As in other parts of the country yesterday, we were aware not only of what was happening in NY and DC, but that everywhere, military planes, ambulances, and emergency personnel began to move in place and take actions. Sirens from the firestation next to where I work were going off through the morning. Near where I live in Bozeman, Montana, the resort of Big Sky had a meeting going on of FEMA personnel and emergency and safety personnel from states all over the US. When the Trade Center was hit, and the airport closed here, military planes came in to the airport at Bozeman to ferry the FEMA personnel and others who were at the meeting back to NYC, DC, and their other home states. Because Malmstrom Air Force Base is in Great Falls, on the highline, and missile silos are located in Montana, there is a strategic response happening, even in Montana.
Montana seems far from everyone, but we are virtually as close as anyone else in this technologically connected world. The town of Sidney, Montana, in the lyrics, is in the north east part of the state, near the North Dakota border. The northern part near Canada is called the "highline". My father and many of his relatives left the Scranton, Pennsylvania, coal mines, to go to Montana to work for the Great Northern Railway, on the highline. My father followed his older brothers Peter and James, and other relatives, to go to Montana when he was 14 and work on the railway.
Here is a photo of one of James and Peter Flynn's friends, who would commute on the old dirt roads from Scranton, PA, to Musselshell, Montana. He drove this old Harley with a side car. I believe the man's name was Carl Schmidt. Left to right, the people in the photo are Carl Schmidt, Peter Flynn, Molly Flynn (Pete's wife), and James Flynn.
I have a large stack of letters my mother saved from the time she met my dad and when they were married. In that stack, I found the letter in which he first told her that he loved her. He beat around the bush for two pages until he got to it on page three. The date is November 23, 1939, and he was writing from the depot at Judith Gap, where he was working. My mother was living with his older brother Pete, because Molly was ill and needed extra help. My sisters from his first marriage were living with Molly and Pete, and my mother was taking care of the children. He wrote, "I've missed your letters from the last few days, and I'm darn lonesome this morning. Wish I could be down there with you this beautiful thanksgiving day... I was dead tired when I got here. I'm staying at the hotel, and there is a Beer Joint in Connection, they play the Nickel phonograph all day long. Didn't get much sleep yesterday but suppose I will get used to it in time... This midnight to light am shift isn't so hot But it pays 75 cents an hour, and I'm closer to home so will stick it out as long as I can.... Guess I better stop crabbing as you'll think I do nothing else but complain. (he starts to close the letter, then begins another page) I am just wondering, Vivian, if you will think me a cad if I tell you something I have tried to keep secret for quite some time. I know I haven't the right to say this but can't keep it any longer. Wanted to talk to you the last time I was down there and I think you knew it too. Well my dear I love you and have ever since last spring when I got to know you and found out what a wonderful girl you really are. It's said now. It has grown upon me more since I left this last time. I think of you every day I just couldn't help but tell you Vivian and hope you don't feel angry toward me for doing so. There is no harm in my loving you ........ if it's your wish we will say no more. But you can't stop me from loving you. Give my love to Molly, Pete, and the Girls, and please write soon. With love to you, Leo"
Thanks for the song, Wolfgang.
Alice Flynn in Montana