Anglers know something of lines. Wet a line, throw a line, mend your line, strip line, feed line. Slack in your line…or better yet, tension on your line. Lines and patterns are all around us, both in fishing and in life. If you’re a mom, you know there is a fine line between doing something selfish and doing something for yourself. Faced with any opportunity that takes us away from our kids, we have to pull out the moral magnifying glass to examine just how badly we might be crossing it.
This past week eight women emerged from below the Mason Dixon Line, headed somewhere near the Great Divide on a quest for fish, fellowship and a touch of freedom. Six of the women were from Alabama, one from North Carolina, and yours truly from Texas. All together we have 25 children and nine grandchildren. Oh yeah, these mama chickens were flying the coop alright!
Unfortunately, our great escape to Montana was no easy task. Granted the shortest distance between point A and point B is a straight line, but air travel doesn’t always follow that flight pattern. Right out of the gate four members of our crew were detained in Memphis for an entire travel day, including our fearless leader, Ginna. They spent endless hours in the birthplace of Sun Records and the music of Elvis and Cash while three of us towed the line on a different route all the way to Bozeman.
Did I mention we didn’t all know each other? Ginna had assembled a group of women whom she thought would enjoy learning to fish and other ranchy adventures of the West. We each had our own ties to her, but not necessarily to each other.
(Boy, has that since changed!)
So I wandered the Bozeman airport looking for two women I knew only by description. I did find Ashley and Robin easily enough, although locating the ranch vehicle in the airport parking lot was a challenge. Tired of searching I almost accidentally stole the wrong suburban that was also using the key-in-the-gas-tank trick. Oops. Luckily I didn’t get far before figuring it out, thus avoiding grand theft auto and a police lineup.
So there I was barreling down the road in a car that wasn’t mine with two women I’d just met. But the one thing I recognized? Montana. It was an unmistakable view and a feeling I’ve had time and time again. Following that white line down a Montana highway, drawing me back in. I loved it.
And I loved my new girlfriends! We were chatting away halfway to Dillon when Robin received a call.
Robin answered, “Hey, what’s going on?”
Her fourteen year old son was on the line and inquired, “Where are you?”
“Oh, never mind.”
“Did you forget I was coming out to Montana for a week?”
“Uh… yeah, never mind.”
Robin, “You were calling for a ride somewhere weren’t you?”
Her sweet son, “Well, yeah.”
The three of us served as the advance team with a run to the grocery store and settling into the ranch. We awakened to discover the remainder of the Alabama crowd who arrived at some ghastly hour in the middle of the night, while Laura came the following day from North Carolina. She had rented her own car because she also had to leave early for a funeral.
As you can see, it was no small task assembling this group. We had coordinated kids and dads and sitters and in-laws. Lined up diapers and playdates. Said ‘no thank you’ to other trips. Re-arranged travel to accommodate emergencies. Saved pennies and traded in miles. One member of our posse even overcame her dire phobia of flying to be a part of this trip. It’s remarkable what women can do when they set their sights on something.
I roomed with Amy, whom I’d met only once before, very briefly at a Mardi Gras party in Mobile. That said, it was as if we’d known each other for ages, discovering ties to Texas friends and Texmex food and Hatch Show Print and Montana fishing and Hill Country music. Amy, a former celebrity TV journalist and all-around brilliant media guru brought custom CDs for the trip and great movies to watch like ‘Walk The Line’. Oh yeah, my roomie’s a Cash fan.
This was, without question, one of the most fun-filled and purposeful trips I have ever been a part of. These talented, inspired women were thoroughly undeterred by the rigors of travel and were ready for the journey. Keeping the ties that bind close to our hearts, we dove into this Montana adventure with our eyes wide open all the time.
We kicked off the trip with fly fishing lessons on the ranch, where we fished most days. I was blown away by everyone’s natural penchant for casting and their innate ability to appreciate the nuances of fish and fishing.
These Dixie girls loved it all – the weather, the scenery, the trout, the waters, the flies, the guides, the whole process. I have never met a more positive group of people!
Everyone caught fish over the course of the week, and the light and energy they brought to this sport was beyond refreshing.
But it wasn’t all fishing on spring-fed ponds and creeks. Oh no. There was fishing to be sure, but there was also plenty of cooking, painting, hiking, dancing and laughing. This group was primed to soak up any & all of the local culture. We watched as they loaded cattle onto trucks. Went to the Follies in Virginia City. Enjoyed amazing music from the Dillon Junior Fiddlers and were entertained by a real live Cowboy Poet.
Did I mentioned we laughed? I mean we really laughed. I can honestly say we are leaving Montana with a few extra laugh lines.
We drank wine and ate copious amounts of food, swapping recipes and cooking tips. We had dynamic conversations about faith and religion and motherhood and art and conservation. We came to know each other through stories about our kids, husbands, ex-husbands, careers, romances, grief and dreams for what lies ahead.
It’s humbling to have been a part of such a dynamic group, and I am blessed to call each one of these women a true friend for life. I will do my best in the coming days to recount some of the stories from the trip — including some great fish despite tough run-off conditions and tricky spring weather.
In the end, we never got around to watching the movie ‘Walk The Line’. Frankly we were too busy walking it ourselves. Walk the line, cast the line, mend the line. We did it all, literally and figuratively.
I can’t claim it as my own, but one of the favorite lines of the trip was, “Just Cast On Sistah!” Which seems terribly appropriate since after all, the technical definition of a line is nothing more than a straight curve.