My favorite: Corinne Bonde Ackley

Corinne Bonde Ackley at 92 years old

At 90, my dear old Aunt Corinne was still game for some fun at Pioneer Park on a freezing day.  She often came to our house in Billings for holiday fun.  Lots of Thanksgiving days, really, not Christmas so much.  And huckleberries.  She usually brought a gallon or two of hucks.  And whiskey.  Jack Daniels.

Once on Thanksgiving she failed to bring any whiskey.  I don’t know why, but she asked me to run get some.  “No,” I said.  In those days I didn’t drink and I had a stiff nose.

“Go to hell!”  she shouted several times.  I admit to being an asshole.  My sister Carol drove to the liquor store and bought Corinne a fifth of J.D.

Corinne was more generous than I.  One time she fixed drinks for herself and for my mother-in-law, Lillian Meakins, in her 80s, probably.  I was astonished.  I stuttered.  “You can’t do that,” I said.  Lillian probably hadn’t touched anything but sacramental wine her entire life.  Lillian was raised on a homestead on the Missouri River.

“Oh yeah,” said Corinne.  “Just watch me.”  Corinne then stomped over to the front door, opened it, stepped out on the porch.  “Yoohoo!”  She hollered.  “Hey everyone!  Two old ladies are drinking whiskey.”

If Corinne could drink whiskey, she couldn’t see.  In my quest to teach the old girl some new tricks, I never let Corinne get away with saying the word “can’t.”

“The word is won’t,” I instructed.  “Don’t tell me you can’t see, tell me you won’t see.”

“Go to hell,” she instructed right back.

Corinne lived to within a week of being 93.




Religion and me.


Daniel Struckman

April 14, 2016

History in brief of my Christian affiliations. 345 words

Age five, I fashioned a shrine in my room complete with altar and place to kneel.   I had modeled a picture from our encyclopedia of a child kneeling in prayer. I used the shrine only once. In constructing it, complete with Bible story characters, I had used toy soldiers. I next employed them in an attack against my brother’s toy knights. I didn’t own a Bible until my grandma gave me an old one, so for my shrine I just used a suitable book and drew a cross on the wall with chalk. I got in trouble.

I had mixed feelings about a Bible grandma gave me. It had no maps of Montana in the back, but it had a photograph of a dead person from a real Egyptian mummy and another of the Rosetta stone. Of course, I showed my friends.

Mother sent me to Sunday school. We boys wore white shirts, so we colored each other with crayons. I was starting to get the drift of our Protestant traditions when, for some reason or other, we moved from Missoula to Dillon.

In high school in Dillon, a good way toward intimacy with girls was through attending MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship). “Toward intimacy” was as close as I got.

In Missoula for college in 1967, the University Congregational Church had fixed up a sort of “downstairs coffee house,” which also promised a path toward intimacy with girls. I did not succeed with girls then, but we students were glad to get out of the cold weather. The Congregational Church did not lay a heavy religious trip on us.

Then came years of military service and marriage.   A church wedding.

Thus, marriage and religion were closely related for us.  Our new family was on a budget and church was almost free. After attending a variety of churches, we found that the Congregational Church didn’t require us to blindly follow a doctrine, so we joined them. That was about 40 years ago.



Sleepy dog, co-op bookstore.

Photo on 4-14-16 at 1.56 AM.jpg

April 14, 2016

Gotta get connected.  Yes.  Fingers on home keys.  Indices on keys with bumps.  Now my winged thoughts can flow.  Oops.  My goddamn muse is not helping here.  No matter.  Dog asleep by my legs.  I touched him with my foot and he made a sort of high-pitch vocal “hmmm.”  I just realized that the reason I seldom mention the smells of something in my writing is that smells go away when we get used to them.  Like the dog smell of this happy creature.  By my foot.  Two distinctive smells, both good.

The big deal is my sister and I have an appointment with an hematologist today to discuss how to diagnose her trouble:  night sweats, fatigue, sore throat, persistently elevated white blood cell concentrations in her blood.  I’m hoping to ask questions that she won’t have thought of.  Not that she lacks brains, she doesn’t.  She is highly intelligent.  I know because she told me.  Sometimes two thinkers are better than one.

I guess I’m interested in the practical aspects:  what is the usual timeline for worst-case?  I mean, the span between tests and results, treatments and more treatments, like that.

Other questions:  I always like to find out the percentages that are available for a variety of troubles vis-a-vis treatments vs no treatment vs comparator treatments.  I’ll take paper and pen.

I like symptom relievers, considering that sore throat is her principal complaint.  I know a remedy, but do you think my older sister will listen and obey me?

It’s one a.m. and I’m awake.  I probably should have had desert after supper.  I often take an over-the-counter pain reliever, but I forgot to bring any.  I could go interrupt my sister’s night sweats and ask her for one.  Nah.

In two weeks and one day our oldest son has his 45th birthday.  I’m going to send him a copy of the Ashley Book of Knots.  And a new edition of On Rope.  Both excellent.  I hope when we get our co-op bookstore up and running here in Billings that we will stock both titles.

Remember the Whole Earth Catalog and Stuart Brand?  He didn’t list every book on a subject, just the excellent ones.  That’s how I hope our bookstore co-op does.

In Nebraska

Photo on 4-1-16 at 4.39 PMI like dogs

April 13, 2016

Gering Nebraska at my sister’s apartment.

Long way from Billings.  I don’t know, 500 miles?  I carried Gunther in his crate, large enough for him to turn around.  He didn’t seem to mind, although he didn’t eat at any of the stops, and he drank only a small amount.  I walked him around on his leash and also let him run.  I hoped that would loosen his bowels, but no.

He likes my sister’s place.  We let him run out on this huge lawn outside her sliding door, left open enough so that he could come and go.  Meanwhile, my sister Carol, who is ailing, talked with me about lots of different things from our loves won and lost to our sexuality to food, but mostly to books.  She is just nuts about P.G. Wodehouse, whom I must say, wins my vote.  He uses few adverbs, but sprinkles adverbial phrases about liberally.  He is clearly one of the best writers in the world.  I mean, so is Mark Twain.

Carol read a few sentences from Wodehouse and I wept.  With gladness.  She read them again.  Again.  A fourth time.  More weeping.  Joy.

At this moment Carol is thinking about playing bridge.  She plays with old ladies.  I offered my services as a fourth, but Carol suggested I’d be better off taking a night class.  To learn bridge, that is.

One of her old lady friends is a Master of Duplicate Bridge.  I may meet her.  According to Carol she is not just intelligent, but kindly as well.  Like Father Harr, a retired Catholic priest across the hall and down four or five doors.  A damned nice man who today went off to play golf.  I met him this morning because his dog, a schnauzer, barked while Gunther was outdoors.  I thought Gunther had gotten in somehow, so I went out in the hall and asked a cleaning person if my dog was out there.  No.