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Thinking Out Of The Box

Thinking Out Of The Box

Spending time in the out of doors, and creating unique food recipes has always topped my list of life’s interests. However, when I added photography, discovered the therapy found in fly-fishing, and ran away from home to join the fly-fishing lodge circuit, I knew I had found my true calling in life.  After Just two years of combining the aforementioned ingredients together into a recipe for a late-in-life adventure, I found myself in line with certified, culinary trained chefs to interview at Rock Creek Cattle Company, which is the most prestigious lodge in Montana.  On a snowy day in mid December 2010, I was sitting in the stunningly rustic themed reception area, looking out an enormous picture window at Rock Creek flowing by the club’s fair-weather outside dining deck. I was waiting for the lodge manager, with samples of my sauces and hand-blended seasonings on the coffee table in front of me.  I was Still trying to accept as reality, the fact that I was really here at  this 28,000 acre working cattle ranch, with it’s own private natural lake, helicopter landing pad, and Tom Doak golf course, as a serious candidate for the position of Head Chef at Rock Creek’s members only Cattleman’s Club Restaurant.

I do not follow horoscopes, yet for the most part Aquarius traits fit this January water baby like a pair of neoprenes. Yes, I guess I could be defined as a creative idealist, often wanting to view life how I believe it should be rather than the reality it is. A “rebel just because” doing battle against “my own worst critic” that at times, fights hard to hold me back.  A  non-conventional free-spirit who is happiest when working independently with few boundaries, where my creativity can flow-free and I am able to change course in mid stream.

My allure to be around, and in lakes and rivers started at an early age. My family’s first home was a small cabin with an outside privy, eight miles west of Eureka Montana on my grand parent’s ranch. Just two yards away from our cabin was a year-round creek. It was October and I was three months short of my second birthday.  My mother turned her back and I escaped out the door with nothing on but underpants, making a bee-line for the 50 degree creek in back of the house.  My father saw me and pulled me out.  After that day, I was tethered to the cloths line by the back strap on my bib overhauls, able to run to and fro as far as the line would allow, until my father could get a fence built to keep me in the yard.

When I was five years old, my family moved into town and starting around the age of eight years old, I would grab a pole, dig some worms, cross the highway, and hike down over the hill to the Tobacco River. I doubt that I even told mom where I was off to. My mother let my siblings and me out of the house in the morning, and as long as we showed up for dinner in one piece, no questions were asked as to what we had been doing all day.  Like all children growing up in rural Montana back in the days of “entertain yourself, and do it outside”; it seemed as though our parents never worried.

My grandmother on my father’s side of our family had an amazing talent for baking. She entered every category in the Lincoln County fair. Not only baking, she also entered the canning, sewing, knitting and gardening categories.  She always took home the most blue ribbons, along with the highly prized title of Lincoln County’s “My Fair Lady’. Even though grandma always out-did her closest “rival for the title”, the same woman could not win more than two years in a row.  So every third year the title went to the runner-up by default. Grandma Bina always had her title reinstated once again after year three for the next two years. She had recipes published in cookbooks, and won several contests. I remember her entering the Pillsbury bake-off with her “Ten Thousand Dollar Rolls”.  This was way back when the name of her recipe fit the top cash prize. Now, I think watching grandma work so hard year after year to come up with winning recipes, and witnessing her competitive spirit continue through failures, attributed to my obstinate drive to maneuver around life’s obstacles with no solid destination in mind, just an inherent desire to leave my footprint in the world.

My mother was an excellent meat and potatoes cook and I picked up cooking basics from her, along with inheriting her strong and independent nature. My father was a logging truck mechanic and welder, learning his trade in the army. Since Eureka at that time was truly off the beaten path, it took a long time to order in parts.  My father had the exceptional ability to take a damaged or broken truck part, go to his lathe, and reproduce it. I have a home movie from the 1950’s of dad demonstrating a hay loader he designed and built for my grandfather’s cattle ranch, along with a ground leveling machine for the Department of Agriculture.

I took after my father’s side of the family in looks, and I do believe the genes passed down to me from my father and grandmother also attributed to the double whammy of what I long ago self-diagnosed as “restless mind syndrome”. For most of my life, I often thought my inability to switch off my mind was a curse rather than a blessing. Especially on the countless nights I lay awake until long after midnight being bombarded with racing thoughts, or having light bulbs pop on in my head hours before daylight.  A few years ago, as I crossed the menopause bridge to the other side of mid life, the change in hormones made my sleeplessness chronic and I simply gave up the notion that I would ever again be capable of enjoying a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

To be continued…………

Clark Fork River 2009

First fish caught on a fly.  Happy as a little girl!

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9 comments on “Thinking Out Of The Box

  1. Great bio PJ. You seem to have embraced life fro the get go

  2. Aquarius traits, photography, cooking we share a lot… I loved this story! You have a special spirit and I am going to love following your posts! I hope to see you sometime!

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