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Story ID:660
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Only Here
Location:Butte Montana USA
Person:Kath at Broken Tree Ranch
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by Kathe Campbell

While the rest of America sweltered, sheets of rain, lightning and earsplitting thunder bumpers warned me to log off and go to bed. My donkeys had fled to their barn, so I locked up and made rounds with cheery chatter. Animals like singing and comforting upbeat sounds when Mother Nature puts on her show. Old Thor crashed and rumbled as my big brave pup and a bunch of scaredy-cat felines clung to their old mom like there'd be no tomorrow. Let a bear wander around these grounds, and Corky, my Keeshond, is all macho and full of heroics keeping us safe and sound. Let there be one little boom from on high, and he melts into a puddle of terror.

I find myself the keeper of Broken Tree Ranch's flame these days, just three months after the loss of my beloved husband. So my comforting little menagerie and I jumped in bed for chin-chopper and tummy time. Surely you're up to speed with me on that one, or haven't I educated anybody yet? Noisy torrents of rain finally gave the roof a rest, and everyone settled into their own favorite places. Except Cork. For some reason, Cork wanted extra comfort, and I'm the gal who lavishes it.

As I sleepily watched late local news between my toes, Cork began to shake the bed while scratching a pesky itch. But there was nary a flea. He was experiencing foreboding tremors while leering at me through panicky black wide-open lenses. Earthquake experts write of wild and tame animal underground premonions often. Dear God Almighty, my pup was right, for it was the onset of an earthquake like we used to have on the west coast when I was a kid. They were earth shaking then and nothing had changed. I patted my pup gently and whispered that everything would be fine.

Something fell upstairs in the loft, and two ceramic ducks perched atop my armoire flew down, landing safely on the carpet. The kitties had disappeared, and Cork had given into his demise as he lay horror-stricken ogling my every move. But there were no moves, just prayers to the good Lord that we wanted to stop and get off now. Finally, the TV news team announced that it seemed southwest Montana was in the midst of an earthquake while Cork and I jiggled uncontrollably. Well duh !!

After what seemed minutes, the quake stopped suddenly. It had registered a moderate 5.6 for 20 seconds, some 40 years after the devastating 7.2 Yellowstone disaster. This time my mountain was to lay only 13 miles from the 12 mile deep epicenter. It felt good commiserating and comparing notes with my Yellowstone and Elk Park families on the phone. There will be great tales to tell very disappointed granddaughters after their return from church camp. A local bar owner said he didn't feel a thing until he saw full beer mugs dancing down the bar. There's a lesson here, but I'll not prognosticate the virtues of church camp vs. the local taverns.

I jumped from my bed to check out uncertain surroundings. The wagon wheel chandelier in the dining room still swayed and a ceramic donkey lost an ear as it met the kitchen sink. After lesser aftershocks, all became still as welcome sleep enfolded us, the comforting late night comics droning on until morning. I'm learning to be a big girl now despite my 73 years of dependence on strong men.


Epilogue: Montana rates #4 in earthquakes, even over California and the west coast. As I write today, I'm again rocking and rolling this verrrry mmiiiinnnute in the wake of aftershocks. I am also watching for my beloved wild mountain birds to return, but that's a whole new story.

- July 25, 2005