Wilkie Hastings

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Whenever we have a lot of snow, like now, I always think of Wilkie Hastings. He was an older gentleman (at least to a teenager) who lived in a small cabin, about 8-by-14 feet, on Trail Creek. I snowshoed in to see him one winter when we had a lot of snow. He put the kettle on to brew tea, then looked out the window on one side of the cabin and uttered a single swear word. He then crossed the room and looked out the opposite window, same swear word. The next summer, he traded his 160 acres for a used Buick. As he was leaving the country, the car’s engine blew up at the Trail Creek bridge. Wilke hitchhiked out of the country and I never heard of him again. His disabled car was towed back to his former property, where it sat for more than 50 years.

Of course, in the 1950s, the road was not plowed by the county until sometime in May. The only plowing was done by loggers, and that depended on where the Forest Service put up timber sales. Some winters, the road would be plowed to Trail Creek (rarely), sometimes to Whale Creek and sometimes not even to Polebridge.

Year-round residents laid in their winter groceries by mid-October, in case of early snow, and were prepared to stay until mid-May, unless there was a medical emergency. Austin Weikert’s father died on Trail Creek one winter and it took a combination of folks to get the body to town after several days and well-planned stops to spend the night.

Today, year-rounders tend to go to town every week and computers carry almost daily reports on the current snowfall and location of the county graders. In fact, several of the year rounders post tons of pictures on Facebook with only an occasional comment hoping the storm is over. More common are pictures of local ladies cross country skiing with big smiles on their faces and snow-clad trees in the background.

Old timers rarely skied, but they did snowshoe, and a few had dog sleds. The Brills and Holcombs told stories about the homesteaders camping at the mouth of Trail Creek in February for several days. The men would fish for whitefish, which the women canned. I guess that was their version of our now traditional New Years beach party.

Today, you can’t buy a one-acre lot for less than $25,000, let alone get 160 acres for a used car. Even so, winter is still winter and we are still looking at the same mountains and clear water. I hope that never changes.

What do you think?

Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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