A lot of hyperbole and purposive lies have been written about the road up to Polebridge, Montana. I suppose the road is rough if you never drive on gravel, but it usually takes right around an hour to drive the 45 miles from our driveway to the Mercantile, if we don’t get stuck behind traffic. Contrary to the claims of one writer, I have never seen Bighorns along the road, nor has anyone I know. What you do find in Polebridge is remoteness. The road is just un-smooth enough and long enough to break the seal on normal society. Even the cleanest tourist realizes that having a bakery, store, and bar in such a place is not something to be taken lightly.
M and I headed north last night to get a good, light-free look at the aurora borealis, which was forecasted to be very visible. It was not, at least when we were still awake. What we did find was the Northern Lights Saloon, open for their last pizza night of the year.
The Lights is an old cabin with a kitchen and restroom grafted on to the back. In mid-summer, the bar and tables inside are empty, the picnic tables out front in the shade full. On this cold and clear September night the outside was empty, and the small bar and five tables full to overflowing.
The Lights has a good kitchen, beer on tap, an excellent whiskey selection, and a very old cash register which still works. We stood around the wood stove, warming our feet, drinking beer, and talking to friends until a table opened up.
Thecla, one of the servers, was named after her grandmother, who homesteaded in Wyoming and became a postmaster when women weren’t normally hired because no one else was available, and the office in Washington didn’t know how to gender her name. M took St. Thecla, who miraculously survived burning at the skate and a sentence to be eaten by wild beasts, as her confirmation saint.
We ate pizza, drank more beer, and more whiskey than I’ve had in a long time (not saying much). The intimate night seemed both solemn and joyful. We toasted ourselves, and 11 years of marriage next month. We toasted our friends, and reacquainting with them after a good summer. We toasted Rob Kehrer, Cody Roman, Ted Leach, and everything having to do with finitude and memory. We toasted choices and fate, which had led us to that place, on that night and in that manner.
And afterwards we went outside and looked at the stars.