if you want.


By wisper on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 08:48 pm:

    Hang in there Spider!
    *much love*

By Gee on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:47 pm:

    I want to be 'Melanie Kills the Pretty Enemy'. That is a name worth marrying for.

By monit on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 08:59 pm:

    I'd rather be 'Melanie Bad Hair'.

By semillama on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 10:53 am:

    Yay Spider! Already it's been worth it, I bet.

    I think I've heard of someone with the last name Pretty On Top.

By TBone on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 12:59 pm:

    It's good to hear things are going well, Spider. Ganbatte.

    I've heard the Pretty On Top name before. Such cool names.

By Spider on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 06:48 pm:

    School is going pretty well -- the 4th graders are pretty dang wild and I have a hard time managing them, but they're basically good kids who just get too silly. I love my 1st graders and kindergarteners. There is one little girl in kindergarten, Harley, who has really latched onto me. My initial reaction was to kind of make her back off, especially since I was paying more attention to her than to the others and I didn't think that was fair. But then I learned that her home life is really bad and her mother abandoned her, and I realized I'm probably the only woman in her day that gives her hugs and affection. So my attitude changed real quick.

    My heart just about broke when I learned that Frankie Big Back, my favorite 1st grader, who is so serious and even has a little old man face, lost his mother in a car accident just a few months ago. I wish I could take him home with me.

    I hope everything is going well with you guys. I don't have time to read the other messages you write. :~(

    I'm going fly fishing this weekend -- wish me luck!

By agatha on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 11:11 pm:

    we love you spider,
    oh yes we do.
    we don't love anyone
    as much as you.
    when you're not near us,
    we're blue!
    oh spider, we love you.

By agatha on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 11:11 pm:

    we love you spider,
    oh yes we do.
    we don't love anyone
    as much as you.
    when you're not near us,
    we're blue!
    oh spider, we love you.

By agatha on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 01:10 am:


    we really do, spider.

By dave. on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 01:19 am:

    yes. we do.

By patrick on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 07:45 pm:


    that was awesome.

    i was thinking spider needs a native american -esq name

    girl who's heart is big as Montana

    or something like that.

By semillama on Wednesday, September 1, 2004 - 12:58 pm:

    I knew this was the right thing to do.

    Spider, did you get your postcard from Kazu yet?

By Spider on Thursday, September 2, 2004 - 11:21 am:

    Aw, you guys. Right now, it's more fun than work, so my heart isn't growing too much. But, boy, those 4th graders can be tough. People kept telling me they would be tough, and coming from Philly and DC, I thought tough meant they were already in gangs (which is a problem out here, believe it or not) and would be verbally and physically abusive, so I was kind of freaked out about the situation I had gotten myself into. Then school started, and I learned that tough meant apathetic and undisciplined. It's very hard to get them to participate, though I'm delighted that one of the lowest readers in the class is actually a really hard worker and likes to read on his own. We had a free book giveaway the other day, and he picked 5 books for himself -- I thought that was awesome.

    Yep, got Kazu's biiiig postcard, and it's posted on our refridgerator. Sem, I started taking a night class in Cheyenne history, and I thought of you as our teacher told us about the evidence of Asian cultures from 20K(?) BC found on the west coast of South America. Didn't we talk about that here a few years ago?

    I wanted to share this with you all -- it's a little article about Ashland written by the mother of a former Jesuit volunteer here who's now married to one of our middle school science teachers (and their son just had his 1st b-day two days ago).

    I hear the kids in the hall, so I have to go. I'll write more when I can.

By Tampax on Saturday, September 4, 2004 - 10:39 pm:

    In the bathroom, installing pad on my underwear..

By WHITE SHITE on Sunday, September 5, 2004 - 10:27 pm:

    WAS IT MADE BY RTC????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

By Spider on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 11:17 am:

    Oh, yeah.

    "Spider, we'll write to you!"

    "Spider, we'll send you gifts!"

    "Spider, we'll never forget you!"



    Trips to the post office are getting sad.

    I'm getting over a flu I caught from these hygenically-challenged kids (sneezing everywhere, licking the tables, licking the floors, catching and eating flies, licking my hand...*shudder*), but otherwise all else is going well. Frankie Big Back declared that he liked me and I was his friend yesterday (yay!), though on the other hand, 5 kids cried at separate times in that one class. Whew.

    Must run!

By wisper on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 06:53 pm:

    "licking the tables, licking the floors, catching and eating flies"

    what age is this???
    good lord.

    invest in hand sanitizer, and NEVER wipe your eyes before washing your hands :)

By dave. on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 07:45 pm:

    germs are good for ya!

    spider, i'm sorry that i haven't sent you any goodies but there's been such a dearth of interesting music lately and anyway, it's only been about a month. shit, sometimes i feel like i blink my eyes and months have passed by.

    i'll get something in the mail for ya real soon.

By kazu on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 01:03 pm:

    I need Spider's mailing address. Could someone
    e-mail it to me, please. Thanks.

By Spider on Friday, October 15, 2004 - 04:31 pm:

    Kazu, you can email me.

    Things are going well with me. It's still not that cold here, but it may snow on Sunday night. (I have been regaled with tales of the winter of 1975-76, in which the temperature hovered between -30 and -60 with 90 mph winds for about 6 weeks. So I asked how we can know now if we're in for a hard winter. I was told, "If the old Indian man across the street starts chopping a whole lot of wood now." And then another guy added, "And if you see somebody *stealing* that wood, you *know* it's going to be bad." Heh.)

    But let me tell you of the adventure we had on Sunday. On our way back from our JVC retreat outside of Spokane, we decided to make a detour and visit Hell's Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America, on the Oregon/Idaho border. It was a big detour, taking us way out of our way, but I felt (since I was the one pushing the trip) that it was a really cool place and we would never have the chance to see it except on our way back from Spokane since it was too far from our house to drive out there otherwise.

    So it was insanely beautiful, and there was snow on the mountains, and we had a blast driving up and down the mountains, and you have to drive through incredibly beautiful country to get there....basically, a fantastic experience overall.

    But then. We broke down outside Grangeville, Idaho -- the transmission wouldn't shift into park. It would only go in reverse. Which sent us into hysterics, because that's like a typical rez car right there, and we had just bragged about our Beast of a Ford Excursion to all the people at retreat, and oh, the irony. So, long story short, the car fortuitously broke down in a motel parking lot, we got two motel rooms for $50, the state trooper stationed in the parking lot gave us permission to drive through town backwards, and the local mechanic fixed the transmission by hammering on something and didn't charge us a cent. And we drove from the Oregon/Idaho border to southeastern Montana in one day and made it home before midnight that night. Awesome.

    And I took credit for the adventure, ranking it a level 4 on the Spider Adventure scale. One of my roommates is like an iron-man athelete and is always doing crazy things (like pushing himself to hike from base camp and up a 13k foot mountain in one day, a total of 26 miles, with no food and a liter of water), so he's got a Pete Adventure scale, levels determined by how extreme the conditions are. I decided my adventure levels are decided by how out of the way something is, how much stress I feel/how dire the situation, and how good of a story the adventure makes afterwards. If we had had to be towed an hour to a Ford Dealer for a missing part, and if we had to wait 3 days for said part, and if we were at risk of losing our jobs or something, the adventure level would be adjusted accordingly.

    Anyway. Have you missed my rambling?

By kazu on Friday, October 15, 2004 - 04:37 pm:

    I got it.

    I mailed you something yesterday.

By Spider on Friday, October 15, 2004 - 04:43 pm:

    Um, the transmission wouldn't go into Drive, not Park.

    Anyway, since I'm still here, I'll tell you, if you ever find yourself living in SE Montana, go to Sheridan, Wyoming and not Billings for all your shopping needs. Sheridan rocks. Billings has no personality.

    I'm taking a Cheyenne beadwork class and I'm going to Sheridan tomorrow to get supplies. The class is really cool -- it's a perfect blend of older Cheyenne ladies and young novices, and it's taught by a French man who is reviving the art form. (When the Northern Cheyennes were forced onto the reservation in 1884, most of their belongings were burned or lost, so there are very few authentic examples of early beadwork...and it's a dying artform.) It's fun, though.

By Spider on Friday, October 15, 2004 - 04:44 pm:

    Thanks, Kazu! I hope you're doing well.

By Spider on Friday, October 15, 2004 - 04:47 pm:

    Oh, one more thing: My eternal cold (lasted 4 weeks) developed into strep throat, which I've never had before (I blame my kids). God bless my school for covering my medical bills. I'm almost at OCD level when it comes to washing and sanitizing my hands, and thinking (re: everything), "Ew, there are so many germs on that!"

By Spider on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 10:06 pm:

    I wanted to share two cool things that happened this weekend.

    1. We went to see "The Incredibles" this weekend at the Seabeck Theatre in Broadus, Montana. Now, first, this was really cool because this theatre has normal theatre seats in the center aisle and *couches* on the wings. Old, big, dank couches that look like they were salvaged from the curbside but are comfy and wonderful. We got there 30 minutes early to stake out the best couch -- it's so soft you back into it when you sit down. The second cool thing was that the theatre is also a pizza place in its tiny lobby (you can actually bring your pizza into the theatre and eat it during the movie, but we did not partake of this luxury). But the point of my story is this: the owner (and sole waiter/chef that night) had to leave before closing hours to go to a dinner party, so, as we were the last ones there, he asked us if we wouldn't mind locking the door behind us when we left....and he left. Like, the cash register was right there, all the food and candy and equipment were just left right there, but he guessed correctly where we worked and decided we were trustworthy. (Which we were, of course.) I was just kinda stunned by that gesture.

    2. And then yesterday... we drove a lot. We drove to Medicine Rocks State Park (close to the North Dakota border, and don't you believe it when they tell you Sitting Bull had his vision quest there before Little Bighorn -- he had his vision quest at Deer Medicine Rocks outside of Lame Deer, 30 minutes from me) on dirt roads most of the way, and then up to Makoshika State Park (to see the badlands), and then over to Miles City....approximately 325 miles. Right outside of Miles City, our car started making a horrible thumping noise that sounded like a tire gone flat. Tire wasn't flat, but the noise was unnerving and we still had to travel over an hour on dirt roads in the middle of nowhere in the dark. Scary. I turned around and pulled into a truck stop in Miles City and we thought about our options. Tensions are high. Pete mentions our car problems to the guy behind the counter -- the guy calls his friend who's good with cars, the guy looks under our tires and determines we've got a rock stuck by the caliper, loosens it as best he can, and tells us to fix it by driving really fast in reverse and then slamming "the fuck out of" the brakes (which Pete does, twice, with glee).....and then drives away. Our car is fixed, our problems are solved, and he didn't even stick around long enough for us to thank him, let alone give him something for his trouble.

    So, basically, there are some good people in these parts.

By semillama on Friday, November 19, 2004 - 04:06 pm:

    ah, the rural life. It's something, isn't it, Spider?

By Spider on Sunday, November 21, 2004 - 12:33 pm:

    Yeah. But, on the other hand, I just learned that my boss is the cog that turns the gossip wheel in this town. I'm telling you, you say one thing to one person, and a few hours later you have complete strangers asking you how your problems are coming along. It's unnerving.

By kazu on Sunday, November 21, 2004 - 12:34 pm:

By Spider on Sunday, November 21, 2004 - 12:38 pm:

    BTW, my unrestricted access to a computer is over (I'm stealing this moment)....if you want to hear from me, please write.

By Local on Friday, January 28, 2005 - 01:08 pm:

    It isn't cool to use the real names of your students or the locals. Otherwise, this is an interesting account of your time with us.
    Lame Deer "local"

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