Meet Eleanor, my 92 year-old Montana tour guide. She showed me around Helena without even being able to see where we were going.
Eleanor moved to Montana sometime in the '20s. Told me stories of gem-gleaning in the streets as a child after a heavy rain, JFK's visit in 1960, Helena wildfires, and even a crazy story about a pilot flying his plane through the double spires of the cathedral. She showed me where Helena's Chinatown used to be and explained that it's not like what you would expect from a Chinatown...it was just where the Chinese mine workers lived. She said that not being citizens, they couldn't stake claims but worked very hard on other people's claims. When the area was razed in the '70s, they found underground tunnels that led to the mines from the homes. The citizen-owners of the mines would take their day's findings and go spend it on large living and never really get rich. While they were out carousing at night, some of the Chinese workers would sneak through the tunnels, do their own mining and sock away their "earnings."
Eleanor rode with me down gulch roads, marveling at progress and change and I mentioned more than once to her that "I could live here!" (She's written to me since I've been back, giving me the name of a good realtor and some information on some properties for sale in one of the area's many gulch developments. It would be like having a nice house in a campground!)
She showed me around all the old buildings...Gary Cooper's childhood home, Montana's Children's Home and Hospital, Crippled Children's Hospital built in '37, old lime kilns, and well so many places and things that fascinated me to the point of having to throw my car into park, jump out and snap a picture or two. The places we visited are not the topic of this post, however interesting it all is. And it is very interesting and of course, I have pictures which I might post later. I took this picture of Eleanor waiting blindly and patiently for me on one of those times I had jumped out to take a picture of something else.
I'm just missing a cherished friend.