I reached what felt like rock bottom at around five in the evening on a freezing day in Butte, Montana. Rock bottom is a bit melodramatic but I was tired, cold, homesick, and my back was in spasm.
The dressing room was chilly and I needed to rest. Eventually, as people began to arrive I decided to get out. ‘Out’ was minus 20 something degrees or so, they were saying. Not so bad when you are well wrapped up.
Traoloch picked me up at Missoula airport a few days earlier. Traoloch O’Riordain runs a course of Irish studies in the University there and they had invited me over to speak and to perform. He is a man of his land and his county is Cork but he has settled in majestic state of Montana. Native home of the Flatheads, Crow, Assiniboine, Kootenai, Salish, Kalispel, Gros Ventre and some Lakota/ Dakota.
I love winter. We don’t get a lot of snow at home in Ireland so when it comes I love it. Missoula had snow and mountains pretty much everywhere you looked. Traoloch dropped me off at the house where I would be staying and left me to unpack. We were in the rattlesnake neighbourhood. His home was just behind where I was staying so I was in good hands. We ate together later in his house with Erin his wife and their children Roisin and Seanie Bull! Watch out for bears Erin said as I left for bed later that night. We were at the foot of the mountain and all kinds of visitors are known to come and sniff around!
The drive to Butte did my back in. By the time we arrived I could not walk too well. Still, we ate pizza and had a look into an antique shop. The owner gave us some of the history of the place. How it was a playground for those who had made a fortune from mining. Many came from west Cork to Butte, Montana to mine for copper. I met a woman who had married four times. She said I looked like a Sullivan!
Getting out was important. I had been indoors most of the time since my arrival so before my show I legged it! The first thing you notice when the weather is minus is the hairs in your nose! By the time I got back indoors my beard was white.
We stayed that night in Phillipsburgh in a hunting lodge. In the morning my back was better and I decided to walk into the town. It was still dark (around 7 am) and it was quiet. I didn’t expect there to be anything open when I got to the main street but there was a corner bar and a cafe. I ate first in the cafe and had coffee after that in the corner bar. Everyone looked as I came in but the faces that greeted me were kind and curious. These were ranchers warming themselves with coffee and company. I got to talking life and death with John. He had traveled a good deal of the continent and had a grand outlook and opinion on life. We hit it off over two coffees and I made my way back renewed, and happy to be in Big Sky Country!
Sometimes no matter what the weather, the only thing that will fix you is getting out and about.