By Alkali Springs Correspondent
For some reason when it seems as though spring has really hit the beautiful Bear Paws, our thoughts go to that old Johnson log house on the two cliffs on Clear Creek.
Maybe it is because we spent some of our formative years there, or maybe it was the intrigue that the cliffs provided. Mother, for instance, never gave up fearing that somehow we were going to go tumbling over one of those cliffs to our death down below even though there was no way that could happen. Truth be told, we were much more afraid of those cliffs than she was.
Or maybe it was the large log house. Most of our other cabins on Clear Creek has been one or two room shacks. This was a huge living room, kitchen and bedroom on one floor and three large bedrooms upstairs. That was some fishing shack!
And then Bee Lucke and C.L. Stuart, probably seeing the same potential for the cabin that we had, really worked hard to fix it up into a nice place to spend some time.
If it wasn't for the terrible cliffs and rattlesnakes, it would have been perfect. But then if it had been perfect, we would have never been there so life is a trade off, of sorts, all the time.
The cliffs were awesome! Probably the cabin to this day sits more or less straight with the world. It faces the south and to its back, just out the back door about three steps, was one old cliff. The creek 40 or 50 feet below had changed course sometime or another and that cliff had become a tangle of briars and undergrowth. To the east of the cabin, oh, maybe 10 or 20 feet away was another cliff, that one some 60 feet high (or so it seemed) and with Clear Creek right at the bottom of that one.
We think that sometime or another when the house was built, it was probably built at the top of two rather steep hills and through the years with floods and the like, those steep hills had eroded into dangerous cliffs. We cannot imagine another reason for that house to be placed where it was.
Most dangerous of all, though, was the outhouse that literally hung out on a precipice between those two cliffs. To get down to it, a path wandered steeply down to the outhouse that seemed to be trembling on its own cliffs held there just by a thicket of willows, thorn apples, buck brush and one or two lone quaking aspen trees.
One other thing and then we will get to this installment of Bee Lucke and C.L. Stuart. For some reason, they did not believe in flashlights. In fact, this fateful night might have occurred before there was even electricity in that cabin, but if there was electricity, there were not flashlights to see how to get down the steep path to the outhouse after dark.
So on this particular night, there was C.L., Bee and four or five of their friends playing pinochle far into the night around a round table in the big kitchen of that cabin. We had long ago gone to bed and just heard the melody of quiet conversation along with the smell of beer and cigarette smoke to lull us to sleep. We never heard the rest of the story until we heard the woman screaming hysterically, but that is getting ahead of where we should be.
With the group was one man, a Havre fisherman, who the others never really cared for, and there was a couple of other Clear Creek fishing husbands and wives there, too, that night as we remember.
The first excitement occurred when this city-slicker type that no one gave a hoot about, asked to leave the table to step out the back door and go to the bathroom. Surely, he must have heard the snickers and realized something was up, but he did not. So out the door he went into the dark night and right over the cliff to the north. Interesting to note that even though he didn't come back for an hour, no one even worried about what had happened to him. They just continued playing cards, drinking Budweiser from those new fangled cans, smoking Kools or Camels, and telling each other stories they had all heard a million times before.
An hour later, in the front door came that poor fellow who had fallen all the way to the bottom of that north cliff. He was covered with brush, bruises and blood. No one asked him what happened. He did not offer an opinion. Just said goodbye, got into his car, and headed off for Havre.
A little later, one of the ladies of the group realized she had to go to the bathroom as well. No way was she going out the back door and close to the cliff or even going anywhere close to the outhouse in that dark night. So she went out the front door and tended to her business just about ten feet from the front door. She just got into her bathroom- going mode when all of a sudden she heard a loud buzzzzzzzzzzz right underneath her. She knew it was a rattlesnake immediately, screamed hysterically, and came running back into the house, her clothing still in a state of disrepair. That woke us up and sent most of the party to bed or home quickly.
Next morning she asked Bee what had happened to the fellow that wasn't there anymore. He looked our way, smiled and said, "Just another Saturday night on Clear Creek, Robby."