|The view to the west|
Last weekend the owners of our rental, I'll call the the "Main Ranch," invited us for dinner to meet some neighbors. The closest neighbors besides the owners are three miles away, the other couple (the husband came, the wife was sick) lives about 8-10 miles away, depending on the roads. There are other neighbors around but these two neighbors live on opposite ends of the road we live on.
When I walked into the Main Ranch house, it gave our vintage house more context. This was the main ranch house on the property, the house we rent is the second house which I think an aunt lived in. The "Main House" had vintage built in cupboards like ours, except it was bigger and kept up nicer. I stepped into the living room and the same vintage carpet that we have, they have there. The curtains are similar in style, hanging with tie backs. The rooms were comfortably functional.
As we sat around the table, we all chatted and introduced ourselves. The three mile away neighbors had a buffalo herd, so I'll call them the "Buffalo neighbors." Their ranch has been in the family for about 102 years. The wife is a teacher, the next town over and she invited me to stop in "anytime" and she'd show me around. I found I could also substitute teach, no Bachelor's Degree needed! She said they'd invite us out for branding and to see the buffalo.
Let me just pause and say that this invitation thrilled me. Attend a real branding? And of buffalo? It's like something out of the old west books, except better. Not only that, they said I could gather the buffalo hair and spin it. Wheeeeee!
The other neighbor had only been in the neighborhood less than 20 years I believe. Newcomers! So I'll call them the "New Neighbors." His wife is a doctor, he is semi-retired. They have a variety of animals including two kinds of sheep of which they have lots of fleeces just lying around. He said he could bring me a trunk full sometime.
Instead of jumping up and running over to his place for the fleeces, I calmly and politely accepted his offer. They also have Guinea Hens which he said keep away stakes and bugs. So I am once again considering having poultry.
We stayed at the dinner table, talking late with hardly any gaps in the conversation. The Buffalo Neighbors and the Main Ranchers knew each other very well. Their children grew up together and they celebrated holidays together like family. All the couples seemed to know everyone in the area by name and by vehicle. After all, someone said there's probably only about 25 people living in this "town." That might be true, except for the new development to the east.
After we went home, my husband reminded me of something he said shortly after we moved to Montana. We drove around the area, exploring the land about every day with extended trips on the weekends. The places we liked, with open spaces, good views and faraway neighbors - they often were in the middle of someone's ranch.
"Maybe we can get a rancher to sell us a few acres to build on," he said. And he repeated this a few times over the last few months.
And now, he we were, in the closest situation to that dream of his. We were living on a 4,000 acre ranch with a family history going back about 109 years. Our neighbors are miles away and yet they are neighbors. We are surrounded by deep rooted ranching families whom are welcoming us into their community. This is just the sort of place we wanted to be in.