Fort Benton, Montana

Fort Benton was a super cute little town nestled in a canyon in the middle of nowhere. Our host, Ken of IND Hemp (one of our main sponsors and prominent stickers on Dolly’s back), told us they close down Main Street for celebrations. His daughter Morgan (a chemical engineer, and former OMer who works with him at his company) is getting married there soon. The whole town will show up.

We stayed at the Grand Union hotel—The only hotel in town. It was old and beautiful (even if Eric did find a bat in the elevator. No euphemism there. A real bat in a real elevator.

The canyon that the town sits in was carved out by the Missouri River, the longest river in the US (which is a bit of trivia I would have gotten wrong the day before). On Monday, after a long work day, Ken took us on a tube trip down the river. The river was low and stinky and the mud on the edges was thick and black. My flip flop got stuck. I had to reach down into the water (and into the mud) to retrieve it. I took my other shoe off and laid down on my float to get past the mud and into the river more where the bottom was rocky. Eric and Ken helped the girls float out past the mud.

We drifted slowly down the river, with a large canyon wall to our right side. The girls were rafted to my tube with rope (and they squealed any time i let them float too away). But any time they drifted too far, I’d I use my flip flops as paddles on my hands to catch up to them and grab the rope again—The girls squealing and me laughing. We were quite the floating circus. Ken got a kick out of all of it.

A tiny blueish dragonfly landed on my knee. The only other wildlife we saw on our float was a stray cat drinking by the water’s edge. The girls got a kick out of that.

We ended our float near Morgan’s house, got out of the river, and got cleaned up for dinner. Ken, Julie (Ken’s wife) Morgan, and her fiancé Logan, cooked us some brats and burgers and we hung out at the house while more and more people showed up from the hemp industry—at least half of whom we’d visited in the weeks prior during this very trip.

I wish I would have taken a picture of the 12 people sitting on the porch in rocking chairs and camp chairs, at a house near the Missouri, talking excitedly about the future of hemp. It felt like one of those “gatherings of the greats before they were great” moments. A bunch of people with big ideas about how hemp can change the world, sharing stories about what’s working and what needs more support. Eric was in his element, and they were all excited that he was there.

That night in the hotel, I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom when a thought bubbled up…one of those thoughts that I usually note and then move on from, but the kind I’ve been trying to pay more attention to. The thought was more like my own kind voice telling me that I was connected to the great mystery, that I didn’t have to be afraid so much, that I was held in love. It was was of those shimmery moments, smack dab in the middle of the mundane. I said a prayer of thanks, vowing to remember that moment in a bathroom in an old Montana hotel by the Missouri River. I made a vow to pray more, not in any formal way—just simple prayers of thanks for this beautiful life.

Well done

The next day, Tuesday, was the main event for Eric. He was gone from early morning, out on the edge of town with the hemp movers and shakers, for a day of talks, hemp field visits, and more. Me and the girls went back to Morgan’s house so I could have meetings with decent WiFi. We had her house to ourselves because everyone else was at the event—at least we never saw anyone. But there was a glass of iced tea on the counter with ice cubes in it when we got there. And later it was moved and there was a water bottle in its place… but we never saw a soul.

The girls played in her garage on her exercise equipment while I had meetings.

When my work day was done, we walked two blocks to the community pool. There weren’t that many people there—even tho it was free swim day. Wild fire smoke hung in the air our whole time in Montana—a thin veil between us and everything else. After our swim, we walked back to Morgan’s (the water bottle was gone but no one answered our hellos when we opened the front door). We grabbed the RV (which I had parked in her driveway) and headed to the hotel to get cleaned up for a banquet they had planned for that evening.

The banquet was in a large industrial space, clean and new, with huge shiny (brand new) hemp processing equipment. A strong showing for IND Hemp.

There was a presentation after dinner from the Well Done Foundation, a group that’s filling abandoned oil wells with a concrete mixture that includes hemp. We found out that there are about 3.2 million orphaned or abandoned oil and gas wells in the US, each one spewing as much methane as 1,500 cars in a year. Well Done is plugging wells with hemp in Montana, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania.

The girls listened intently (even tho Iris spent the time making a ton of noise digging for ice in her cup so she could put a cube on the end of her hemp straw and eat it). Climate change has been on all our minds a lot during this trip. The girls seemed genuinely interested in learning about this new way hemp was being used to help mitigate some of the damage be being done to our planet.

The next day, after successfully getting the October issue of mindful out the door, we got breakfast at a cute cafe in town, and hit the road for Yellowstone National Park.

Swipe left for more