Monday, July 27, 2009

We've Arrived in Montana

We have arrived at 7th Ranch RV Camp in Garryown, Montana, where we will be workampers until mid-October. Early last winter we posted our resume at and received a call asking if we would be interested in working here. At that time we had completed seven volunteer assignments in state and national parks and state fish and wildlife facilities. This is our first experience in a commercial RV park. We have spent very little time in Montana and are looking forward to learning more about the state.

We are one of four couples here right now. They had planned on having eight couples and we had expected that we would work two days on, then have four or five days off. Four of the couples were unable to be here, one couple left this week and another will leave the middle of next month. That means we will be working two or three days on, two to five off. Our first week we worked five days straight--three shorter days training and two full days.

My job is in the office—taking reservations, checking in campers, answering the phone, watering the flowers and grass around the office. I work from 8 am to 3 pm. John works from 7 am to 3 pm, hauling trash, cleaning restrooms and doing grounds maintenance, such as fertilizing and spraying for weeds and grasshoppers. When new campers come in during our shift, I call John on the radio and he escorts the party to their site. The park has 65 RV spaces, 17 tent spaces, four camper cabins and one teepee. The grounds are very well landscaped and well kept. And it takes a lot of work to keep everything clean and looking good. John works very, very hard during his eight hours. The temperature has been in the high 80s and 90s, hitting 100 a couple of days.

Chip and Sandy, the owners, are really great to work for and with. They go out of their way trying to make their workers feel at home, valued and comfortable. They developed 7th Ranch RV Camp on their ranch, replacing most of their cattle with travelers. The RV park is in the Little Big Horn River valley, which has lush green trees and fields along the river bottom. The surrounding rolling hills have fields of wheat, oats and hay that we have identified so far. It is pretty country.

We may have more social life here than we are used to. The day we arrived, Chip and Sandy took us and one of the other worker couples to lunch. Thursday they brought in pizza for lunch because one couple has to leave early because of illness in the family. Then Sunday one of the couples cooked dinner for all of us. We gathered at the office, where Jeri and Jim were working, to eat a delicious chicken enchilada casserole.

We are situated on Anglo-owned land in the middle of the Crow Indian Reservation, just a few miles from the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument, where Gen. Armstrong Custer lost his fight, his troops and his life in a battle against the Sioux, Arapahoe and Cheyenne Indians in 1876. The battlefield monument is the main tourist attraction in this area, so it is important we learn a little of the story. Last Tuesday we made our first visit, listening to a ranger explanation of the battle, watching the orientation film and viewing Last Stand Hill where Custer was killed, the Indian Memorial

and the Cavalry Horse monument. There also is a National Cemetery at the monument where veterans from the Indian Wars, as well as all the wars since then, are buried. We will return to explore the rest of the monument this week.

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