our precious democracy

Nothing is more certain this time of year than the tsunami of advertising- one thing candidates like to do in Montana is prove their “ranch cred” as I’m coining it. The senate race is particularly heated, with mountains of money spent on TV, Radio, and mailers flooding the state. Allen is going around blurting out the campaign mantras he keeps hearing on Youtube ads. If I mention a particular candidate for the senate, he says, “That guy is just a cheerleader for China!”

Here’s a candidate for senate, Billy Jorgensen, who epitomizes the tone of the campaign: https://youtu.be/M7EM_V5_xac

Helena, part 2

just some pics from our trip to Helena, after our visit to the capitol

The part of town with the famous cathedral is full of old houses, tree-lined streets and churches.

This building was first a synagogue, then property of the city, then the Catholic church bought it; it’s right across the street from the cathedral
The pastor at the Presbyterian church is a fan of heartwarming cliches.
This building went from church to apartment building, according to the next door neighbors- though they weren’t sure. It’s still kept in spiffy order, with fresh, red paint. But why are the windows painted over?
Ol’ Morris knew how to live.
all are welcome!
The Cathedral of Helena. Not a place for t-shirts and spandex.

We wanted to go inside and see the stained glass with the afternoon sun shining through, but mass was just starting. Lots of friendly-looking folks passed us on the way in- and they were all well-dressed, like churchgoers in days of yore.

Allen with SE-facing view of Helena and valley

Father Robs Son of Sporting Glory

(my dad likes these reports from the ol’ football pitch- hence I keep ’em coming.)

our typical Montana, game-day breakfast

Yesterday evening I was in a funk. What should have been an enjoyable afternoon of Hawks soccer- a local game on our beautiful, thick-grass field by the pastures of Stevensville, perfect Indian-summer weather, and the whole roster present to provide fresh subs, plus an opponent we’d beaten by one goal in an exciting away game, down on our turf to exact revenge- all the elements were there for a great rematch as Owen joined the team for pre-game workout and I found a spot to throw my towel on the lush grass.

Then the coach came to the parents and asked who would be willing to be a line judge.

“I can do that,” I volunteered. Coach was pleased and surprised, and asked if I knew how to do the job.

“Yeah, I’ve reffed before, in Japan. Line judge and head referee both.”

“Well, we’ll have to get you into the system in that case.”

But I can tell you now, I won’t be volunteered into any system. Here’s why:

This is the team we beat up in Poulson- the game I described before where each goal we scored was son matched by the opponent’s equalizer, until it became 5-5 and we plugged away until Owen scored his fourth- the go-ahead for the 1-point win. Yesterday’s game was very similar. Our midfielder Caden scored the first goal, he got a back pass from the right winger and looped it over the keeper from 20 yards. That was nice as it was Caden’s first of the year, and he’s the coach’s son. Owen put the next one in, a well timed and placed right-footer on the ground that hugged the left post. “That was a slow kick but I didn’t think the keeper would get to it, ’cause there was so much open space on the left.”

Owen put in two more in the first half and Poulson managed one. I thought this would be a home-game walk in the park. O already had his hat trick and things were running smooth. Shame on me, though, as these are the last thoughts that should be in the head of an official- speculating on how many points the home team is going to win by and how many more goals will be netted by his son, and worse, calmly enjoying the game. I’d told myself early on to “just concentrate on play and don’t think about the game!” but it’s hard.

The only two obvious errors I made were critical.

The first: Near the middle of the field, but on our half, our defenders brought the line forward and the Poulson striker was offsides by a foot or two. Their midfielder advanced the ball which struck one of our players and then bounced into the open field, in front of said striker. That’s it- the minute he touches the ball it should be called as offsides, but I didn’t call it. Of course he brought the ball down and scored, while I wondered, “Hmm. Was he offsides? Probably. Oops.”

Now I’ll skip the game details and get right to my boner move that probably cost us the game. Late in the second half, Poulson had netted three goals using the same method each time. Their two best players were the center midfielder and right wing. Their keeper or defenders get it to the big midfielder, he brings the ball up to just before the midline and then makes a nice, long pass up the right side. The right wing is faster than our left defender, so he waltzes past to the ball which has slowed down nicely in the heavy, tall grass. Our keeper is loathe to come out of the box so the winger takes the ball up and scores an easy one- three times. Now the game is getting real interesting- just like the barn-burner two weeks ago in Poulson. It’s 4-4 and Owen has three goals. Will he score the go-ahead? Will our defense fall for the same trick from these Poulson one-trick ponies? STOP THINKING ABOUT IT! You’re the line-judge for crying out loud!

Not as an excuse, but just an explanation for why I was shirking my duty a bit:

  1. The Poulson defense made no attempt to come forward and hold a line, forcing the Hawks offsides. There weren’t any plays that I could raise an offsides flag on. (and of course, in my head, I’m screaming, “Take advantage of this defensive oversight, boys!”) So I relaxed a bit and let my guard down.
  2. It’s rec-league youth soccer, not a world cup qualifier where refs have to fear for their lives (like I said, explanation not excuse).
  3. The Hawks are fighting like mad to get that winning goal, and of course I’m cheering silently for my own son to put it in.

And then it happened. The Hawks advanced the ball. The assistant coach’s talented midfielder son Hayden gets it to Owen at the last moment. There is a moment of confusion with Poulson defenders swarming down on O, but he manages to break free enough for a quick blast from 15 yards, which slams against the crossbar, then bounces down hard onto the ground and back onto the field. I was so absorbed by the exciting play that I forgot to concentrate and watch to see if the ball might have hit the ground behind the goal line, then spun out- which would be a goal. Then three of the Hawks players, including Owen, looked at the ref, then at me. The ref was looking at me. It’s my call!! I was stunned. I waved off what I now thought was probably a goal and indicated “play on!” to the ref. Owen and his teammates couldn’t believe it. I robbed him of the go-ahead goal.

The excitement continued. Later we indeed managed the go-ahead when Hayden brought it down the left side, taking two defenders with him, and made a high-speed, perfectly placed pass to Owen who struck it in from just in front of the goal. Alas, Poulson answered with their bread and butter play, twice (!!) to go ahead in the final minutes and take the 6-5 win- just the margin we’d won by in Poulson.

I apologized to the boys after the game. “Sorry guys, I think I robbed you of one.”

The boys and coaches already knew it- even the parents and Hawks girls volleyball team on the sidelines cheering on knew it. But everyone was friendly about it. A couple of the boys said, “That’s OK.” A couple girls on the volleyball team said, “Good job guys,” as we passed (I think one had her eye on O.)

But I felt crushed. Took Owen’s probable winning goal away from him. In the car ride home I learned from O that the ball hadn’t hit the ground behind the goal line; it actually hit the second crossbar that holds up the netting- well inside the goal (so even more obviously a goal)! Ugh.

Owen was a good sport about it- more worried that I felt bad than angry about losing. A better sport than I was at that age.

Life goes on!

Helena, part 1

Owen had a soccer game in Helena last Saturday.

seems the sky often looks like this on the eastern side of the continental divide (click for big)

This was a rematch against the team that clobbered us 14-1 in our very first game. We weren’t looking for a win- just something respectable. The first ten minutes were exciting as we kept it to a draw and had just as many scoring opportunities as Helena. The parents along the sidelines sat up straighter and paid attention- “hey, just maybe….” and in fact, the first solid shot on goal was by the Hawks: Owen blasted a right-footer under heavy coverage at 22 yards and it just missed, hitting the right post. O later told me he forgot to compensate for the wind.

Our hopes were dashed soon after when the Helena big boys dismantled our defense and converted on an easy opportunity from 15 yards. The rest of the game they dominated again, but we kept it respectable. Unlike the hot day back in August, playing 9 a side on the slow, tall-grass pitch, today was nice and cool, 11 a side, on a harder, fast field. Coach kept subbing in fresh legs and with Jason and the rest of our defense stymieing many Helena advances, we held them to 5 points. Trouble was, we rarely got the ball up to our forward line and then Owen and the wingers had to get it by the impenetrable wall- 3 defenders of average height 6’1″. O managed to put one in, however. Our forward line pressured their defenders enough to force a poorly placed/timed ball and O ran in for the easy gimme. Final score, 5-1.

After the game we drove out east to Canyon Ferry Lake.

After lunch we went to the Capitol.

Now son, you’re gonna have a little civics lesson here whether you like it or not!

Thomas Francis Meagher statue

Meagher was an Irish rebel, captured, tried and sentenced to hang, but managed to be sent to Australia instead. Escaped and found his way to New York. Formed an Irish brigade in the civil was and rose to rank of General. The flip side to this illustrious bio is that he organized a militia to subdue the uppity local Indian tribes in Montana, upset somehow about losing a few acres of land. The militia never got around to fighting Indians in the General’s time. Still, it’s the thought that counts- sorry General, that’s gonna cost you your statue in this day and age.

do you see any gallant union soldiers on horseback in those blueprints? neither do I

Fox News will be around to cover the unveiling of the tribal flags and demolition of the General’s statue- or will it be ABC news?

Why are ABC and FOX on the same car? Silly, they all work together- and you thought there was a difference!



walkin’ the dog

Hi Y’all.

Sorry for the postings drought. We are keeping busy.

(click on little photos for bigger version)

Three weeks ago we left our digs in Hamilton and headed seven miles north to do a home-sitting stint at the Hollingsworths. As you recall, we’ve done two workaway stays here- this time the workaway load is smaller, as we take care of the animals. 

Finn the border collie/alsatian/newfoundland needs to be walked thrice daily.

It’s another dull day for the ruminants. They like to mosey over to the humans and dog walking the road. Finn can scare the deer and horses, but the buffalo and cattle just think he’s a curiosity.


It’s a different environment here- not like the corner house in Hamilton, leafy pleasantville, USA. Now it’s woodsy wild-west Rockies bordering farmland. On Finn’s rambunctious walk you’d see cattle, buffalo, horses, eagles and hawks, alpacas, owls, Canada geese, cranes, peacocks, and of course deer. (everywhere in the valley there are deer, in town and country, who come down to be near humans and try to escape the constant threat of predators).

We saw a black bear snooping around the neighbors backyard last week, looking for birdfeeders I reckon. The bark of the dog, Finn, changes quite a bit when he goes from barking at a deer to barking when a bear is present. One bark says, “This is my territory.” The other says, “Let me in the house!”

But when Finn confronts another dog, it’s usually the other dog doing the barking. 

Old Blue doesn’t bark- he howls. The perfect dog to have on a lot with a barn, a trailer and two confederate flags!


A storm blew through the West earlier in the month. It got cold enough to fire up the woodstove at the Hollingsworths. Here’s a town somewhere east of Bozeman during the storm:

fire danger!

In addition to walking the dog, the boys had to take care of the cats, goats and chickens. The cats and chickens are easy, and so are the goats, except milking Star requires just the right touch. Star was a bit skittish at first about letting us interlopers milk her. It began as a three man job: Owen would feed her grain and keep her head in the stock, Allen would hold the pail so she didn’t kick it over, and I would milk. 

Anika, on the other hand, was a breeze to milk. The boys had no trouble with her, so I’d leave and take anxious Finn on his morning walk.


Next: a visit to the State Capitol of Helena

filler post

Happy September 11, everyone!

This post is just filler. We are at the Hollingsworths again keeping the animals fed and happy. I meant to get a regular post out this morning but we’ve got to milk the goats, walk the dog and such, then I’ve got stuff to do in Hamilton (car papers- thank you cousins!), then over to Stevensville to be briefed on our next housesitting gig. Then tomorrow we’re up to Kalispell for two (!) soccer games in one day, and I’m making the boys a big birthday dinner on Sunday, plus a lot of miscellany junk so I’ll try to get a post out this weekend but it may have to wait until Monday or Tuesday.

hbd boys

Today is O and A’s birthday! It’s a cool, but clear and beautiful day in the Bitterroot.


  (click for bigger)

Yes, that’s a good dusting of snow up there. Farther up the canyons, and down by the mountains that flank the south end of Lake Como, it was more than a dusting; more like a dumping. It was cold enough last night to fire up the wood stove. 

Yesterday afternoon, after the morning storm. Winds were strong- a tree fell on a powerline and we were without power for a while. 

Allen and I went out to pick up some fried chicken at the store.

Hunkering down with kitty.

expressions of pure joy\

Without their big brother, sister and mom around, and the regular blueberry cheesecake that we order from our favorite pastry shop, I thought the boys might need a little birthday pick-me-up. I got them some chips, and the perfect Montana gift: new work gloves!



Next: back to work after all the birthday nonsense.

First they scored, then we scored, then they scored…

then we scored, then they scored, then we scored, and finally…

(click for bigger pics)

goodbye to seniors
coach recognizing one of our 3 players graduating this year

Saturday we had our third game. Our opponent came all the way down from Kalispell, and they are our first that is also a co-ed team- 3 girls. Kalispell managed a 6-1 defeat of our Monday opponent, whom we beat 5-1. With that in mind, and after two lopsided games, we were hoping now for a good, close one. And that’s exactly how it turned out.

Judging by the stature and general skill level of the Kalispell team in pre-game warm-ups, I figured we had a pretty good chance today to make it respectable, if not put another win on the ledger. Two minutes into the game, I had my doubts. We couldn’t manage two consecutive passes, and Kalispell came down, fooled our defense to get close to the goal, then back-passed to #11, their center-midfielder blonde-braids girl with a booming shot, for an easy goal. 0-1. Maybe the lads (and lasses) just needed a kick in the pants, because they shaped up after that and made some crisp passes and good runs to get open. Only two minutes after that low point, Owen took a standard shot from right center at 18 yards and netted one in the corner. 1-1.

From then it was about 15 minutes of back and forth until Kalispell came back and blonde-braids almost netted another, if not for James, who ran to cut her off and force a wide shot. Still, Kalispell, the bigger, stronger and faster team, kept pressuring us on our end and managed to go ahead at about 22 minutes. Then it was our turn to put on the full-pitch press and force an unwise, rushed pass from one of their outside defenders toward the middle. Owen sensed that one coming and rushed to cut off the pass and drill in the easy equalizer. (Later O said, “My legs were hurting so much then, I almost let that one go, but something told me to go for it.”)

Another Kalispell goal required another answer from the Hawks. This one was the sweetest. There are two boys playing defense for Kalispell that look like they should be in the rugby, or football league. And one of them looks about 28 yrs. old, with his big limbs and full beard. I called him the lumberjack. The other, without the beard, was equally big, and very fast- easily faster than Owen, who is no slowpoke himself. After Owen’s second goal, I thought that the opposing coach should have put No-beard (we’ll call him Fred)  on Owen, and permanently mark him, but Kalispell kept their original defensive set-up. Fortunately for Owen, he often found himself one-on-one with a chubby, weaker defender. However, whenever O passed Fatty, Fred swooped in to take over. More than a couple times Owen had a chance for a solo run, but Fred raced in to cut off the shot. So when Owen got a sharp, difficult cross from our right winger Michael, and Fred was on him like glue, it was glorious to see O trap the ball on his chest and fight Fred for a stretched-out toe punch for the hat trick. 3-3 at the half!

Amid all this scoring, I should mention that James was holding things together as usual in the backfield. Kalispell may have had managed 3 points in only a half, but they had far more opportunities than that, and many more than our offense, but James spoiled their chances with regularity. Speed is so important for a defender; James can allow himself to come up and approach the midfield and be a playmaker, rather than sit back on the line, because he’s so quick to get back when needed. Here James saves us when an ill-timed pass goes right to the opponent, in what should have been a good shot opportunity, if not an easy goal: https://youtu.be/uYsYM_03JBc

The second half began and Owen was substituted for the first time. I thought, hmm, maybe our coaches (a new guy with lots of experience joined last Monday) had a plan to mix things up against the Kalispell defense, then put Owen in to throw them off. It turns out that O had requested the rest- he was exhausted.

Right after O came in, Kalispell’s big striker got one step ahead of James and blasted a low, left-footer into the net. Again, Owen answered with an equalizer- this time he passed one defender on a deft move, then raced the next defender just enough to get a decent angle on a shot he set himself up for, unrushed and well placed. 4-4.

Two minutes to go and Kalispell put their best players, big defender and all, up front for maximum pressure and scoring opportunity. If we could just work it up to our forward line they’d be super-vulnerable- Owen wouldn’t have to deal with Freddy Wheels or The Lumberjack!

Alas, the gamble worked for Kalispell and they scored, netting the go-ahead with just over a minute to go.

Naturally, the Kalispell coach brought his big boys back to the defense to shut down our forward line and run the clock out. Nevertheless, Owen got one more good chance! In a carbon copy of his 4th goal, he sped by his defender and raced down the right side. Again, he didn’t rush things and waited for the good shot. This time the defense was pressuring and covering all angles, so O attempted to lift it over the keeper. It just grazed the crossbar and missed high.

Final score, Kalispell 5, Bitterroot 4.

After the 反省会 (post-game wrap-up meeting) I patted O on the back for a job well done.

-Hey. You got subbed after the half today. Were the coaches planning something special? (I’d noticed that Joe, our new assistant coach, had been sitting the whole time with Owen talking to him.)

-No, I asked for that rest!


-Yes. You know, I think I need about 3 days off, because every time I play, if I play hard, my muscles in my leg and back start to hurt. Today the back of my right leg was killing me.

-And what was coach Joe telling you?

-That I didn’t have to beat that defender (Fred) with pure speed. If I could get in front of him I could block him instead.

-Yes, and force him to foul you. Well, tomorrow you don’t have to play if you don’t want (It’s pick-up soccer at the high school with the big boys.) Take a rest.

“I was thinking,” said O, “I was playing a bit lazy the first fifteen minutes, because our breakfast was too heavy.” (We’re back at the Hollingsworths, and this morning we had an all-American pancakes/eggs/bacon breakfast.) “I was thinking I would say that excuse to you, but then I thought it wasn’t a good one. Then my legs started to really hurt, and I knew I had a good excuse for not playing my best.”

-But you still played well.

-I think I made those goals because I didn’t have the energy today. If I had full energy, I would have missed more shots, because of nerves. Instead, I didn’t care enough to worry about it.

And I think of my days in youth soccer- I was pretty good, but a terrible finisher. Passing, positioning and defense was my forte, but put me in front of the goal, on a breakaway, just me verses the keeper, and the adrenaline and nerves caused me to shank all my shots!


Goodbye Hamilton

Sniffle… Actually, we’ll be pretty close- right up the road in Victor for a couple weeks. Close enough to come down and shop at the Hamilton IGA, our favorite store, or play at the municipal tennis courts. Still, I’ll miss being just a few blocks from downtown and having those beautiful, leafy streets all around. 




When Charlie and Richard were here, we went down to Napp’s for a burger. At the intersection I asked them, “Hey, have you guys seen ‘Stay Safe’ yet? It’s really good.” 

-No, we haven’t seen it.

-It’s still playing in town here. Check it out! 

I had them bamboozled for at least 3/4 of a second. 

We won’t have to come all the way to Hamilton for Owen’s soccer practices, which are in Corvallis (heart of the valley). And we’ll be much closer to the games up in Stevensville. 

A quiet Corvallis evening at practice’s end. The good ol’ 反省会 (hanseikai- evaluation meeting), where you discuss the practice and what sort of things need to be improved- Owen is a pro at sitting through these- the 10-minute American version is a snap.

Why a picture of soda pop? Because of the bubbling, spitting, effervescent beauty of it. And since Richard brought bags of goodies from Uwajimaya that included green tea and barley packets, it’s so long to soda pop, public-enemy #1 in America, health-wise. Sooo good, though, especially in summer. 

See ya, Hamilton kids. Owen and I will pop by for a lemonade after tennis one of these days. Hope you’re still out!

Pretty sure I’m on a list

Has anyone here had to go through the security warning crap before being able to access this site? I’m forced to click a few extra links (this site is potential poison, click here if you really want to take the risk, etc.) sometimes to access dwshumway.com- an apolitical website for children’s book junk and a blog where my family and friends can see what I and my kids are up to. Maybe all kind of viewers avoid this site for fear of being put on the TSA watchlist. Without the blocking, I coulda been a contenda in the children’s book world!

I only partially jest. Look at what Amazon does to me. So far, I’ve had 15 reviews on Amazon for my book, The Letter Thief. Every single one is a five-star review. Now, my average star rating is down because 37% of reviews are 3 star reviews. Huh? Since when? Now, here is what you get on Amazon for The Letter Thief:

Sensitive guy I am, I want to find out what exactly makes my magnum opus a mediocre book, in the minds of some unappreciative readers, who now constitute over 1/3 of my reviews. So I click the 3-star reviews to see what these yahoos are saying, and…

Voila! Look at the bottom. No reviews match your current selections, i.e.- no 3-star reviews. Nevertheless, I’ve gone from 100% 5-star to 63%.

Scary warnings about my innocent little site; mediocre reviews that actually don’t exist; gmail mixing up my mails (mail that doesn’t come to inbox; mail I may never see because the sender is mismatched with the subject and the content, etc.). WordPress/Amazon/Google- all part of the BigTech Cabal.

I gotta be on a list. May as well go full Braveheart now. FREEDOOOOOOOM!