Nearing the Montana border, the sky became noticeably darker. Major fires had been raging throughout the West all summer and though the closest active flames were well over 50 miles away, their smoke had begun blocking out the sun. With no reason to stop, we pressed on, arriving in Bozeman around 8pm.
Our trip was nearing completion, but I decided to drag the boy on one last little excursion. Some 60 miles south of Bozeman sits Yellowstone National Park. It is without question, a national gem.
In 1976, I spent the summer working as a dishwasher at Yellowstone Lake. I turned 19 that June, made friends from across the U.S., and spent all my free time fly fishing and backpacking throughout the park. It was, unquestionably, the most memorable summer of my life. We stopped to marvel at a few of the numerous hot springs, geysers and waterfalls before finally arriving at Hamilton’s Lake Store Number Four. The mobile home I shared with five coworkers remained positioned in the same spot. A wood shed roof had been added to its facade. Inside, I met a young Japanese woman busily surfing the web on the company computer (and we didn’t even have a telephone in the main house!) The kitchen where I made my first loaf of bread appeared untouched by time.
Thirty one years had passed since I worked here. As I looked towards the distant shoreline, it dawned on me that Sam is just four years younger now than I was the first time I cast my eyes upon this blissful sight. My mind shifted from present to past, attempting to comprehend the gulf of time simultaneously separating and connecting us. I wondered where Sam’s path will take him in four short years…