Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll chronicles A THIRD OF JULY FOR THE AGES. She writes:

Well, friends, I warned you this Trip Journal would skip around a bit. Didn’t want to be too linear or logical, which I recently learned was racist. We will talk – eventually — about the Third of July. But first, what, you may ask, makes a person just pick up and leave home, living out of a suitcase, for several weeks at a time? Motives vary.

In 2005, Mr. AG and I made a legendary three-week trip for spite. Yes, spite. We felt that the landlord of the condo we had been renting in Palm Springs was gouging overmuch for half a month. Instead of paying the asking price for the last two weeks in December, we would just travel the great state of Texas, plus such “budget” areas (haha) as Newport Beach and La Jolla. We spent roughly twice what we would have spent for the condo, but we showed HIM! Moronic financial decision notwithstanding, we had a grand time from Ft. Worth to South Padre Island to Del Rio, from Galveston to Corpus Christi to Ft. Davis, and on to California.

In 2014, I wrote several columns about a wonderful road trip with my two high school besties, Bonnie and Heather Beresford, to our 50th High School reunion. We had a rollicking good time on that journey, laughing ourselves silly, storing up memories, which now help sustain Bonnie and me since we lost our beloved Heather this spring. No one can possibly predict what amazing chain of events will follow a simple trip, but in that case, the chain led directly to brand-new marriages for two of the three travelers! Holy Cow! I have also mentioned in the past that Mr. AG read and became inspired by William Shatner’s autobiography entitled Just Say Yes and decided that Shatner’s attitude should inform our life going forward.

So one day a Happy Warrior of a Libertarian writer and scholar, John Baden of Gallatin Gateway, Montana (near Bozeman), called and asked if I would be interested in being the guest speaker for his annual 4th of July Eve celebration. Perhaps to seal the deal, he told me, “In past years, we have had seven Nobel Prize winners as speakers.”

Significant pause on my part. And finally, “Uh, John, you DO know – right? – that I am a retired comic and target-shooting Arizona housewife of late late middle age who took 18 years to earn a Bachelor’s Degree. In Speech.” He claimed to be a big fan of the column and unconcerned about my puny academic achievements. He also let drop that he had bought over 50 of my books to give away “like Gideon Bibles.” Max and I Just Said Yes!

On a yearly basis we are incentivized to get the heck out of the Dusty Little Village for several weeks in the summer. We took July 2nd as our target date to arrive at John’s ranch and then planned the whole rest of the trip around that. We left June 20th which was about as much of AZ summer as we cared to experience after a mercifully cool May.

We arrived at the beautiful Baden ranch, having traveled the last 100 miles in intermittent squalls of rain, which persisted on and off for the entire four days we spent in Montana. But the showers alternated with beautiful sweet air, endless blue sky, brilliant sunshine and friendly sunny people, so it was all good. John and his lovely and brilliant wife, Ramona (to whom John refers as his “lifetime achievement award”), were amazing hosts.

First came a tour of the huge rambling ranch house. John built the core area himself from logs he cut himself, you know, like we all did. Haha. Danged impressive! Numerous areas were added as time went by, including a workout room, library, and a variety of sitting areas.

The day of the party dawned sunny and bright and I predicted that it would stay that way. Luckily, I didn’t “bet the ranch.” The native Montanans chuckled, looked at the cloud bank and predicted with stunning accuracy that the showers would arrive about 4:00 o’clock, right as the party was getting started. John said that was two years in a row that American Independence was celebrated in the rain. True, it wasn’t Valley Forge, but it was definitely damp.

No worries. John had previously built a beautiful covered pavilion with attractive wooden tables and benches. Several helper-ladies (hey, Shauna, and Nicoletta) had set up the banquet tables for the delicious catered food: a variety of side dishes, barbecued chicken and beef ribs. Brian, the all-around handyman/sound guy (and trained helicopter mechanic, and gunsmith, because why not?) put up tall outdoor heaters that worked very well. It was a funny experience to have my “audience” standing clustered around each one. I should have SAT while the audience stood as a humorous change of pace…

By some miracle, the sound system also worked perfectly! I would guess that in my long career as a standup, the sound system was decent perhaps 70 percent of the time. Early on in my career I did a show standing in high heels on a folding chair with a Mr. Microphone.

John delivered lovely remarks about the benefits of what he calls his “Trinity” – “responsible liberty, sustainable ecology, and modest prosperity” – and then I did a wee bit of standup and read a couple of my columns that represented John’s talking points. Then a misty-eyed John played an NPR professional reading of the Declaration of Independence. A very moving event. John wasn’t the only one with misty eyes. It was a delight to be among patriots, even including some old-school liberals.

And then we talked, ate, laughed, ate, and bellied up to the groaning board of the dessert table. Guests had brought all manner of awesome desserts, but the absolute highlight was Miss Edie’s Chocolate and Strawberry Cake decorated with the Capitol Building. It was a work of art. It was so fetching that it was all gone by the time Max got there and he had no choice but to settle for four other desserts. Sad.

One inspiring and encouraging takeaway from three days with the Badens was seeing two people a stone’s throw from 80 still totally engaged with life — cheerful, optimistic, active and madly in love. John should definitely get some regular stipend from the Bozeman Visitors’ Bureau. From the day he invited me to the hour we left, he bombarded me with dozens of photos of the ranch and surrounding area. He loves everything Bozeman, indeed everything Montana. I have never met a happier person. He took me to his supermarket and introduced me to his favorite carryout boy, Hans. He is also a fine cook and deadeye shot with a pistol at over 25 yards. Your Ammo Grrrll was no match for him at that distance.

Unless some political disaster intervenes demanding my shrewd analysis, it’s on to the next bend in the journey. What a country! Are we blessed, or what?

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