Ennis Montana 30 September
Walking along the main street in Ennis it is not difficult to picture horses tied to the post, a card game in full swing in the saloon and a bow-legged deputy leaning on the verandah of the jailhouse, drawing gently on a cheroot. It used to be like that but virtually everything that is currently on view has been either built or renovated in the last 35 years. It is not as though there are any planning restrictions. It is more that Ennis people have ensured that their revenues from tourism are maximised. My first stop, at 4.30, was the SALOON, where Kelly and Brad, the owners, were enjoying a beer with Dennis ( from Ennis ) and his wife Terry. Although they were fully booked, they were very keen to welcome me back later, an invitation I accepted, on the condition that I was introduced to some local people.
It was a bit of a struggle to find accommodation. This was not something I thought would be an issue at this time of year. It turns out it is hunting season on top of the fact that Ennis has some of the best trout fishing in the USA, on the Madison River. So the motel car park is full of pick-up trucks which contain either fishing tackle or serious weapons. The couple who run the show are delightful and I was also made very welcome at the local library, where there is free wi-fi. So it was in fairly buoyant mood that I set out for a beer at 7.30.
Unfortunately, Brad, Kelly, Dennis and Terry had cracked on in the interim. They were still very friendly but were not making huge sense and doing so noisily. Dennis had moved on to the local whiskey. He didn’t quite say ‘bartender, pour me another red-eye’, but it was delivered to him as though he had. It made conversation difficult. Brad and Kelly were in giggly mode. Dennis turned out to be another who has been out of work ( he is an electrician ) for 18 months. His wife, Terry, who is a sub-editor for the Madison County Gazette, a publication, incidentally, which makes the Helston Packet look like the Times of London, is now the main breadwinner. Unfortunately, having established those bare facts, there was a good deal of effing and blinding about the fact that the wealthy, having built second homes in the area, now don’t visit and don’t therefore, provide employment for local people. They were a bit more philosophical than some I have met. They seem to appreciate the vagaries of any market based on tourism and, as Terry said, they didn’t mind cashing in when the tourists were here.
It was, therefore, with some relief that I was bailed out by the arrival of another visitor. Hubert Langersberg is here to enjoy a few days fishing, courtesy of a client. Hubert is a Chartered Accountant from Spokane and by far the most educated an urbane company I have enjoyed on my solo travels. His Dad and his uncle had been forced to flee from the German occupation of The Netherlands. After the war, they decided that it was sufficiently possible for such a situation to occur again, and they took the decision to move. The uncle to Australia and Hubert’s Dad to Texas, neither able to speak a word of English. Hubert’s Dad decided to learn English and to apply for citizenship. The upside was that he was successful but the downside was that he was then drafted and sent to Fort Lewis, north of Seattle. He stayed in the region after he finished in the army, hence Hubert’s Washington roots. Hubert is one of 5 children who have all settled in other states, apart from him. I was amused by a question he asked me. I always say I come from near London, which every American knows. Most have no idea of the geography of Britain and I have had several queries as to how far this is from Liverpool/Manchester/Newcastle. Hubert asked whether I was the Dover side of London ( fine ) or the Stockbridge side. This would not be the place west of London most would select for locational purposes. It is, however, a trout fishing mecca, which Hubert visited in the 1970s.
I did make a mistake about the continental divide. It was very simply stated on a sign at the roadside somewhere east of Butte.
I think I may have a day off people tomorrow. Yellowstone is the second major geographical site of the tour and I’m going to maximise that experience.