A Short Season: Story of a Montana Childhood

A Short Season: Story of a Montana Childhood

A Short Season: Story of a Montana Childhood

A Short Season: Story of a Montana Childhood

Synopsis

A Short Season is Don Morehead's bittersweet story of growing up on a Montana ranch during the 1940s. In 1941 his parents eagerly took up residence on a ten-thousand-acre sheep ranch in northern Montana. The entire family was soon caught up in the natural rhythm and grueling work of ranch life, meeting those challenges with energy, patience, and humor. The driving force behind the ranch and family was the father, Bill Morehead, the "hub around which activity spun". Don especially was drawn into his father's world, rarely leaving his side, and becoming known as his "small partner". When his father died suddenly in 1948, Don was left with lingering, irreducible grief and loneliness. Replete with marvelous details of ranching life, Don Morehead's story is also a sobering and moving meditation on childhood and the special relationship that can develop between father and son. Morehead returns us to the quiet surprises of the first short season with our parents and helps us better understand the inevitable sadness of moving on.

Excerpt

Exiled by death from people we have known,
We are reduced again by years, and try
To call them back and clothe the barren bone,
Not to admit that people ever die
.

DONALD HALL

I grew up on a sheep ranch in the middle of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. A half century later the ranch is still recognizable but changed by time and economic demands. It is a farm now: Tractors have replaced the horses, and crops grow on the grasslands that once grazed the sheep and before them the buffalo. These days the north range is strip-and block-farmed by Hutterites, who grow wheat, barley, and canola--two seasons on and one off. The dirt path scored with narrow tire tracks has made way for a graded two-lane road; the cable bridge crossing the river below the sheep shed has been replaced by a cement one. Years ago, the shed burned and was never rebuilt. The bunkhouse, moved up the road somehow, now sleeps seasonal farmhands at its new site. The garage and the granary crumble from age.

For seven years, my family lived on this land that is measured in miles rather than acres. My older sister took part in many of the experiences I relate here, but her memories have taken a shape different from mine. Born after the family came to the ranch and barely five when my father died, my younger sister remembers almost nothing from that time. Even in the early days of her grief, when she most keenly missed her husband, my mother didn't regret leaving the hard work and isolation of ranch life. After we moved to town and she remarried, she folded up the past and put it away as carefully as she did the family keepsakes.

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