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The Mona LisaMy wife and I live in a ramshackle hundred year old house which is part of large ranch on the northeast slope of the Bridger Mountains about twenty-five miles north of Bozeman, Montana.  We have lived here for twenty-six years, and within a few miles of here for thirty-six.  We are not ranchers, nor do we work on the ranch.  My wife is a nurse practitioner and teaches nursing at Montana State University, and I have been a carpenter for most of my working life.  I have often told people we live here because it is the closest thing to camping out that can be had while still working, and raising a family.

The place does have a few disadvantages such as a mile-long county road that goes nowhere except here, and is apt to be clogged with snow on any given winter day so that the highway to Bozeman is inaccessible from the house save by snowshoes or snowmobile.  The house is heated only by wood, and has a water system that must be coddled for five months of the year lest it freeze and leave us high and dry until spring.  The weather can be annoying at times,Bob Sisk and exasperating at others.  Snow has fallen in every month of the year, and sixty frost-free days in a row each year is the norm.  We gave up serious gardening decades ago.  It is cloudy two-thirds of the time, and winds of forty miles per hour and above can to be expected on any day from November through April.

Since the children are long gone by now, it might seem reasonable for us to head for someplace with a more amenable climate.  We have thought about that a number of times over the years, but decided we don’t want to leave our friends.  Not the two-legged hairless kind with opposable thumbs, mind you, but the ones with four legs, and those with two that wear feathers.  Living here is like living on a wildlife refuge.  Within four hundred yards of the house we have seen over the years thousands of elk and deer, many dozens of moose, and an endless stream of coyotes, beaver, bears, foxes, antelope, and wolves.  Sandhill Cranes are around the house for five months of the year, and there have been eagles and hawks beyond counting.  There are fifty or sixty birds of a dozen species around the bird feeders from spring until fall, and the fields are carpeted with wildflowers from April through July.  Far from wishing to move elsewhere, I hate to leave home anytime.  I might miss something.

Included here are a number of stories about a few of the critters that keep me hanging around here.  I talk a good deal about the behavior of these animals, but be aware I am not a biologist, and hope you will not hold me accountable for the honest mistakes that may turn up.  I try hard not to make things up, or quote sources that I find unconvincing.  I have always found it easier to say “I don’t know” than to be caught telling tall tales.  I will not be well served by such conduct, nor will my animal friends.  To boot, though I talk about these creatures as friends it is unlikely they share this affection.  They have their lives to live, and though I am around them a good deal I doubt they have ever thought of me as a friend.  They are what they are, and I am what I am.  We just happen to live in the same neighborhood.