Monday, March 20, 2006

Thoughts on a place gone by

Dianna Moore lives in Bozeman, Montana. She's planning to move soon to Idaho Falls to be closer to her son. Nearly a lifetime has unfolded since the last day I saw Dianna, her sister Donna and her brother David.

The image of the last day of first grade when Harneys held a picnic at their dairy for the neighborhood kids still pops up in my mind as if it were yesterday. I had taken my bike to the picnic. We had each received renovated bikes from our dad for Christmas. Since I was 6 years old, I needed a while to learn how to get mine to go down the road without tipping to either side. I think when training wheels were mentioned, I got stubborn and learned how to ride the darn thing.

On that spring day at the Harney Dairy, I had never ridden my bike up hill until we went up the driveway to the house. That meant I'd never ridden downhill either. Well, as the party got going, I think some of us decided to do some downhill racing. When a 6-year-old has never gone down a hill with a railroad crossing obstacle, that 6-year-old who's determined to win the race, doesn't know that it's a good idea to put the brakes on while going over the crossing.

As I hit the obstacle, my handlebars jumped up and crashed into my jaw. When that happened, my teeth followed suit and bit a hole in my tongue. The profuse bleeding wouldn't stop. I still wonder what the horror must've been for my mother a few minutes later when I arrived home and she first laid eyes on me with all that red stuff caked to my chin and more red rivers flowing out the corners of my mouth.

She apparently didn't take time to comment because my next memory was the doctor's office where Dr. Hayden looked me over and gave me something to gargle for a few days. The tongue healed but the front teeth were always a bit chipped and much more sensitive to anything cold after the incident.

Anyway, the Harney picnic probably marked the last time I saw or ever heard from Dianna Harney until yesterday afternoon when she sent me an email. I've stayed in touch recently with the Harney family through Dianna's little sister Mary, who must have been just a baby at the time they moved from the dairy to Great Falls, Montana, where their dad Lou was a weatherman.

David Harney was my first boyfriend. Laura Delamarter and I fought over him, but neither of us won cuz he moved away too soon. Donna Harney was Kevin's good friend, and Dianna Harney was in Mike's class. We all went to Lincoln School and all rode the same bus---back in the days when the bus seats faced each other and extended down each side with a wide aisle in the middle.

About 12 years after the Harneys moved away, Basil Gooby told my dad it would be a good idea to buy the Harney Dairy, so he and my mother thought it over. In 1966, they bought the 55-acre farm with a lower field across the road. They sold one segment of that lower field to the Nordeens about 20 years ago. For a time, when we were first married, Bill and I lived in the little house on the farm, which we then called the Upper Tibbs Place.

About seven years ago, my folks sold that 22-acre segment to a man who said he just wanted to farm it. Well, he farmed it for about three years and then sold it to a developer. I watched and documented the methodical demolition of the old Harney Dairy last summer. Now, big equipment, big piles of dirt and a bunch of septic tanks sit up on that hillside waiting for the weather to allow the contractor to start on his 26-house subdivision.

The remainder of the field below has been purchased by Litehouse Salad Dressings, Inc. for its corporate headquarters. So, all vestiges of Harney and Tibbs influence on the old dairy with its majestic weathered barn and wooden silo and its tiny red milk house have become but memories or paintings, which have been done over the years. The memory is a wonderful thing because it allows us to select what we wish to perpetuate about a place. This morning, I'd like to share what Dianna wrote to me yesterday because she says it so well.

Mary Tronnes, my youngest sister, forwarded your email about the end of the place at Sandpoint and sadness kind of waved over me for an instant and then I thought what great gardens those residents will have with years of fertilizer beneath their feet. What a huge upgrade in living conditions from the farm years there and the view will still be so inspiring. It has been over 50 years (that is hard to believe) since I have lived on that place and yet all that time it still holds this dear memory of a kid experiencing the best of God's world.

The last time I was there, my husband, Clark and I walked across the bridge and listened to the train cross further down. We drove out to the farm and scared a bull that was there in the lot. The barn still stood and the milkhouse looked so tiny. The grass was up to our waists and the mud 10 inches deep with the wet spring and just as we left, we heard the voice of a coyote.

Now my husband is gone and I am preparing to move from Bozeman (another beautiful, but expensive place) to Idaho Falls where my youngest son lives. My sons and their families saw Sandpoint a few years ago when we had a reunion at Laclede with my husband's family. Montana has been my home for most of the 50 years since Sandpoint and now I am headed back to Idaho albeit not to the beauty that is in north Idaho.

Thanks for writing about the place and giving such a great opportunity to remember.

More than half a century has separated the Harneys and the Tibbs families, but a piece of God's beautiful earth has maintained a common bond. Though its tangibility has passed, happily, the Harney Dairy/Upper Tibbs Place lives on, as will the bond.

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