By ice rivers
“A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to set foot in it. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.”
I was a Rochester, New York asphalt dweller barely skirting crime, drugs and shrinks when I first set foot in Montana. I had come to take a graduate course called Literature and the Outdoors at Montana State University in Bozeman. I was completing my requirements for Permanent Certification K-12 Language Arts. I took my brand new Dodge Club Cab truck and was in the stalwart company of Deke and Crown.
By the time we got to Bozeman, we already had adventures in the Dakotas, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado all the way to California. We were drinking and trucking our way across country or as we liked to say...we turned left and just kept going. When we got to the Pacific we turned right and kept going back, back, back until we reached Bozeman. We had been on the road all summer camping and often living in our truck "down by the river".
We had no idea what to expect at Montana State so we were more than usually unprepared for the incredible array of healthy, buxom, nubile women that abounded on campus. Naturally, we wondered WTF. This could not be real.
F turned out to be a national gathering of intercollegiate cheerleaders, hundreds of 'em, who were seminaring on campus. We didn't learn about that fact for the first few days that we were in Bozeman before I attended my first class and met my fellow grad students.
Kunio Yamane was one of my classmates. Kunio had just arrived in the United States where I met him at a meet and greet for students in the class hosted by Dr. Gerry Coffey. Dr. Gerry had created this class and it had drawn national and international attention. The idea of the class was an intensive three week program. During the first two weeks, we would meet daily from 9-4. These were the days of "encounter groups". Our group sessions would be aimed at building the teamwork that we would need for the last week of the course when we backpacked into the Beartooth mountains to climb Mt. Tempest....the highest peak in Montana. The first two weeks would be the literature part. We would read and discuss The Man Who Killed the Deer by Frank Waters, Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey and various passages from John Muir
Imagine Kunio. Here he was in his first six hours in America. He had passed through a campus crammed with some of the most alluring women in the country. He had driven through the mountains of Montana's big time splendor. He must have been thinking to himself " so THIS is America!"
Of course, his thoughts were in Japanese. Kunio didn't speak much English...just enough to get by. Kunio was a cheerful guy. I introduced myself and we bowed and shook hands. A moment later, a group of cheerleaders passed the deck on which we were having our party. I noticed Kunio looking at the girls as they passed in the same way that I had looked at them before I got hip. By this time I had learned that they were cheerleaders so I pointed to them and said "cheerleaders" to Kunio.
Kunio gave me a puzzled look and repeated my word...."cheerreaders?".
When Kunio responded again by saying "cheerreaders ?" I realized he had no idea what I was talking about so I tried to simplify.
"Yeah Kunio, they're cheerleaders. Ya know; Rah Rah Boom Boom."
His response, again quizzical "Rah Rah Boom Boom?"
I clapped my hands and waved them about. "yeah, Rah Rah Boom Boom"
Kunio's eyes widened and he burst into a weird I gotcha grin accompanied with a lascivious wink and said " Ah, Rah, Rah BOOM Boom...Rah Rah BOOM Boom.
God only knows what Kunio thought I was talking about, so I just winked back.
We bowed again.
We had become friends.
Long story short...the class was a great success. We broke through barriers during the first two weeks and by the time we entered the Beartooth, we could count on one another. We achieved our goals. We earned our credit hours along with a lifetime supply of stories and wonder. Kunio climbed Tempest.
We returned to Bozeman, safe, sound and sustained.
We decided to have a farewell party at a Montana shitkicker saloon called the Golden Nugget. Everybody was drinking beer and dancing, Kunio in particular. Bachman Turner was in overdrive that night and although I had come down from the mountains and seen a lot, You Ain't Seen Nothin Yet was pounding through the speakers and my brain as we kicked our heels and commenced to Taking Care of Business.
We began to draw the attention of the regulars in the bar. One of the regular gang came over and asked about Kunio. He asked if Kunio could do origami , probably figuring that every Asian could automatically do origami.
Just for shits and giggles, I asked Kunio if he could do origami.
Kuni said "yeah yeah yeah."
We all gathered around a long table, my classmates and the Bozemanites. Somebody produced a piece of paper and gave it to Kunio. He sat down with the paper; everybody expecting magic.
Kunio did not disappoint.
Very carefully, he folded the paper and refolded and refolded.
Suddenly, we were looking at the most primitive, most simplistic, most childish paper airplane that I had seen since second grade.
With great fanfare, Kunio tossed the paper airplane towards a pitcher of beer.
Just before it went into the beer, Kunio said
Everybody cheered and we rah, rah boom boomed the night away.