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  • Writer's pictureKandy Thietten

Independence Day Memories

We got to our campsite on the tip of a little peninsula that overlooked the Missouri River just below the Fort Peck Dam, a man-made lake near the town of Fort Peck. During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt had a two mile long earthfill dam built across the Missouri River, using earth that was dredged from either side of the dam. This created one of the largest earthfill dams in the world, and Fort Peck Lake, the fifth largest man-made reservoir in the United States. We were lucky to find a spot because it was packed for the Fourth of July weekend, but a group of RVs had left our spot just that morning because they were at the end of their 14 day limit. Abe asked around to see if there were any fireworks nearby. Montana didn't get it's usual spring rains this year, and it was in the middle of a pretty bad heat wave, so the town had to cancel fireworks. When you're surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres or more of tall, dry grass, fireworks are a bad idea. We may not have had fireworks, but we had other adventures that we will remember longer.

We decided to walk the half mile or so to the boat ramp nearby. We got to a spot where we could see the dock at the bottom of the ramp and Abe stopped. There was a boat in the water that was tilted sideways at a 45 degree angle. A moment later, Abe realized that the boat was halfway ON the dock. He took a picture and watched, wondering what the heck the guy was doing, until I noticed the man puttin his hands on his head, and leaning against his pickup tailgate, and pacing a bit. Something was wrong. So we headed down to see if we could do anything to help. The poor man. He'd pulled his boat out of the water, got almost to the top of the ramp, and the trailer came off the ball of the hitch. His boat then slid all the way back down the ramp, one wheel going up on the dock and the other wheel going in the water.

He was glad someone came to help, because he didn't know what he was going to do. The poor man had just bought the boat last weekend, and this was only his second time taking it out. The first thing needed was to get the trailer back up on the hitch. Abe grabbed from one side, and the boat owner grabbed from the other. Between the two of them, they were able to hoist the trailer tongue up so the jack was on the dock. The owner backed his pickup down, and after a couple tries and having to pick the tongue up again after it fell off the dock and back into the water, Abe lowered it onto the ball. Then the boat owner hit the gas...and his tires spun. The boat was resting on the corner of the dock, and his pickup couldn't budge it.

Abe and I went back up to our campsite to get some help, and when he spotted an F350 that would be perfect for the job, he explained what had happened to the men sitting in front of it and asked for the truck owner's help. Those men jumped up lickety split to go see what had happened and to help. A group of young girls and their mom's followed to watch. For me, it was really impressive watching the men leap into "man mode". They quickly assessed the situation and figured out what needed done. The F350 owner hooked up a tow strap to the smaller pickup with the boat, both men hit the gas, and together they were able to drag the boat off the dock and up the ramp. Maybe it was because Abe and I are reading "Wild At Heart" by John Eldredge, but it was fascinating watching men vs women in the situation. The men got to work, and the women and girls stood back and watched, knowing that we were all out of our league in this situation, but the men were completely in their element.

Monday morning was July 5th. Abe and I watched the other RVs and tents leave throughout the morning until we were the only ones left. The temperature had dropped into the 80s, there was a steady breeze blowing off the lake and it was perfect. We took advantage of the vacated spots and moved our RV under a large cottonwood so we could leave the dogs inside while we took our bikes out. Soon after we got back, a pickup with a camper pulled up near us. When he pulled in, he hit some branches overhead. Abe was worried about damage they might have caused, and after talking to the driver, Bill, an ex-marine. Bill asked if we had a ladder, and Abe grabbed our's and climbed up to clear the branches. Nothing really bad had happened, but it would have torn things up if Bill had driven any farther. After checking it out, Abe got come lap sealant for around a vent cap because the branch had pushed into it and had damaged the seal, then he sewed up Bill's awning that was tearing. After sewing the awning, he asked for a knife. Bill grabbed one from his pocket and Abe's jaw dropped when he saw what kind it was.

Fifteen years ago, Abe's cousin, Rob gave him a military issue Benchmade pocket knife after returning from being deployed overseas. Abe loved that knife! It was black, the blade was half smooth and half serrated, and it was heavy duty. Ten years ago, Abe sold everything so he could head off on another adventure (I won't take the space to tell about that one), and that knife that he loved was accidentally sold in a yardsale. He hasn't stopped looking for another one since. In the three years that I've known Abe, he's looked every time we've gone to a pawn shop, and he loves going to pawn shops, he's looked at yardsales, in thrift stores, and in every sportsman's store. For ten years, he's been on the constant lookout for an identical military issue Benchmade pocketknife.

Bill handed the knife to Abe, and it was exactly what he thought it was. "Do you know what this is, Kandy? This is the knife! This is the one I've been looking for!"

I turned to Bill without thinking. "If you'll sell it, he'll pay you for it."

"How 'bout I give it to him?"

Abe responded, "That's too much. I'll pay. I'm happy to pay for it."

"It's payment for the labor." Bill wouldn't take anything, and insisted Abe have it. He said he had a hundred knives after being a meat cutter for years and didn't need it.

If you could have seen Abe's face! He found this knife which, to him, was priceless, and Bill gave it to him as a gift! Abe looked like a little boy on Christmas morning who got the gift he'd been begging for all year. I've never seen him so excited. This knife was so much more than just a pocketknife. He couldn't stop looking at it. Opening and closing it. Bill could have made a few hundred dollars that day, but he gave it away as an act of appreciation.

God's been looking out for us, and He's blessed us. And I'm so glad He never let Abe find the knife he spent ten years looking for until now, because the way Abe got it made it even more valuable than if he'd paid $1,000 for it.

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