Dolly, Brandie, and the Holy Spirit

We were driving through Utah, right before we crossed the Montana border, listening to Brandie Carlisle’s audio book when it happened. Brandie started telling the story of inviting Dolly Parton to play an all female set she was responsible for planning at the Newport Folk Festival. Brandie described the multiple phone calls she made, she does a good Dolly impression. And she talked about keeping it a secret that Dolly said yes, even up until the festival set itself—Dolly was escorted through the festival grounds completely draped in a black canvas bag with no part of her visible, except impossibly high heels and long brightly colored fingernails.

Brandie recounts the moment she saw Dolly walk in covered in the bag:

“I was in her trailer when she took it off. Hi honey, she said, How you doin? I bit off more than I could chew, I blurted out, fighting back nervous tears. I will never forget what happened next. she took my face in her hands and closed her eyes and said: alright then baby, let’s pray. When Dolly Parton prayed over me, I believed in God again. Every part of my soul came crashing to the earth like it was riding on lightening. I became connected to it again. I remembered that I was just a tiny part of that day, in that little moment in time. And most importantly that I was, in fact, responsible for none of it, good, bad, or indifferent. The prayer is just between me and Dolly, but it was life affirming. And I like to think that Dolly prays for all of us like that.”

In that moment, it felt like Dolly was in the RV praying for me. And yes, I cried. Because I’ve got tears for miles.

Too conspicuous

I thought a lot about God as we rolled through Montana. When we pulled in to Missoula around dinner time on the 24th, I was starving. I googled a place for some BBQ.

Sometimes I forget that we’re driving a huge RV with multiple HEMP stickers on the back and the words Lancaster Farming Industrial Hemp Podcast across the back window. So when we pulled into the center of town and parked, it didn’t occur to me that we’d be making quite the scene.

I found a spot right on West Front Street (a main drag) and we piled out of the RV on our way to the Notorious P.I.G. BBQ restaurant. We were seated outside waiting for our food, when a man came up and told us he grew up on a farm in Boyertown, Pa (about 30 minutes north of where we live) and his family grew up reading “the Lancaster Farmer” — apparently, only old-school readers call it “the Farmer.” Eric walked back to the RV and got him a Hemp Tour hat. We thanked him for saying hi and then our food came. They’re having supply chain issues in Missoula so they didn’t have ribs. We settled on pulled pork sandwiches and brisket platters. Yum.

After dinner, the girls and I explored the Dragon Hollow Playground near the restaurant. We could see Eric stopped on the road talking to a man. We waved to try to get his attention. He didn’t see us and we watched him turn and head up the road back towards the RV with his newest friend. We assumed it was another guy who was “interested in hemp.” (Turns out Eric commented on his Free Palestine shirt and they got to talking.) By the time the girls and I got to the RV Eric was talking to a homeless man who had asked if Eric knew which way was north—the man from the side of the road stood watching (wearing a hemp tour hat Eric just gave him). Eric wanted to give the homeless man some water, so I grabbed a bottle from the cooler, handed it out the door and, in order not to stir up more of a ruckus, got everyone into the RV and hightailed it out of there.

The Missoula KOA was on the outskirts of town. We parked, and went straight to the pool. I fell asleep early that night. Eric and the girls stayed up and had late-night ramen.

Road songs and trash cans

The next day, as we were getting ready to leave, Eric wasn’t feeling great. We thought maybe he overdid it on the BBQ, beer and ramen the night before. I took the wheel that morning and he rested on the couch while we set out for Fort Benton, Montana.

Driving through the Montana mountains, Eric ended up hugging the trashcan during some major downhill switchbacks. I pulled over, he had some activated charcoal, and rested some more on the couch.

It was a three and a half hour drive to Fort Benton—the girls were resting in the back, too, so I had some “alone time” at the wheel. I asked some dear friends for some recommendations for epic road albums, and spent the next few hours rolling along the Montana mountainscape listening to Kraftwerk, Biglietto per l'Inferno, Neil Young, Osanna and Kris Kristofferson.

I do love driving on empty roads in the middle of nowhere with big mountains and big skies.

Hazel came up and sat with me for a little while, as we meandered through one of the tiny towns that dot the middle of Montana.

We pulled in to Fort Benton at 8:30pm (the 3 1/2 hour drive was more like 5 1/2 due to some unpaved roads and the slowness of RV driving and elevation. We made it to our hotel just in time for dinner. Eric rallied and was able to eat a good meal. The next few days we’re the big hemp summit that was planned for his arrival.