I phone my artist friends and ask “will we see you in Breckenridge, Co. exhibiting at the art fair?” A long hesitation…..” Our R.V. can’t make it up that steep mountain at 12,000 ft”.
We set off with a devil-may-care attitude. We travel in an RV with a turbo diesel and we can do the high elevations, with significant effort. So we set about putting together a western expeditionary tour of Colorado and Montana.
We sell leathergoods made of buffalo hide to museums, State and National Parks. If our help doesn’t mutiny on us, we can fill in with regional art festivals selling and increasing our trade area.
Breckenridge is a long way from Worthington, Minnesota and we usually don’t travel quite that distance for one show. We combined another the following week in Bozeman, MT. (700 miles distant). This is not how anyone should try to make a living, but understand I have a cousin who is a cherry rancher on the Flathead Lake near Kalispell, Mt. It is an excuse to go visit him, nearly a three-day drive!
The art and craft festivals went swimmingly, we did okay… other than having some significant motorhome repair and high anxiety.
Flash forward to the main destination, “GETMAN CHERRY RED ORCHARDS” on the east shore of Flathead Lake, MT. It is another day’s drive farther west but it is the only way to see my cousin in a fiscally prudent manner (at this time in my life). Flathead Lake enjoys a microclimate that is known for its incredibly hospitable conditions for growing Bing Cherries. Dan and his wife Sheryl moved back to this area about a decade ago and have seemed to make some significant headway in the historic marketing of Bing Cherries. They live and breathe their passions of growing fruit and entertaining those that appreciate their delights. They are rewarded by being able to sell their products locally, nationally and internationally.
They combined two orchards and moved forward with grandiose plans. The orchards contained Bing Cherries, Rainier Cherries, apricots, apples, pears and peaches. They also added hundreds of grape vines while they were resting. Dan is now the president of the Montana Wine & Grape Association.
Dan has quietly stepped forward to push the envelope of growing Bing Cherries. His neighbors, that are also orchardists, noticed that he has shipped in many, many semi-truck loads of soil and soil augmentation. They had explained to him that this extra expense was frivolous. Most of the Flathead Cherries are grown in rocks and rocky soil without regard to anything else. Dan walks over and shows me a pile of peat and soil, he picks up a handful and states, “This is my Jesus” this is what causes my cherries to be bigger than many…. perhaps most. His neighbors are slowly coming around, because Dan is selling his cherries in Paris, Moscow, Belgium, and Singapore. These are premier markets that can afford the very, very best. Dan has had to call in the “air force” (helicopters) to dry his orchards when they got to damp from the morning dew. The morning dew can reduce his cherries to the normal variety if they remain moist for too long of a time. His grade “A Cherries” were bound for Paris! So send in the air force!
While we were there the phone rang, people just magically appeared, wanting or needing some sort of attention. It is the peak of their season and we have come at an awkward time for a social visit. They scramble and exhibit unflagging respect and humility to an assortment of people that need something from them (we are not excluded).
In one way or another they have entertained or directed 800 people in the past month, workers, players, pickers, sightseers and now they find themselves coughing and sputtering a bit. They need sleep and rest. I’m certain Dan & Sheryl plan on getting that rest in their next lifetime.
They knew we were coming but they didn’t know we had picked up a hitchhiker from Belgium. We’ve lived long enough to believe that it’s okay to pick up someone in need of a ride, now and then. Once again…. a devil-may-care approach to life. We introduce our new found friend, Emmanuel, to Dan and Sheryl and they don’t miss a beat. They too love him!
We tour the numerous orchards and then end the evening with a tour of the new home that they are building.
They have a bit of history remodeling homes. Years ago they owned and renovated a home in Los Angeles. It was the subject of a feature film on Home and Garden Television, a national TV network. They weren’t rich and famous. They were young, artistic, daring and creative. It worked and they eventually sold the home to a movie star that you all know. With that behind them, they packed up and found themselves in these beautiful new environs.
Nowhere within my community is there a home of this magnitude. The new home they are building is perched on the upper shores of Flathead Lake. The home is “U” shaped with the exterior hosting nearly one hundred full panel doors as the fenestration (windows) The full panel doors all are all hinged as to open when the time and weather is right. Carrera marble is found throughout the home counters, stairways and landings. Italian chandeliers are too numerous to count. They are all the epitome of taste with a big nod to Sheryl and her superior artistic and architectural notions. The stoves in the kitchen are imported from the U.K…. And I suspect they cost more than my first home. She intends to give cooking classes in the expansive kitchen. We walk about nearly dumbstruck. This place is a dreamscape.
Today I look about and see the efforts of these two people and realize that many trod through life with dull uninspired work. I look at my cousin and his wife who are currently tired with undaunted efforts. They personify the aspirations of creativity and artistic genius. They are creating a place of artistic and culinary destination.
We pick one last lug (twenty pounds) of apricots as we head down the road from Getman Cherry Red Orchards.
It is my hope that tomorrow they sleep in.
RoadNotes August 2016