Welcome to the Hotel Montana

horn·swog·gle  (hôrnswgl)

transitive verb.

horn·swog·gled, horn·swog·gling, horn·swog·gles Chiefly Northern & Western U.S.

To bamboozle; deceive.

I have not so fond memories of an old friend who gradually became pathetically power hungry in his own small fiefdom. Roger married Barb to run her life. When she accidentally became pregnant early in their relationship, he convinced her to put it up for adoption. This pretty much set the trend for all that happened later. When they did eventually have children, Roger picked the names. He’s the only guy I’ve known who named his son after his favorite whiskey(Ezra Brooks). He named his daughter Bailey and I assume that was after the famed Irish creme. Can you imagine if he was an aficionado of Tequila or vodka?

He’d get you to spill the beans on something and then milk it for all he could. Once I was rewiring a house and he he found out where and showed up. He convinced the homeowner things needed repairs and the next thing I knew he was working there too. Soon, he’d become the de facto general contractor and start telling me what to do. I kept my cards much closer to my chest after that.

Roger eventually moved back to Montana even though Barb had a killer job in Seattle. He was self-employed and she went where he did. Period. Later, when funds got tight in the late 90’s, she came back over here to work occasionally and help make ends meet.  I assume she ran it by Roger first or else he suggested it.

I had a bad fall off a ladder on Labor day weekend in 1994. I was off work for five months. My left arm no longer had an elbow socket and was (and still is) held together with plates, screws and a stainless steel spring. I called Roger up to see what deer hunting was like over there. I couldn’t pack an animal out of the rough, so I was hoping there might be some easy pickings over there.  Lucky me. I was regaled with the ultra-cheap price of non-resident hunting licenses ($35.00).  Deer were so plentiful you could shoot them in his front yard- right off the porch the way he told it. This sounded like it was too good to be true. If only I’d known.

I packed up and left the day after voting. I literally flew over the mountains and dutifully made a right turn off I-90 at Missoula. I hit Hamilton several hours later just at dark. Roger wasn’t kidding. I just about clobbered Rudolph and 8 of his buddies as I turned in the driveway. This was shaping up to be the finest hunting trip I’d ever been on. You could sit on the front porch with a TNT and take your pick. As we used to say up country in Laos, this was a target-rich environment.  As they say down at the  rental car place, “Well, not exactly.”

As soon as dinner was over I got the first bit of bad news. I’d be sleeping on the living room floor because the fourth bedroom wasn’t completed yet. I always travel with the mattress pad and sleeping bag so this wasn’t a problem.  The next bit of news was still workable.  He allowed that yes, you could technically “shoot” them in the front yard but, well, not exactly.The deer out front had names. There would be no more talk of shooting deer in the front yard. Roger didn’t know how close I came to harvesting one as I arrived with my trusty .357 S&W nicknamed AMEX (never leave home without it). I decided to keep mum on that. A further query of whether it would be permissible to shoot these deer in another yard, say over at brother John’s house across the pasture, was met with  a stern denial. Nevertheless, with a deer population this numerous, punching the ticket was going to be a cake walk. Right? Well, not exactly.

Everyone left early for work/school the next morning and I was left to sleep in. After breakfast, I noticed all the clocks were an hour late so I reset them. Baaaaad idea. Roger apparently didn’t believe in Daylight Savings Time. I had made the cardinal error of failing to run it by him first. I was excoriated for changing them that afternoon and warned to keep my mitts off them henceforth. It seemed I needed to learn a lot in a short period of time if this was going to work out. Barb suggested before I did anything around there that I should  run it by Roger first. She said she always did and it saved a lot of time.  Good idea.

The next day we all (his brother,too) went out for breakfast at a greasy Casino in town. The sporting goods store was adjacent so we strolled over after the breakfast which I bought for all. This was where things started to break down. Come to find out, Hamilton was in an Archery only county. No guns. Period. It was suggested to me that maybe I should buy archery equipment there at the store. They had scads of it. I reminded Roger my left arm was little more than attached to my shoulder at this juncture. Archery was not going to be my strong suit-ever.

After several nights, Roger decided that my camping out in the living room wasn’t going to work. He didn’t have a farm but got up and watched the farm report at 0dark30. I was sleeping in the living room and this interfered with  early morning TV.  I was told I’d enjoy it far more over to brother John’s. John was shopping wife #2 and his 3,000 Sq. foot monstrosity was a chick magnet in progress, too. However, Hamilton Montana was probably a poor place to bait the trap. He had his whole wood-working shop inside in the area some day to be called the kitchen. He also hadn’t put bird blocks in between the rafters so we had flying squirrels  falling down from  the vaulted ceiling riding R-19, pink insulation surfboards. Rather than install the bird/squirrel blocks, he’d dutifully get the stepladder out and replace the insulation several times a day. His heating system consisted of a space heater in his bedroom. That was also the only sheetrocked room in the house. The rest, including the future attic was at the mercy of a wood stove. I was the guest of honor on the living room sofa. If I desired heat, it meant getting up several times in the night to stoke the fire box and refuel it. Quite oddly, I was not required to run the firewood procedure by Roger at 0200 hrs.

John didn’t have a filter for his water yet so it smelled like sewage and was decidedly discolored. It was the hardest thing I ever did to take a shower in it. I insisted on going over to Roger’s to get drinking water. Naturally-you guessed it- I had to run that by Roger first.

Hunting involved getting up at the screech of dawn and chaining up to go over Chief Joseph’s Pass at about 80,000 feet above sea level.  “Hunting” was in crunchy white, 24 inch deep snow 100+ miles away. They had a greasy spoon over there in that podunk town too where I was allowed to buy breakfast for John. He’d graciously agreed to be my guide and food taster by now. Business was slow in winter and I was a welcome diversion.  We did this for two days. We also never saw any deer and it was about 20 degrees below civilized out. Did you know your snot freezes in your nose in that environment?

The third day dawned with thick, new snow and Roger suggested John and I should go out and cruise the roads for road-kill deer since I didn’t feel like driving so far. John felt that was a sooooper idea and suggested roads in the vicinity of restaurants.  I could see where this was heading. They also suggested I buy their resident hunting licenses so I could load up on lots of roadkill to take home. By now I’d heard the one phrase over ten thousand times. If I so much as suggested that I was going to go down to town to get smokes, Barb or John would chime in with “Sounds good but I’d run it by Roger first.” The same stock phrase emerged if I contemplated calling Cupcake, taking a shower, or going anywhere in the neighborhood to see other friends who had moved over there. I never succeeded in seeing his (and my) old friend Nick. Maybe Roger murdered him. I couldn’t even get his telephone number out of John. His suggestion was -you guessed it-You may want to check with Roger first.  Roger would demur and say “All in good time, Buckwheat. You just got here.  Maybe we’ll have a poker game”. At some point I started trying to interject humor into this. I proposed going to the bathroom and asked John if that required checking in with Roger. I got a queer look and “Huh? Why would you need to do that?” The humor was completely lost on him.

After sitting around all day the fourth day doing nothing, I elected to call a friend and find out how soon he was bugging out for elk hunting back in Washington. This Montana  hunting gig required checking in with Roger too much. I did it on my cel phone (in spite of the roaming charges) to avoid having to get Roger’s permission for the land line. It made little difference. John overheard the conversation and promptly called Roger up and told him I was leaving to go back. Roger roared back from his job site and started telling me I couldn’t leave because I hadn’t even been there a week yet. Yeah, the hunting hadn’t been the best advice, the weather sucked and there didn’t seem to be a lot of road kill lying about, but all that would change soon. Things were looking up. If we had to, there was a State park up the road a piece and we could go up there and poach one. Then the dreaded “I forbid you to leave” escaped his lips. Anyone who knows me would realize the futility of that. Ever sarcastic, I asked if I needed to run my departure by him.

This was starting to feel like the Hotel California and I was getting the creeps. After arguing for what seemed like an hour, I informed Roger that I didn’t need to run it by him to get permission to leave. That was my first and last trip to visit them. I found out several years later that Barb got tired of running it by Roger too  and took the kids and left. Since the kids are well over twenty one by now, I strongly suspect they are not required to run it by dad to do anything now either.  Last I heard, John and the squirrels were the last ones checking in with Roger on a regular basis.

While it’s terribly humorous in retrospect, it was painful for me to see all the adults who had gradually become pawns in his game. I got past the clock incident quickly but the longer I stayed, the longer the list of what could or couldn’t be done without running it by Roger grew. At the end it was as I mentioned- you can check out any time you like but you can never leave. Roger also knew I packed heat so he was careful not to get between me and the door.

I don’t talk with Roger anymore. One of my best hunting friends passed suddenly in 1996 from congestive heart failure. He didn’t even bother to tell me even though he came over for the funeral. I found out 6 months later in September when I discovered the phone had been disconnected. I called Roger thinking he might have a clue as to the meaning.  His rejoinder? “Oh yeah, Willie.  Bummer, huh? I guess I should have called or something.” What was always left unanswered was whether he ever ran that one by himself.

About asknod

VA claims blogger
This entry was posted in Humor and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Welcome to the Hotel Montana

  1. Robert G says:

    Sounds like he worked for the govt(control freak)and didn’t take his meds. Can we really choose our friends and NOT our family? Hope the divorce was amicable..

  2. Pingback: Let's Run It By Roger | asknod | Hunting Reviews

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