Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

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By Parker Heinlein
Outdoors Columnist 

It's been a dry spring


It was 86 degrees when we got to the lake. I hoped to fish the next day, but the wind rose at dusk and howled all night. At first light it was spitting rain, and after wrapping up some work on the cabin we decided to head home.

While we were loading the truck Barb said she smelled smoke, and within a few minutes the landscape had disappeared under a blanket of haze.

We hung around for a while hoping the source of the smoke wasn’t nearby. If a fire was close it would be here soon riding the roaring gale out of the north.

The middle of May seemed awfully early to be worried about wildfire, but this spring has been dreadfully dry.

We found out the smoke was coming from a fire hundreds of miles away in Canada, which presented no threat to Montana. The north wind had simply brought us a preview of what may lie ahead this summer.

The first of the fires that burned through Yellowstone Park in 1988 started in May and burned until snow fell that fall. I hoped that wouldn’t be the case this year.

We loaded the dogs and headed out. A quarter mile from the cabin an antelope doe appeared out of the haze, a tiny fawn by her side, reminding us that it was, after all, still spring.

It wasn’t until we reached Hinsdale, an hour and half later, that the air cleared. By the time we got home to Malta it was 39 degrees and a light rain was falling.

I was glad I hadn’t yet put my tomato and pepper plants in the ground. This year’s garden will have to wait a bit.

By morning the temperature had dropped to freezing and a wet blanket of snow covered the ground. I can’t say I enjoy snow in the middle of May, but it’s far better than heat and smoke.

Yesterday my daughter Leslie sent me a picture of her older boy’s preschool “graduation” party at a snowy city park in Livingston. The kids, celebrating their last day of school, were dressed in winter coats and snow boots.

Summer’s less than a month away although it hardly looks it. The forecast calls for more rain and snow, but even if the wet weather puts a damper on many of our plans, repeating a common refrain in Montana, we can sure use the moisture.

Parker Heinlein is at [email protected]


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