I wasn’t born a savage. Rather, I was born IN Savage. Yes, it’s a real place on the easternmost ledge of Montana right alongside the whispering waters of the Yellowstone River. Isolated, hot, cold, dry, and wet, Savage will test your best, sometimes bring out the worst, and if you’re not careful, it can kill you, too.
There’s something special about a place like that. Some folks can’t see it. Others choose not to. And then there are those who just don’t have it in them to try.
Even as a boy, I more than saw it. I felt it.
That red Savage earth that so often took up residence in the space between my boot heels and underneath my nails was a constant reminder of my connection to the land. Those years growing up in the wide expanse and open skies of Eastern Montana were as essential to me as the heartbeat in my chest. The rhythm of that time gave me cause and purpose, the kind of purpose that connects and extends from one generation to the next.
My father, Temple McGreevy, and his bride Branna came to Savage in 1894 by way of Ireland and the Five Points neighborhood of New York City. They had in their possession a tired old horse, a rickety wagon, forty-six dollars, the clothes on their backs, and a cowhide chair that had crossed the Atlantic with them all the way from Waterford County in the Old World.
That chair was given a prominent place in front of the woodstove inside the cabin Father and Mother built from the pine trees that grew in clusters on our one-hundred-and-sixty-acre homestead, land acquired by my parents, courtesy of Montana’s 1862 Free Homestead Act. It was property the Savage locals would soon after take to calling the McGreevy Ranch. Mother explained to me how Father felled the trees, cut the planks, and then they nailed up the structure. It’s remarkable what two people with a bit of determination can accomplish together. As for love and freedom, my parents were grateful to have plenty of both even during those times when food and water were in short supply.
Theirs was a uniquely American story, one my mother was happy to share with me many times as I transitioned from a child to a young man. And so, it became my story as well.
To the one reading this, you’ll discover that soon enough - and then some. There’ll be happiness and far more heartache than I would wish to recall, love and loss, and even a bit of blood. We all have secrets. You now hold mine in your hands.
Welcome to my Savage. Stick with it. Keep reading. Don’t give up on me and our story just yet.
-Cy McGreevy: 1971
“Grandma, what is this?”
Morning McGreevy handed the thick, leather-bound journal to her grandma Candace. The nineteen-year-old had discovered it in a box underneath a pile of dusty old linens as she helped give the attic a much-needed spring cleaning.
“Goodness! That must be my father’s journal. I recall my mother briefly mentioning it years ago. I believe he wrote it shortly before a heart attack took him. At some point, Mother must have boxed it away and put it up here. She never really was one for dwelling on the past.”
Morning watched as her grandmother stood under the light bulb that hung from the attic rafters and, with narrowed eyes, read part of the same introduction Morning had just finished. Although approaching her eightieth year, Candace McGreevy was still a formidable and fiercely independent woman. Hers had been a life of non-conformity, including never marrying. She had raised a son, Morning’s father, as a single mother during a time when such a thing was unheard of. Age had not bent her posture or weakened the proud visage that was her lean, lined face. And though her long hair had gone completely gray, her mind remained as sharp and clear as her hazel-green eyes.
“I remember my mother, your great-grandmother, telling me how Cy had a way with the words. That’s the Irish in us, you know. We are a people devoted to stories and song, and he was more devoted than most. He loved writing nearly as much as riding horses.”
Morning cleared her throat. Candace’s eyes twinkled as she looked at her granddaughter.
“You want to take it with you, don’t you?”
Morning stood up. Boxes stuffed with relics, old furniture, and travel trunks surrounded her, silent sentinels of her family’s past.
“Would that be OK? I promise I won’t lose it.”
Candace glanced down at the yellowed pages of the journal filled with the graceful handwriting of a hard man whose life had ended a half-century earlier. She brought the journal closer to her face, took a deep breath, and smiled.
“You can still smell him. His pipe tobacco, his whiskey, and his Montana, it’s all right here.”
Morning stared at her grandmother. The two women were of similar height, build, and disposition, a clear link between generations.
“Aren’t you going back to the university tomorrow?”
Morning nodded. With her parents on vacation in Mexico she had decided to visit Candace at her home in Portland, but now it was time to return to her life as a college student.
“Yeah. I’m leaving first thing in the morning.”
The drive from Portland, Oregon to the University of Idaho in Moscow took six hours. Morning intended to be back in her dorm room by Sunday afternoon for the start of spring quarter later that week. She sensed her grandmother’s uncertainty.
“Is it really that important to you that you read Cy’s journal?”
Morning nodded. “Yes, it is. I’m a history major. I always have to learn about other people’s history. I would love the chance to learn more about my own. I’ll return it to you when I’m back here for the summer. I promise.”
Candace opened her mouth but then abruptly closed it as Morning’s cell phone made a chirping noise. She apologized and then took the phone out to check the text message. It was from her roommate asking when she was going to be back.
Morning’s thumbs were quick to reply in the abbreviated form so common to those of her generation. She put the phone back into her pocket and then looked up to see her grandma scowling at her.
“You kids and your contraptions! All that beeping and chirping and chiming. I can’t imagine having to live like that. You never have a moment’s peace to just think and listen to your own thoughts. There’s always someone else who demands to be heard. Everybody’s talking, but nobody’s saying a darn thing.”
“I’m sorry about that, Grandma Candace.”
There was a brief moment of awkward silence. Candace’s eyes softened. She had never been one to remain angry for long, especially where her granddaughter was concerned.
“Don’t you dare lose this.”
One pair of hazel-green eyes looked into another.
“This journal is important, do you understand? I imagine that’s why my mother put it away. Not because she didn’t want it to be found, but so it wouldn’t be lost.”
“I know, Grandma. I also think if Cy took the time to write all that down he wanted it to be read and not sitting in a box up in an attic underneath a bunch of linens, right?”
Candace’s brows arched. Morning worried she had offended her yet again.
“You’re a strong-willed young woman, Morning. That’s a good thing. It’s a McGreevy thing. Don’t you ever forget that as you continue into this world or you might just get swallowed up like you had never been. That happens to plenty. It’s a terrible thing to look into a mirror and not recognize the face staring back at you.”
Candace closed the journal, refastened the leather strap that kept it closed, and handed it to Morning. “You say you want to know more about your people and where you came from? This will likely help you to do some of that.”
Morning held onto one end of the journal while Candace continued to hold onto the other. Her grandmother’s eyes narrowed, and her voice dropped to a near whisper.
“If Cy told the truth in this journal, I suspect it won’t all be good. We had some troubles, some darkness. There were things I know my mother kept from me. Savage was a beautiful place but a hard one, too.”
“Do you miss it?”
Candace started to shake her head as she let go of the journal. Then her head went still.
“Actually, I guess I do. I hadn’t thought to ask myself that question in a very long time.”
Candace smiled. Her natural warmth returned.
“Well, I think we’ve done enough cleaning up for now. Let’s get out of all this dust. Thank you for the help. How about I make us some lunch?”
Morning put her arm around her grandmother’s shoulders and hugged her.
“That would be nice Grandma. We can make it together.”
The two women left the attic and returned downstairs. Morning carried the journal in her hand, taking the words and experiences of a great-grandfather she had never known with her.
During her fourth hour of driving, Morning pulled into a rest area to use the bathroom. She had made good on her plan to leave her grandmother’s house first thing that morning. It was now noon, and the transition from the lush green and mountainous western portion of the Pacific Northwest into the more flat and arid eastern half was complete.
Despite the calendar marking the start of spring as just a few days earlier, the noon temperature was already nearing seventy degrees. After returning from the bathroom, Morning glanced down at the journal that she had left on the blue vinyl passenger seat of her 1971 Ford Mustang. She had purchased the car for one-hundred and seventeen dollars shortly before her seventeenth birthday. The Mustang had sat for years beneath a willow tree in a neighbor’s yard across the street from her parent’s home in Shoreline, a middle-class suburb just north of Seattle. Morning would walk by it twice a day - once on her way to school and once again on her way back. She was drawn to the vehicle’s long hood and wide stance and not at all bothered by the badly faded silver-blue metallic paint or the pitted, dirt-encrusted, deep-dish alloy wheels.
The neighbor, a short, heavyset, older Egyptian man named Motika Hassan who everyone called Mot, initially refused to sell her the car. In his accented English he tried to convince Morning that the Mustang wasn’t for her. Mot explained how it had been his very first car after he arrived in America. He said it represented his escape from a life not of his choosing to a life that was, and so, it held a special place in his heart. Morning left that first refusal more determined than ever to be the car’s next owner.
That had been the predictable reaction of Morning’s parents after she shared with them her desire to buy the Mustang. They said the car was too old. It likely wasn’t even running. It would cost too much to fix up. It wouldn’t be reliable or safe. And on and on they went.
Morning ignore their reasons. Her mind was made up. The car would be hers.
She had never been a purposely rebellious daughter. Morning loved and was grateful for her parents. Jack and May McGreevy were both employed at the Boeing plant in Everett, Washington. Jack was a quality-control supervisor while May worked in the personnel department. They provided their only child a comfortable suburban home in an area of quality schools and ample opportunity. As Morning got older, she began to question if it might not be the life for her. She desired something more by wanting something less: less security, less conformity, less watching days turn into weeks and months and years without anything seeming to change.
It was that yearning for something different that led Morning to accept an invitation to attend college in Northern Idaho. During the summer following her junior year in high school, she visited the campus with her parents and found she liked it. Somewhat remote, the university still had the remnants of the Old West spirit that had been so integral to its founding in 1892. When Morning’s mother declared the place was too hot and too far away from home, that sealed it. The University of Idaho would be her college of choice.
Morning recalled the day she once again crossed the street to speak to Mot about selling his car to her. Her return appeared to impress the Egyptian, who, like her parents, worked at the Boeing plant. He likely thought he’d scared her off for good. Her coming back let him know she wasn’t one to scare easily.
“I would think your parents would be against you having this car, yes?”
Morning nodded. “Yeah, they said no. They think it probably doesn’t even run.”
Mot scowled. “It runs! And if it doesn’t, I can fix it. I’m an engineer you know. I can fix this in my sleep. Believe me! Here, let me show you.”
Mot walked into his single-story home and then returned, proudly holding up a set of keys. “Don’t run, eh? We’ll see about that!”
The Mustang let out a metallic groan as he opened the driver door. He slipped behind the wheel and inserted the key into the ignition. His foot pumped the gas pedal a few times as he turned the key.
Nothing happened. Morning stood next to the open car door. Mot looked up at her and shrugged.
“No problem. It’s just a dead battery. Be right back.”
Mot had become just as determined as Morning to see the car running. His garage door opened. He emerged carrying a battery charger and extension cord, one end of which was already plugged into an outlet inside the garage. His thinning, gray hair stuck out straight from the sides of his head, giving him the appearance of a slightly deranged, dark-skinned circus clown.
“Pull the hood latch. It’s to the left of the brake pedal.”
Morning located the latch and pulled it. Mot opened the hood and connected the charger to the battery. He then pointed at the oil and dirt encrusted motor.
“302. Two-hundred-and-ten horsepower. Plenty of power. Not bad on gas. Very, very reliable engine.”
Mot explained that a 1971 Mustang sat both wider and slightly lower than previous versions, changes he said improved the vehicle’s driving performance. He detailed how the fastback design made the car more aerodynamic.
“James Bond drove a 1971 Mustang in the movie, Diamonds are Forever. It’s true. I always thought, if it’s good enough for Bond it’s good enough for Mot!”
It was then Morning came to realize two things about her neighbor. The first was that Mot truly admired the Mustang and its representation of American ingenuity. The second was how lonely he was. Mot’s two kids were grown and moved out, and his wife had died on the operating table during heart surgery two years earlier. Morning recalled her dad mentioning how Mot could have retired from Boeing last year but continued to stay on, likely because his job gave him something to do so he didn’t have to spend his days inside of an empty house with only memories to keep him company.
Mot stood in front of Morning, smiling as he clapped his hands together. “OK! Let’s see if she’ll fire up.”
This time when the key was turned the motor belched out a cloud of dark smoke from its back end before once again going silent. Mot’s grin remained on his face as he nodded.
He turned the key again. The engine shuddered, paused, and then died. Mot’s grin dissipated, his confidence finally shaken.
“Can I try?”
Mot took a moment to consider Morning’s request. His short, thick fingers tapped the top of the steering wheel. He shrugged.
“I don’t think it will do much good. Perhaps the gas went bad.”
Mot exited the car and Morning eased herself into the driver seat. The Mustang’s interior smelled of stale air, old vinyl, and dirty carpet. She ran a hand over the top of the automatic gear shift that extended upward from the center-floor console. The car had a heater, but no air conditioning and no power windows. The original AM/FM stereo had just two knobs for volume and reception. Directly behind the steering wheel were three round gauges. The one on the left noted RPM. The one on the right indicated speed, and the smaller gauge in the middle showed how much fuel was in the tank.
Morning took hold of the key, pushed the gas pedal all the way to the floor, and turned the ignition. The engine turned over a few times, sputtered, and then roared to life.
Mot grinned as he raised his hands over his head. He did a little dance on his lawn and then pointed at Morning.
“The car seems to like you. Perhaps you two are meant to be.”
The engine cut out. When Morning attempted to restart it, the motor made a clicking sound and then went silent. Mot was quick to offer Morning a proposition.
“I tell you what. If you help me to clean the car up, get it running right, I will consider selling it to you for a very fair price. In the meantime, you will have to get the approval of your parents. So, what do you think?”
Morning got out of the car and extended her hand. Mot happily gave it a firm shake.
“You have a deal, Mr. Hassan. I’ll be here every day you need me to help out.”
Mot ended the handshake with another smile and gave Morning a quick bow.
“Please, call me Mot. We are friends now, yes?”
Morning nodded. “Yes. So, when do you want to start?”
Mot shrugged. “Why not now? Let me get a bucket and some rags, and we’ll wash her up.”
Morning agreed, and for the next hour, Mot wiped down the car, and she sprayed it clean. The paint didn’t yet shine, but it was no longer covered with a thick layer of grime. The Mustang’s restoration had begun. For the next several weeks, Morning buffed, polished, and waxed the exterior and cleaned out the interior. Mot rebuilt the carburetor, changed out the plugs, belts, and hoses, and installed new brake lines and pads. Often when she was working on the Mustang with Mot, Morning’s parents would watch her through their living room window from across the street.
Every time Morning thought they were finally finished, Mot would find something else to fix or replace. One day it was the water pump, another time the alternator, the heater core, a valve cover, or the starter. Morning began to suspect Mot didn’t want to finish. He enjoyed the time with Morning and seeing the Mustang’s slow but steady return to its former glory.
Finally, after six months of work, even Mot had to admit there was nothing more to do. He sat down in the passenger seat and motioned for Morning to join him inside the car. Morning eased herself behind the steering wheel. The interior wasn’t showroom perfect, but it was both clean and functional. Mot handed her the keys.
“Start her up.”
The Mustang’s engine fired instantly and settled into a throaty, American-made V8 idle.
Mot leaned back into the passenger seat, closed his eyes, and grinned.
“She sounds just like I remember her. Powerful - the sound of America when it still made things like this. Driving it always made me feel a little bit like a cowboy.”
Mot opened his eyes and pointed to the street.
“Let’s see how she drives.”
Morning’s eyes widened. Though she had started the car before, this would be the first time Mot suggested she take it out on the road.
Mot tapped the dashboard.
“Of course! You have your license, don’t you?”
“OK, then drive. We need to make sure everything is working properly.”
Morning’s grin matched Mot’s as the Mustang crept forward across the lawn, onto the driveway, and then into the street. Mot pointed to the right.
“Drive down that way, turn around, and then park it in front of your house.”
Morning nervously looked out over the Mustang’s long hood. Mot chuckled.
“You drive like an old woman!”
Morning scowled and gave the car more gas. Mot nodded his approval.
“Ah, that’s better. Do you hear how good she sounds?”
The Mustang’s duel exhaust sang a deep-noted tune. Morning came to a stop sign, turned the wheel sharply left, and continued down the street.
“You want me to park in front of my house?”
Mot nodded. “Yes.”
Morning stopped the car, put it into park, and shut it off. She looked to her right and saw her parents watching through the front window. Mot noticed them as well.
“Do you still wish to buy the car from me?”
“Yeah, of course I do.”
Mot tipped his head toward Morning’s house and her parents.
“Then we need to convince them of what we already know.”
“And what’s that?”
Mot looked back at Morning. “That this car is right for you and you are right for this car.”
Morning sighed. “I’ll try my best.”
Mot wagged his finger as he winked. “I’ll help you. I can be very persuasive when it’s about something I believe in, and I believe in you, Morning McGreevy. There are not many people your age willing to do the work you did to make something old new again. You have earned my respect, and I would be honored to speak on your behalf.”
Morning watched her dad walk down the sidewalk with Mot. The two men were talking about the Mustang. Morning’s mother stood next to her with a face alternating between concern and pride in how nice the Mustang looked and her daughter’s part in its restoration.
“I just don’t know, Morning. It’s an older car. I thought your first car would be the station wagon. I know it’s not much to look at, but it’s reliable and safe, and you can pack all your things in the back when you’re off to college next year.”
Morning glanced at her mother’s dark brown Ford Taurus wagon that was parked in the driveway in front of the garage. She tried her best to hide the horror she felt over the possibility it would be her first car.
“Oh, I appreciate that, Mom, but I put so much work into the Mustang.”
“I know you did, honey. I tell you what, I already told your father I was going to leave it up to him, OK?”
Morning knew her mother was already certain her dad was going to say no. That meant it was up to Mot to convince him otherwise. Mot and her father made their way back to the driveway of the McGreevy home. Jack McGreevy stuck his hand out and shook Mot’s. Morning didn’t know if that meant good or bad news for her. Her dad looked at her mother, and then his gaze fell on Morning and remained there.
“If you and Mot can agree on a price, I won’t stand in the way of you having the Mustang. That said, you’ll only be allowed to drive to and from school for a while until you get a feel for the car. Any screw-ups, no matter how small, and I take the keys from you. Understood?”
Morning’s mouth fell open. Her mother’s mouth did the same.
“Wait, Jack, you’re letting her have the car? Are you sure?”
“Yeah. If Mot and Morning can agree on a price, she can have the car. It’s what she wants. She’s worked hard to get it. Her grades are good. She doesn’t get into trouble. And at her age, we can’t be the ones to protect her from the world anymore. She has to learn how to do that herself.”
Morning’s dad put his arm around her mother and walked her back into the house, telling her they should give Morning and Mot some privacy as they negotiated the sale of the car.
“I don’t know how you convinced him, Mot, but thank you.”
“It wasn’t me. It was you. Your father knew the time you put into this car. The work that time involved. We spoke of being parents. I too have a daughter. I was born in Egypt. He was born in America, yet we are both fathers. That allows us to speak the same language and today that conversation concluded you had earned the right to be the driver of your own destiny.”
“How much do you want for it?”
Mot glanced at the car then looked back at Morning. “How much do you have?”
Morning grimaced knew she didn’t have nearly enough. “Right now, all I have is a hundred-and-seventeen-dollars, but I can make payments to you. With a car, I can get a job and—”
Mot held his hands up in front of him. Morning feared he was going to tell her the deal was off.
“If a hundred-and-seventeen-dollars is what you have then that is what I will sell the car to you for. We have a deal.”
Morning shook her head. “No. It’s not enough Mr. Hassan. I can’t—”
Mot interrupted Morning for the second time. “It is enough. Don’t forget the work you put into the car. That is payment more valuable to me than any amount of money. Here are the keys. The title is in the glovebox. The Mustang is yours.”
Morning watched the keys to the Mustang drop into the palm of her hand. Without thinking to do so, and fighting back tears, she stepped forward and gave Mot a hug. He hugged her back as he struggled to fight off his own tears.
Mot died the following summer, just a week after Morning’s high school graduation. He was at work. It was a massive stroke that took him.
Morning shook herself from her memories. The rest area was busy with the traffic of returning college students. A yellow VW Bug pulled in alongside the Mustang. Two young men in their early twenties got out, hardly saying anything to each other as they made their way toward the restroom, their faces buried in their cell phones. Morning picked Cy’s journal up off of the passenger seat, opened it, and re-read the last few lines of the introduction.
To the one reading this, you’ll discover that soon enough, and then some. There’ll be happiness and heartache, love and loss, and even a bit of blood. We all have secrets. You now hold mine in your hands.
Welcome to my Savage. Stick with it. Keep reading. Don’t give up on me and my story just yet.
-Cy McGreevy: 1971
1971. The same year as her Mustang. Morning had long had a fascination with how numbers sometimes connected both people and events. She didn’t know if the Mustang represented any such connection between herself and Cy, but the romantic in her wanted to think it might.
She turned a page to the next entry in the journal. Cy McGreevy’s words echoed back to a great-granddaughter born long after his own life had ended.
Morning glanced at her phone to check the time.
Just a few pages and then I’ll get going.
She started to read.
“You nearly killed your mother.”
That was my father’s description of the day I was born. It must have been an especially tough birth because my mother couldn’t have any more kids after me. That made ours an unusually small family for that time. Even more so given our Irish Catholic background. America was on the precipice of a new century. Not that Savage paid much mind to any of that. Those who made Savage their home most often did so because the land was cheap, and people were for the most part allowed to be left alone.
My family was no different. We liked our privacy. Some might think of that as a lonely existence but growing up I never felt the need for more company. Far from it. There were fish in the rivers and creeks, deer in the hills, and the wild horses that would come down from the north every fall and stay until summer.
I was my own best friend. As I write this now, and take a moment to reflect, I guess that part of my nature still remains. I appreciate having the time to be by myself.
My father, like most Savage men, pushed his body to its limits to provide for his family. He woke before dawn every day to work our land. Some years we focused on wheat. Other years it was corn, barley, or potatoes. It never made much difference what crop it was. We never had much money, but we didn’t starve.
There were a few apple trees on the property. Mom canned apples in the fall and those cans would help us survive the long, hard Savage winters. I hunted deer with my father and then later by myself. Dad taught me what he knew of fishing, and by the time I was a teenager, I was teaching him. Things like hunting and fishing always came naturally to me. I considered the outdoors to be the only classroom that really mattered.
As for my formal education, I barely tolerated it. There were nine of us packed into a narrow, low-ceiling room that was part of the white, two-story Savage Post Office building located some three miles from my home. It was there I learned my letters, read my first book, and began the practice of writing down my thoughts. Our teacher was a tall, thin, hard-faced tyrant named Ms. Poe. The adults knew her as the Widow Poe, a name made even more appropriate by her habit of wearing the same neck-to-ankles black dress all the time. She had come to Savage by way of New York City with a husband who had the bad manners to then die on her. She might have been the only one in Savage at that time who actually had a university degree. Apparently, the Savage elders thought that made her the most suitable choice to teach the Savage children.
I was certain then, and remain just as certain now, that the Widow Poe despised all of us who arrived each morning into her classroom. She was a striking cobra with her pointing stick. Not a week went by that my knuckles weren’t left bruised by her favored form of discipline.
That was, until I finally had enough of Ms. Poe and her stick.
It was an especially cold November, just a week before Thanksgiving. The classroom inside the Post Office had four long benches the students sat at. My place was at the back of the class on the last bench nearest the door. Katie Powell sat two benches in front of me. I was thirteen. Katie was a year older. Her family was poor, even by Savage standards. Like me, she was by then an only child. Unlike me, she had once had two other siblings, an older brother and a younger sister. They both died during a severe outbreak of tuberculosis three years earlier that had decimated portions of the Montana population. Katie was never the same after that. There was a pain in her eyes that never left, even when she was smiling.
We both shared a love of horses. Katie had grown up with an old mare named River her father had saved from being sent off to the glue factory which he then gave to her as a Christmas present when Katie was six. Though River was a thin, sickly creature, you’d never know it when you saw the pride Katie showed when she was on that horse. I had a spirited Mustang stallion. It took my father six weeks to get him to accept the saddle. I named him Scout. He was a big, strong, beautiful thing. Scout was more horse than most boys my age could have handled. I managed early on but just barely. Scout and River became friends, and as a matter of happy convenience, their owners did as well.
We rode all over Savage on those two horses, regardless the season. We’d find a trail and be off following it, only to return home apologetic to our folks for having lost all track of time. Scout seemed to sense River was not as healthy as him. He didn’t mind having to slow down and wait for her to catch up and I certainly didn’t mind doing the same for Katie.
The day after her brother and sister finally died following weeks of coughing up blood, Katie showed up to my house with tears streaming down her face and asked if we could go on a ride and never come back. I said sure. I think I might have meant it, too. My mother saw us off, whispered to me to be a good friend to Katie and let her do all the crying she needed.
Once we started riding, Katie didn’t cry, though. She was just real quiet. The horses walked and walked, and Katie sat in the saddle not saying a word for the longest time. That changed when we made our way up to a place the locals knew as Vaughn’s Hill. It was a neighboring property owned by the Wilkes family who didn’t mind us riding through it. The top of that hill overlooked a long, narrow valley cut out of the earth thousands of years ago by glaciers and a portion of the Yellowstone River. It was also a place those wild horses I mentioned earlier would often come to. They happened to be there that day. Katie looked down on those horses and cracked a little smile. It was the first hint from her that despite the loss of her siblings, she was going to be OK.
“Cy, do you believe in ghosts? Do you think we get to see the people we love again after they die?”
I was startled and confused by the question. My initial response was a quick shrug.
“I dunno. Do you?”
Katie went silent again for a while as a gust of wind pushed her long, blonde hair off her shoulders. She glanced at me and then her head turned back so she could continue watching the herd of horses gathered in the valley below us.