We invaded the Divish home Friday night and held them hostage for a good six hours. Charlie Gallus was there, too.
You shoulda been there.
Ed and Patsy Divish, long-suffering parents of friend, former colleague and twitter kingpin Ryan Divish, couldn’t have been more hospitable.
Ed ladled out a piquant potato-and-sausage soup. Patsy served up a zesty homemade salsa and hummus, and then threw together a fat plate of tasty wraps.
There was Beer. There was wine. There was coffee.
Best of all there was an unforced, easy-going bonhomie.
You shoulda been there.
It was funny to eat dinner with Charlie, as we’d spent the afternoon trying to track him down. Ed got him on the phone, and 20 minutes later, there he was.
Ed and Charlie have been friends since first grade at St. Jude’s primary school. They graduated together from Havre Central High School, Class of 1965.
Before they even discovered beer, they got embroiled in the notorious Vogt Episode. They spent a couple weekends getting a little wild in a beaten-down shack west of town.
Mr. Vogt, who owned the beaten-down shack, threatened a lawsuit in defense of his defiled country mansion.
In the end, the kids were all right. No one went to jail. That wouldn’t have pleased Ed’s dad.
Ed’s dad, also named Edward, was an assistant police chief in Havre. He was on hand to provide security on Aug. 29, 1957, when the Great Northern’s Empire Builder stopped at the Havre station with the King on board. Hundreds of kids swarmed the depot and swallowed Ed Divish and his two colleagues.
The train stopped for 22 minutes, but Elvis never did make an appearance on the platform. The only person to make out on the deal was a Hill County deputy named Al Halladay, who boarded the train and returned with Presley’s autograph.
Even the mayor, James Davey, who showed up to welcome Elvis to Havre, got stood up.
Charlie, he is a character. He worked for more than two decades at the Havre Daily News. He laid out pages, broke stories, wrote columns, took photographs. He did it all.
Then he ran afoul of new management. I had a natural empathy for him.
He’s something of a savant, a flesh-and-blood encyclopedia with a passion for the mountains. He can recite the top 12 peaks at Glacier National Park, listing their altitude of their summits within feet. He can recite the heights of Mount Rainier, Mount Whitney, Mount Elbert and any number of the highest peaks in the continental United States.
He told us all about the Triple Divide, a hydrological wonder in Glacier. Water that falls on Triple Divide flows into three oceans, the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic. Charlie will tell you about it as if were reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
He’s a sweet guy, Charlie Gallus.
Both his granddads came to Havre with the railroad. The railroad gave birth to Havre. Old John Gallus and Walter Mack. Old John Gallus came from Krakow. He worked in the switching yard until he punched out a Great Northern Railway executive. At least that’s how Charlie heard it.
Louis Hill, the king of the railroad, spared Old John’s job, but put him in the boiler room, the dirtiest, most hated job there was.
Ed’s grandfather, Joseph Divish, grew wheat in Hingham,, another Hi Line town located 35 miles west of Havre.
At one point I asked Ed about his time Vietnam. He responded as if he had’t heard the question.
I asked Charlie if he went to Southeast Asia. He responded by telling a story about the benign tumors in his abdomen which ruined a trip to Glacier when he was 6. That was 1953. The story took him from home to Glacier to a house in Polson, where a local doctor diagnosed him with appendicitis.
Charlie didn’t have appendicitis. Then he didn’t have an appendix. His dad, Havre dentist Ray Gallus, argued with the doc. To no avail.
Soon the doctor admitted his mistake. Then Charlie was on the Empire Builder bound for Rochester, Minn., and the Mayo Clinic.
At 8 o’clock one morning in late July of 1953, Charlie doesn’t remember the exact date, he was wheeled into the emergency room at St. Marys Catholic Hospital on the grounds of the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Hollenbeck, a big, tall German, wielded the knife.
It all went well. He recalls his roommate with a bandage around his head. Looked like a mummy. Poor kid had a brain tumor which ultimately proved fatal.
When he returned to Havre, he was two days late for registration at St. Jude’s. The day he showed up for school was the day he met Ed Divish.
We partied with the Divishes. Ed and Patsy and Charlie and Yellow and Doolittle. The Divishes were far too generous.
Time after time, I’m amazed at the generosity of strangers. Ed and Patsy showered us with gifts. Coins for Max. Lots of pennies. A ballcap. Jars of homemade pickles. Books for me. Goddamn.
Charlie sang Roll on Columbia. Every verse.
You shoulda been there.
Before we inflicted ourselves on the Divishes, I stalked Charlie Gallus for a good part of the day. In the morning, I walked by the house where he used to live on Third Street. I briefly chatted with a neighbor, who told me Charlie had moved out to a public-housing facility on the south end of town.
And so we wandered to the Human Development Resources Council (HRDC) offices, adjacent to the Buffalo Crest senior housing project. Nice houses. We walked through the field, which we learned are occasionally visited by rattlesnakes, and through the HDRC doors.
That’s where we met Barb, who was very helpful. But Charlie wasn’t home. We drove back to First Street and went to the Dollar Zone. Then we went next door and popped into Creative Leisure, my favorite store of this entire odyssey. (Generally I try not to fetishize consumer emporiums.)
And so I chatted with the affable Rick Linie one more time. Bought that Barence Whitfield disc I’d dug yesterday. It’s pretty damn good.
This store is so cool it’s even got a resident cat named Paris.
Rick and his wife enjoy the pastoral life on 600 acres south of Havre. They have two horses, both geriatric Appaloosas. There’s even a lake on the property, most of which they lease out to a rancher, who pays them in hay and alfalfa.
I wandered about the store, wishing we had a record player at home. Or a home. Or some disposable income. Or income of any kind.
“Did you know I don’t have a computer at my house?” Rick said.
Now he was just fucking with me.
“And I don’t own a cell phone,” he added. “My wife’s the same way. It’s not that we’re anti-technological, it’s just that we decided we don’t want to participate in all that nonsense. I already have one idiot box in the house.”
Yeah, I almost envy Rick. He seemed to understand. He manages the student radio station at Montana State University Northern. He worked in the record distribution business in Portland, Ore., for a dozen years. Got access to all sorts of free concerts. He rattled off Bill Monroe, the Ramones, Miles Davis.
Now I was jealous.
“I’m happy where I am,” said Rick, whose granddad, Louie Linie, ran liquor across the border from Canada during Prohibition. “I love living in Montana.”
I couldn’t blame him.
We woke up in Bear Paw country after last night’s surreal drive to nowhere. Our misadventure couldn’t remove the shine from a wonderful evening at Chez Divish in Havre.
There’s no way to adequately thank the Divishes enough for their generosity. We said goodnight, clambered into the camper, filled the Behemoth with fuel and headed east on U.S. 2.
At Chinook, just 22 miles down the road, we turned south. Ostensibly, we were headed to Bear Paw Battlefield. We planned to pay our respects to Chief Joseph and maybe, just maybe, rejoin the covetous hunt for junior-ranger badges.
We got lost, quickly. Instead of heading south on Route 240, we stumbled onto unpaved Clear Creek Road. As it happens, the battlefield lies just 16 miles due south of Chinook.
Charlie Gallus had told us we’d need to stop at the museum in Chinook and get information. I figured it’d been a long time since Charlie had been this way, and maybe he was misinformed.
We soon lost the pavement. But we kept driving. The more we drove, the worse the road got. Undaunted, we blundered on. Instead of traveling 16 miles to the park, we drove until the rock and gravel turned to dirt and grass.
Then we kept driving.
We drove until we found ourselves on a one-lane path to nowhere. And we couldn’t stop ourselves.
Luckily, we avoided plowing into a young cow which stood in the middle of the road as we came around a corner. Good thing Becky couldn’t push the Behemoth past 11 mph.
We plunged 45 miles into the heart of the darkness. Our only company were sunflowers and occasional signs. We saw one other car. And that was in the first few miles after we’d left U.S. 2 at Chinook.
The road turned from rock to dirt mixed with large rock. A one-lane path. I thought of Robby Lucke at his family camp at Clear Creek, where he discovered his dad had been crushed to death in a freak accident.. Wondered how far it was.
I thought of Charlie Gallus, but not quite as much as I should have. He’s a walking, talking encyclopedia of the mountains.
About 15 minutes into the wrong-way run, I jokingly said if we reached a half a tank and still had no clue, we should turn around. I didn’t think it was possible. It nearly happened.
As we drove back into Chinook this morning, I recalled Charlie saying all the north-south streets here are named after states. Never doubt Charlie Gallus’ memory.
I thought of Charlie a lot today as we drove U.S. 2 past a string of Montana towns on the Hi Line. Harlem, Dodson, Malta, Isaco, Hinsdale, Tampico, Glasgow, Nashua, Wolf Point. One by one they came and went, nothing more than blurs in a windshield that’s become a killing field for a legion of insects.
He’d named them all last night, as if he were reading from our itinerary.
Everyone in Havre, form Rick Linie, to Ed Divish to Charlie Gallus, advised us to avoid the booming oil own of Williston, N.D.
It’s a Wild West freak show, a veritable Sodom on the Hi Line. Violence, greed, lust, all in Biblical proportions.
We’d be there soon.