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Looking out my Backdoor: Dear Havre Daily News


September 12, 2019

I have turned into my father and I don’t like it. When I lived in Washington, I used to almost dread Dad’s phone calls because they too frequently meant that somebody we knew, in the family or in the neighborhood, had died.

Every day I open the Havre Daily Homepage, ostensibly to see what is going on in my old neighborhood. But a not-so-teeny part of me can’t wait to scan down to the obituaries. I am always relieved when there are no names I recognize.

Just this week, out of seemingly nowhere, an old school friend popped into my head. Where did he come from? I hadn’t given him a thought in many years.

So what do I discover today in the obits? His mother had died. Not only that, my old friend was gone too. When did he die? How? And how subtle are the connections among us to which we give no thought?

I mourn my old friend. He was fun. I mourn his mother. I considered asking you to drop the obituary section from your paper. But then what would I do?

At odd moments over the next few days, my old friend from high school intruded on my thoughts. It seemed like the thoughts were conversations; he’d come to visit, and we caught up on old times, talked about in-between then and now. In a strange way, he comforted me.

Your article asking that Havreites be on the lookout for the greater short-horned lizard intrigued me. That lizard in the photo looked very familiar to me. I looked out the window onto my patio. Yep. There the little bugger is, slithering across the concrete. I have a hard time believing these critters could be in short supply in any habitant, not the way they carry on.

Just in case I am mistaken in identifying this particular lizard, being quite competent in foraging through the wilds of Wikipedia, I looked. Yes, they inhabit the earth all the way down into central Mexico, which is us. There are a great variety of looks and features but the one pictured in the Havre Daily looks exactly like the one over there, see, behind that aloe plant.

Apart from the obituaries which bring me unwanted news and grief, I appreciate our local newspapers. Larkspurs or lizards, our local news is where we live. It’s where we know tractors harvesting bumper crops, or wildfires harvesting other acres. It’s high school sports, doings at City Hall, a break in a water main. It is Jamie Ford giving a reading at the library. It’s Pam moving her rock crop to make a place for horses.

Doesn’t matter if my body is in Mexico, a piece of me lives on the Hi-Line and always will. It’s where we live, where we die. It’s where we peg memories that never fade away.


Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com/. Email [email protected]


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