Friday, March 26, 2010

Sibling Assignment #123: The Ghosts of My Richard Hugo Road Trip

The next four sibling assignments will center around the topic of happiness. InlandEmpireGirl originated this idea, and here's what she asked us all to write about first:

Think of a destination you have traveled to that brought you happiness. Describe the place/trip and why this particular place brought you happiness.

InlandEmpireGirl remembered a spring break trip to Steamboat Rock, here, and I'll post a link to Silver Valley Girl's piece as soon as she posts it.

I've never really been able to explain it.

I've been told I should write an article about it.

An editor for a small journal in western Oregon said he'd be interested in publishing it.

But I could never explain it.

Now, eighteen years later, I still can't really.

I took a trip in late July and early August of 1992. I was on my way home for my 20th high school reunion.

I decided I'd take a really long route from Eugene to Kellogg and go out to Burns, on to Boise, on to Sun Valley to Stanley to Salmon and then go on a Richard Hugo tour of Montana.

It's the Richard Hugo tour of Montana that leaves me wordless.

It was simple.

I drove throughout western Montana, to Wisdom, Big Hole National Battle Ground, Butte, Walkerville, Hot Springs, Kicking Horse Reservoir, Philipsburg, Drummond and other Hugo landmarks. At the places I drove to I stopped, walked the streets (or the battlefield), found a private place, often the car, and read Hugo's poem about that place aloud.

Then came the ghosts.

I welcomed them.

Some of the ghosts Hugo created. Kathy. The family in Walkerville. The slender, red-haired girl who serves your food. Failed dreams. Cures that never work. Failed love.

My ghosts visited me, too. Ghosts from Kellogg. Failed love. Unrealized dreams. Kids I knew who suffered beatings, poverty, probably worse. They came back to me. So did Jim McLeod. He introduced me to Richard Hugo and wanted to ride with me, wanted to leave I-90 at Drummond and follow Highway 1 to Philipsburg and make our way to Anaconda.

Bruce's ghost hopped in the Honda, too. Bruce hadn't been dead very long, killed in a motorcycle accident near Kellogg. Bruce and I read Richard Hugo aloud to each other at North Idaho College. We loved to say over and over and over and over to each other, "and without salvation, Smelterville".

Hugo peered deep into the Silver Valley. He saw what was broken down. He saw the Cd'A River, "a stream so slate with crap its name pollutes the world."

Bruce and I loved Richard Hugo for knowing the valley we grew up in.

I drove Montana. Never had my Honda "found this forward a gear".

I drove forward to the past, the past I don't have words for, the almost prehistoric past of my eternal soul that Richard Hugo speaks to.

I drove forward to the present, too. To Kellogg. To my 20th high school reunion. To the weekend in my life when I fell in love with Kellogg all over again after a few years of separation.

My friends from high school inspired me to fall in love with Kellogg again.

So did Richard Hugo's ghost and the ghosts his poems invited to visit me.

I can't explain it.

I can only say it brought me a happiness that continues to grow.

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