Cousin Todd and I moved to Bozeman, MT within weeks of each other, and remained roommates for the duration of our three years there. For most of that time we lived on Babcock St. in a 1-bedroom apartment. For a year of that time, Ma Ingalls, from down polebarn way, lived with us as well. It was cozy quarters for three college friends from Florida looking to experience the Bridger Range and the Molly Brown. We had one bathroom, a red pleather couch, and a 6’x6′ painting of St. Gabriel and the Devil done by local artist, Edward Hemingway. We all three worked at the Leaf and Bean Coffee Shop on Main Street. Between us we owned about 5 official work shirts that we shared indiscriminately. None of us had known a winter.
Cousin Todd lived in the breakfast nook. He slept on a nest of dirty clothes, afghans, and quilts made by our Grandma Jewel. Sometime in late August of 1994 he received a red union suit in the mail. He took it from its plastic wrapping, put it on, and never took it off again.
I remember those days warmly. Ma Ingalls lived in the only bedroom. I lived in a 3 season Eureka tent within that same bedroom, and Cousin Todd in the nook. Winter lasts from late July until the first week of June in Montana, and we spent many of our evenings holed up near the wheezy radiator playing chess and loathing the smells and sounds of one another. Pop that gum again, I would think to myself, and I am going to put you out of your misery with the cast iron skillet when you look outside. Ask me whose turn it is again you brainless dolt and I will drag you out in the snow while you are sleeping, he probably thought to himself. Ma Ingalls would nag us about what we were going to cook for dinner, why couldn’t we save money, or find dates. We were a family and a team.
Ma and I each wandered our own way back to Florida, and found our densities. Cousin Todd settled in the Willamette Valley, in a town called Port Land, Oregon. He lives with his steadfast and capable wife and his two little boys. All wear union suits. They wash them on the 4th of July.
One week from tomorrow we will have our first family reunion of the Babcock Gang. Up in the trees above the Pole Barn we will toast the years.