Gordon Thomas Ward

Rekindle the Wonder!

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A Passage from Life on the Shoulder

JUNE 26, 1994 — SUNDAY

       What a magnificent Sunday! We packed at Fort Peck and, after much disagreement and uncertainty about when to ride because of reports of thunderstorms and dangerous hail, we left at 2:30 p.m. We had waited because the last storm of the magnitude that was currently forecasted was accompanied by grapefruit-sized hail that damaged roofs and cars, not to mention what it could do to people.


       Our ride began at the intersection of Seventh Ridge Road and Willow Creek Road with an expansive, 360° horizon and no trace of any other people. It was sunny when we began, but a ridge of clouds in the west signaled the approaching storm front. One half hour into our ride, it hit. Dust storms blew hard up the once seemingly endless dirt road, shortening their linear character with grey and brown haze. Todd and I pulled into a grass covered “road,” indicated only by tire marks which flattened the existing grass. Wind hammered away at the formless tent, turning it into a sail which we desperately fought to erect. Grey-black clouds suffocated the once blue skies above us and to the west. One is quickly reminded how small we are compared to the awesome power of nature on this open grazing rangeland. Finally the tent was up, and we hurriedly threw our panniers inside to weigh it down. Sandblasted bikes were dragged behind the tent to shield them from the wind-driven dirt, and we crawled inside the stretched fabric form that was being battered and pushed to one side by the storm — still no rain, just the constant driving wind.


       As we looked out the tent door we noticed an incredible occurrence. The storm started to move in a clockwise pattern above our tent leaving clear skies above us. We were being miraculously spared and only received a few sprinkles as we watched violent lightning strikes and sheets of rain fall to the south, north and east upon the open rangeland. Although the wind never stopped, Pasta Roma was cooked for an evening meal, and we had an unbelievably entertaining/frightening/hysterical time chasing the free roaming, open range cattle away from our tent. They were extremely curious and much bigger than us!


Another spectacular gift was given to us in the form of an unexpected sunset which contrasted the brightly lit, golden buttes to the east against the dark, grey skies — stunning and breathtaking! This is a moment that you have to experience to truly appreciate, and we were fortunate to have been given a chance to view it. We thought we were going to get hammered by a storm, and we didn’t. I feel as though an unseen presence is guarding us.


Copyright © 2005 Gordon Thomas Ward