June 17, 2010

When I Met Malcolm and Montana

I'm writing this on Thursday because I'm not sure how tomorrow is going to go, whether I'll have time or internet signal. I'll forewarn you, this one might be a touch long. I have been waiting to tell part of my story, and this post is the one.

Tomorrow, Friday June 18th is my 33rd birthday. I was looking to this birthday just being another ho hum day, which is fine. It is, after all, just another day. But then Mark the broker called, gave us a schedule for the rest of the week, and it turned out we'd be going past the house Friday night and not needing to leave till Sunday afternoon. For the first time in almost 4 years, I was going to have a birthday at home (almost). Really hoping that works out, but just now the auger broke down where we are unloading, and with us only having 1000lbs of product left on the truck. How frustrating. Hopefully they can get things going again so we can get unloaded, reloaded, delivered again and then reloaded for a weekend trip. Its a race with the clock between now and Friday afternoon, but hopefully it all falls into place, because I would surely enjoy a day to kick back and relax (while doing lots of fishy laundry).

Birthday's make me think back over life...what I'm proud of, what I wish I'd done differently, and just remembering big events. What stands out in memory this year, probably because I was recently looking at pictures, is a warm week in July almost 9 years ago when I met Malcolm and Montana.

The story of how I met Malcolm and Montana actually begins many years ago in 7th grade. That's when my friend, Ethan, enters my memory. Ethan and I went to school together, but my main memories are from church. Throughout high school we spent many a Sunday morning sitting in the balcony visiting, discussing life, relationships, and such, while the minister delivered his sermons. Not exactly how church service was meant to be spent, but I still remember if fondly.

We entered college and Ethan and I kind of took different paths, but we still stayed in touch, saw each other in church on occasion, and one day Ethan wanted to introduce me to his girlfriend, Tiffany, who soon became his wonderful wife, and one of my dearest friends.

Tiffany became a big part of my life, even though she and Ethan were living two hours away while he was at law school. She was a support when I was confused about life, a friend when I was lonely, and pretty much just a huge blessing to me. About a year or so into our friendship, she wanted me to meet her brother, Michael Paul, thinking that we would hit it off. And we did. Michael Paul and I became good friends and since he lived in Chattanooga and we attended the same university, we got to spend quite a bit of time building a friendship.

About a year into my friendship with Michael Paul, Tiffany called me one day to say they were going with their parents to the family reunion in North Dakota and going early to spend some time on their uncle's ranch in Montana. Would I like to come along?

Need you ask what my response was? I had never been across the Mississippi, but I'd always had big travel dreams and very itchy feet. I jumped at the chance to spend a week with my two dearest friends and see new territory at the same time.

Tiffany, me and Michael Paul when we took a break to stretch our legs and see the South Dakota badlands near Wall, SD.

The road trip to Montana was long, my not being used to being in the car that long. Looking back now I kind of laugh. That drive is nothing to me now, takes no time at all. How truck driving can change ones perspective. There was lots of visiting, laughing, and story telling going on in the car. At one point we were discussing what we'd like to do with our future. This conversation stands out in my memory with shocking clarity. When it was my turn I shared my dream of one day living on a farm or such. Michael Paul turned around from the front passenger seat and jokingly said "I know! You can marry Malcolm!" My response..."who's Malcolm?" Later we were kind of in awe of that conversation. How prophetic it turned out to be, though none of us had a clue at the time.

I met Montana first. Because of the location of the ranch, we came in on a tiny side road that was gravel, my first experience of the rugged Montana landscape and transit system. I thought it was enjoyably quaint and rustic, had a suspicion already that I was going to fall in love with Montana. When I saw the state line marker, a board with "MONTANA" proudly hand painted on it, I just went all mush inside. I fell in love with Montana on the spot. Little did I know, an even bigger love was waiting for our arrival a scant few miles down the road.

At the time of our trip, I was getting over a "crush" I'd had for some time. So when I met Malcolm and his family, my mind was not really in the "romance" mode. I couldn't help but make note that he was a good looking guy, bushy beard and all, super nice, and fun to be around. But my romantic interest didn't really go past there. I was just out there to have fun, see the west, and make some memories. And boy...did I ever!

Malcolm and Michael Paul standing on top of one of the many rocky hills in eastern Montana.

We spent the week playing and having the time of our lives. A lot of time was spent bouncing around the countryside in Malcolm's jeep.

We did some target practice while thinning the prairie dog herd, killing two birds with one stone. Having never shot a gun before, I was surprised to discover I have a pretty good aim.

We also did a lot of exploring on four wheelers, but since there were only three four wheelers, we had to double up. Most of the time I was behind Michael Paul, while Tiffany and Rachelle doubled up, and Malcolm and Justine (who was 9 at the time and tagged along on many of our excursions) rode together. For some reason about half way through our visit, one day we switched things up a bit and I rode behind Malcolm. That was the day everything changed.

We were out ahead of the rest of the group, and paused to wait for them to catch up. We'd been chatting a bit, but not a lot as it as hard to talk over the noise of the four wheeler and wind. But throughout the week, we'd enjoyed each other's company and gotten to know each other a little bit. While we were stopped there waiting, Malcolm turned to me and asked if I thought it would be ok if he wrote to me and we exchanged letters to get to know each other better. I was surprised at first, kind of didn't know what to say, but then suddenly I liked the idea a lot.

The rest of the week flew by, with me primarily behind Malcolm on the four wheelers now, instead of Michael Paul. At the end of the week, we headed to North Dakota for the family reunion. It was actually for a different side of Michael Paul and Tiffany's family, but Malcolm and Rachelle tagged along. While we were in North Dakota we went to see the badlands there at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where this group picture was taken.

Overall it was just the most amazing week of my life up to that point. Definitely left Montana knowing my life had been seriously impacted in more ways than one. The goodbyes were sad, but lasting friendships had been made and old bonds strengthened and rekindled.

Back home in Tennessee, I still had a few weeks before my final year at college began. It was very frustrating, trying to find ways to fill the time, while feeling like I was missing something, that I was wasting time when I could be getting to know Malcolm better. A letter arrived from Malcolm just a few days after I returned home, and I had already put one in the mail, but I think we both felt like letters just weren't enough. There hadn't been hardly any time together it seemed, to truly get to know one another. And yet in that brief time we had, we both knew that there was something more than ordinary between us.

Finally I decided that it was silly to sit in Tennessee twiddling my thumbs and going insane waiting for school to start, when I could be waiting for the same thing while in Montana. So I made some phone calls, packed my bags and my sister (who came along with me because my parent's didn't like the idea of my traveling so far alone) and we hopped on a Grey Hound and headed west.

My sister is not exactly the farmgirl type. She loves the country, but she's never been one to get really dirty. A favorite family story is of her, after her first game in softball at the ripe old age of 6 or 7 telling my Mom and Dad "I don't like to fweat (sweat)." Needless to say, while I think she was interested in the whole trip and had a good time, it was not exactly her cup of tea. But she was such a trooper, and I enjoyed having her there with me. Just knowing someone close to me had seen first hand all the things that I was bubbling over with since returning from my first trip to Montana felt good.

She met a baby antelope that had been adopted in the brief time between my trips to the ranch.

Was taught how to shoot Malcolm's rifle. Shortly after this picture was taken, Rachelle stumbled across a rather large rattle snake. We let Malcolm take care of that one. Mine and Meagan's aim wasn't quite that good yet.

Meagan even took a turn at milking the cow.

While Meagan and I were there, the family acquired a new horse. Ruey was a good sport and put up with all of our attentions when he got to his new home.

It was another great week spent making new friendships stronger. Meagan and Rachelle, who are only two months apart in age, hit it off and the four of us girls enjoyed each other's company.

But for me, the biggest part of that second week in Montana was receiving doubtless confirmation that this cowboy, who was still practically a stranger to me, was indeed someone worth keeping in my life.

I returned home to Tennessee at the end of that second trip with a new vision of life. Up to that date I'd just been floating through, without much of anything in the way of a definite direction. But after I met Malcolm and Montana, I had a new focus and purpose.

Sixth months later Malcolm would move to Tennessee. I graduated with my bachelors degree in education the following May, and after that we were married on one hot but beautiful July day. That was almost 8 years ago, and life has been an adventure ever since.


Shirley said...

Happy Birthday! I enjoyed your story. You and Malcolm were just meant for each other!

Meagan said...

I LOVE this post! :-) Such great memories! And that trip to Montana still ranks as one of my favorite and certainly most adventurous "vacation" ever!!! :-)

frugalmom said...

Awww...what great love story. Thats great! One more reason for you to love Montana, huh? It looks like you guys had adventures even before all your truck driving began. :-)

Hope you have a great birthday and that you get to relax at home just like you want to.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

And he left Montana to be close to you? Awww! True love!

Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary!


Jennifer said...

Awwww....I loved seeing those pictures. Some of those pics, Michael Paul has but some I had never seen before. They are definitely two handsome men! I had heard this story before but never from you. I am so glad you posted it. Happy Birthday and Anniversary!

Sharon Tachenko said...

What a sweet recounting, Sarah! You guys are definitely treasures & may you always delight in and cherish each other! Sweet Blessings for many more shared life-adventures!

Have a wonderful birthday weekend, Sarah - & anniversary delights to come!

We love you guys!
Sharon & Michael

small farm girl said...

That was so sweet! You guys could make a Halmark Channel Movie of the Week with that story. lol. You make me want to write my own story. Happy Birthday!

Be safe out there.

Dreaming said...

Thanks for sharing such a heart-warming story. Your writing took me to Montana with you! I enjoyed seeing the 'old' pictures!

Tiffany said...

Saw it, but never heard it. So cool...such a blessing...God does crazy neat stuff to bless us! :)

Diane Reed Loew said...

Really enjoyed reading your life story. Also, enjoy hearing about other parts of the country, especially ranching and farming. Have a blessed day :)

Yankee Girl ~ Missy said...

Happy Birthday. Thanks for sharing that fun story. Great pictures too.

Tuffy's Blog said...

Great story! I hope in July you give your readers wedding pics. It was a precious wedding. Love you. Mom

ACountryCowgirl said...

I loved this post:) Isn't it great how if we let GOD lead, it is to amazing places!!! I will tell you after my drive back to Oregon I fell in love with Montana also:) It was depressing to leave it!