Teri Orr: Saddle up for the story… (part one) | ParkRecord.com

Teri Orr: Saddle up for the story… (part one)

Teri Orr

Park Record columnist Teri Orr.

The sandhill cranes are my wake-up call. Instead of their daytime primal squawks, they have a kind of purring sound at dawn. It is the time when the mist is still on the river, and the first light is hitting the trees, which are already speaking of fall.

This trip to Montana had been decades in the making. An open invitation I could never seem to make work until I worked less. And it included a dinner with some of the smartest, kindest, most accomplished women I have ever crossed paths with.

I only knew two of the women prior to our evening, and it would have been enough – but the dinner with nine of us – was as spectacular as the summer storm that blew in with crashing clouds and electric pink zagged skies and buckets of warm rain.

It wasn’t my first time in Montana- there was that time in the summer of 1998. I had started on a trip to shake off the end -really The End -of a bad romance/engagement that had been on and off for a decade. So I got in my car and decided to go to Cody, Wyoming and see the Buffalo Bill museum.

And then I kept driving to and then thru Yellowstone. There was a night -maybe two- in Chico Hot Springs in Montana. And then at Glacier National Park, where I discovered the artist, Charlie Russell, had done the painting around the fireplace at McDonald Lodge. I stayed there a night and kept driving to Banff for a few days and then finally Lake Louise.

On the trip home, I was coming back thru Montana on my way to pass into Yellowstone again. I remembered the time that had been my actual first time in Montana -in the mid-’80s. I was invited to join some folks for Mayor Hal Taylor’s big birthday party in Ennis. A bunch of folks decided to join the party – Mac and Ann McQuoid and Ted Warr and David and JoAnne Krajeski and, I think, Dean Barrett.

It was a blast.

I remember going into a saloon with Hal, and there was a strange metal contraption on the wall. A giant metal circle and a huge chain hanging off it and a kinda giant lynchpin attached. I asked Hal what that was called. He told me it was a bull cinch. And I said I didn’t understand. “Well, you put that metal circle around the bull’s testicles and attach that chain to a tree with that pin and it is a cinch that bull isn’t going anywhere.”

Nothing like a greenhorn to mess with…

 I was thinking of that story and the Blue Moon Saloon in Cameron, Montana, that Hal had taken me to the day before his party started. I had ordered a glass of Chablis. I was laughed off the bar stool. The bartender stared me down. “We got Jack. Jack straight. Jack rocks. With water and with a Coke- if you must. We don’t have any wussy wine in here.”

On the heartbreak-healing drive home – ten years later- I remembered there was a Park City bartender I had had a crush on for ages who now worked in the summers at the Blue Moon. I decided I would stop there and figure out where to stay in The Park. He was there when I walked in, and I said- “I know the rules- Jack with ice- please.” And he laughed.

Ten years had passed, and now lots of folks wanted wine -it had been added to the menu. We caught up- he was surprised to see me -so far from home. When I told him I was headed into The Park for the night, he said they had been sold out all week. He said there were some fishing cabins in the back- and I was welcome to one of those. I randomly remembered Stein Eriksen also had a home somewhere in the spectacular fishing area.

But I didn’t trust myself. I still had my crush, it turned out, and I was fragile in the heart, so I drove to The Park – well, West Yellowstone, and stayed in one of the divey-est places EVER! And I always wondered if I had made the wrong call.

This trip involved a horse ranch that is 200 acres on the Jefferson River outside of Whitehall, Montana. My friend, who also has a place in Park City, has been a volunteer at Sundance for decades. It was how we met – in the box office- the year the Eccles Center opened in 1998, and she was helping out.

She had a dinner party the next year and invited the most interesting collection of humans she knew at the festival -volunteers and filmmakers and secondhomeowners alike. And she has done that every year since.

When Ruth acquired this ranch on the river, she invited me up to visit. She had women from all walks of life she put together for a dinner each year. But my work world was even busier in the summers in those days, and I just could never break free at the right time.

This year, when she was planning her gathering after two years of COVID-induced isolation, I said- Yes. And she gathered up a few local rock stars and some imported ones, and we had a dinner that became a telling of tales of how each of these women had struggled to overcome life challenges and professional obstacles to achieve all that they had.

I was in awe.

They are- as a friend once said of women of a certain age- the Girls with the Grandmother faces. And they are not what you expect- like a Nobel Prize winner for her teamwork in ’05 (or was it ‘06?) called Atoms for Peace. She is from Butte, has lived all over the world and now lives again in Butte.

Or the groundbreaking urologist who has been doing gender reassignment surgery since the beginning of the procedures and the heart surgeon who is also the head of search and rescue in La Jolla, and well, there just isn’t room for all the interconnecting stories.

Yes, the Taylor Sheridan work, Yellowstone 1923 ( it was just renamed, after first being called, Yellowstone 1932 because the Depression started 10 years earlier in Montana) is being filmed here, and I did encounter some of those folks when I went into Butte one day.

There are just so many Montana stories it will need a Park Two to explain this adventure that happened way out of all the Parks and not even on a single Sunday…

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