Life in Havre, Montana (Part I)

Many years ago, forty-nine to be exact, my three-year old son, his father and I moved near Havre, Montana on assignment for the United States Air Force. Havre, located in the north-central part of the state, was once called Bull Hook Crossing, I was told. Quaint sounding, huh? No one seems to know how it got the new name, but it is said to be the namesake of Le Havre in France. At the time we were there, Havre’s population was somewhere around ten-thousand inhabitants, approximately half of which were Blackfeet Indians, so one would certainly not call it a city. But, we were going to a remote radar site, even smaller, thirty-eight miles north of Havre and six miles from the Canadian border as the crow flies.

As we drove the only road north, we stopped on a plateau and looked down below the bluff. Havre lay below all bunched up in a tight grid and beyond, the land stretched out into vast plains where we could see for miles and miles. Farms checkered the landscape and we had to skirt them to reach Havre Air Force Station. It seemed like the end of the earth; bleak and beautifully majestic, all at the same time.

We turned right off the main road, drove a few miles and turned right again, this time for six miles. At this spot, was an old Buffalo run, a cliff the Indians herded buffalo to and drove them off the edge instead of shooting each animal for their food, garments and for whatever it was they used the rest of the animal. Then, from here we turned right again and three miles in was Havre Air Force Station set on a rise. A tiny one-man gate house with a mechanism housing a wooden arm that moved up and down, blocked the road in.

We were met by our sponsor who showed us to our new home, a three-bedroom house with a one-car garage and a six foot high fenced-in back yard. It was pretty nice for a young lieutenant and his family. Little did we know there would be hardships ahead.

Our son, Rob was not interested in seeing a house, so I let him out to play in the back yard while we looked and learned about living here. Twenty-eight houses sat on both sides of the road in a loop which led up to the operations part of the Air Force Station and front gate. Four belonged to officers and the rest were for non-commissioned officers, so we were to become part of one big happy family. We would camp out in the house the first night and our moving van would arrive the next day.

After our sponsor left, I went out to bring in our three-year-old and ask him if he was excited about our new home. I stepped down from the kitchen into the garage, turned and opened the door to the back yard and leaned out. I didn’t see him. I looked left and right and everywhere in between. He wasn’t there. He was gone. The yard was only twenty feet wide by 15 feet deep. Where could he be? How could he have gone anywhere with a six foot fence surrounding him? Needless to say, I panicked and called out for my husband. He came out and we both looked and looked. The only thing in the yard was a clothesline mounted between two poles. Where was our son? I was so upset by this time, I was shaking.

It was then that my husband scanned the horizon and spotted a dark blue dot bobbing up and down way out in the fields behind our housing area, maybe a hundred yards or more away. He cupped his hands and shouted Rob’s name and sure enough, it was him. He’d managed to climb the fence and take off to explore. When we got him back home, I didn’t know whether to hug him or scold him, but from that day forward, I always dressed him in red!

15 Comments

Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, life, musings

15 responses to “Life in Havre, Montana (Part I)

  1. Coco, thanks for this wonderfully evocative essay!

  2. Very nice – you are such a good writer.

  3. A great story – I’m already itching to read Part 2!

  4. I didn’t know this about you Coco. I am on the edge of my seat waiting to read part 2! Love your writing!

  5. John K. (Ian) Peden

    Happy New Year Admire your enthusiasm is it infectious? IAN

    • Happy New Year to you, as well, Ian. Yes, I do think enthusiasm tends to be infectious. Did you catch it? Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Until next month…

  6. I’ve driven through Havre and ridden the train through Havre. Used to know somebody who worked in the library there. It’s a place with quite an interesting history. I was always amused by the number of people elsewhere who thought its name should be pronounced hav-ree. Enjoyed your post about living there.

    • Oh, how interesting, Malcolm. Yes, it was certainly an interesting place. I’ve more to tell in next month’s post. Stay tuned. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment.

  7. Phew, what a fright your son gave you, Coco. (Me, too, as I read it. And I don’t have kids.) Yet he probably had no idea he did anything unusual or dangerous. Great idea to decide to dress him in red! 🙂
    ~~~Tess

    • Yep! My heart was in my throat a lot while my son was small. Sometimes, even later!!! Luckily he made it to adulthood. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  8. Your son was quite a handful, Coco. Mine was, too. I like the way you bring the setting and characters to life.

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