Hello from the Grove family's Ranch near Moccison, Montana! I was supposed to leave Billings last Monday to continue the journey north but on Sunday night decided to not continue on but instead check myself into hospital to get my left big toe seen to. So, 1st thing Monday, our wonderful host, Bob, drove Chris & I to St Vincents hospital where I checked in. The doctor was great & after I'd payed $100 she very kindly yanked my toe nail out with pliers. Well, she did firstly inject it with anasthetic, though it did take 4 seperate injections to finally deaden the silly thing. She then patched up the wounded area, fitted me out with everything I needed & sent me on my way. Sounds simple enough but somehow it still took 5hours... Chris video taped the 'yanking of the nail' part & I watched it afterwards & it still made me cringe! I don't particularly like needles/blood/scalpels/etc. I hobbled out of St Vincents & across the road to a motel where we checked in for the night. The next morning I felt as though I could walk on so simply wrapped the toe up very neatly (as instructed) & pulled the boots on very slowly. By the time Chris & I had travelled only 25km though we had to stop & make plans to head back to Billings - not because my toe was too sore, but because Chris's new boots had pretty much taken all the skin off both heels. Chris noted that he was walking in a very similar fashion to an old guy he takes care of in a nursing home back in Australia. I could believe that. We sat on the side of the road for a while talking over our options. We decided to head back to Billings, get a motel & then the following day get him on a bus to Great Falls (9days ahead) & I'd walk on. It's illegal to hitch-hike in Montana so I was wondering how we were going to get a lift. There wasn't much traffic out there either. A classic white Mustang came thundering down the road & wooshed past us as I prayed a little prayer, "Lord, please, can you provide a lift for us?" I stood there staring down the very empty stretch of road for a moment & then, on the other side of the road, about half a minute later, the white Mustang pulled up. "You guys need a lift to Billings?" We both happily climbed aboard the old classic & where dropped off right outside our motel again. We planned our week's out, organised a meeting point & then early the next morning I headed off again, leaving Chris to sleep-in a little before his midday bus. I would've liked to have driven back to the 25km mark but with no transport opperating in that direction I had no choice but to walk it again. As I was passing by the 12km mark & the sun popped up over the mountains a classic white Mustang pulled up alongside me, "You need a lift back to where you were?" I laughed as I happily accepted the lift back out there. He was headed back out to work & had been keeping an eye out for me so I made it out to km25 a little quicker than I thought I would & then continued on up to Broadview. I've been amazed how many people I've meet since then who saw me walking on that second morning coming out of Billings & wanted to know what I was doing. It turns out that walking that 1st 9km was actually important! All in God's perfect timing. I slept in Broadview on the front bench-seat of the local fire truck, which was parked inside the firestation. It was great, I loved it! A big thank you to the gentleman who offered the truck to me. Mind you, I was a little concerned at what would happen if there was a fire that night, "Sorry mate, this truck's taken. Zzzzzz." From Broadview I had a little over 100km to cover in 2days to make it to Harlowton. I slept the 1st night in my tent outside the Rygate fire station & wouldn't you know it, there was a fire. I wasn't in the way or anything, but it was kind of noisey for quite a few hours! There was a grass fire about 60km away & it was pretty huge by all accounts but they got it under control eventually & then on their return stood outside my tent at 1am asking each other why there was someone camping in Ryegate. "Trying to sleep here..." On the walk into Harlowton two mini-buses drove past filled with youth & they gave a big wave. I waved back & we continued in our respective directions not aware that we would meet again. In Harlowton I did the rounds, stopping off at a few churches & leaving a calling card with the call to pary for unity. The only place with anyone presnt was the Catholic Church where I met the parish priest who offered to shout me dinner after I'd settled in to my motel room. It was a good meal & company after such a grueling 100km from Broadview. I think though I may have seen one of the most puzzling sights of this entire trip thus far in the grand town of Harlowton. On the outskirts of the town, next to the motel I stayed in, there's a small playground. There was a swing, a sea-saw & a gazeebo - all pretty basic. I could see something in the gazeebo but couldn't work out what it was. As I drew nearer I finally realised that what I was looking at was two antelope, hanging from the rafters. In a kids playground. It's hunting season here in Montana right now & the motel was full of hunters. And hence the gazeebo was... filled with antelope. I wondered at that point if after stringing their two kills up in the kids playground did the hunters at least spend some time enjoying the sea-saw? Somehow I don't think so. I can't believe they hung them in a kids playgound. And no, there were no children to be seen for miles. I don't think that 'Bambi' is considered a classic out in these parts :-)There was to be a mass at my next destination, Judith Gap, on the next day (Saturday) at 5pm so early Saturday morning I packed up & trekked up through the wind farms to Judith Gap, some 30km away. The mass was very small & personal. Afterwards I had the pleasure of meeting everyone there, who seemingly belonged in some way to 1 of 2 familes. I was going to put my tent up in town but Margaret, an elderly lady piped up & offered me the spare bed at her place. Not long after that the youngest couple there, Brian & Sarah Mawer, invited me to dinner at their place. Both the Mawer's & Margaret lived further on out the road from Judith Gap so with their permission, I plonked my backpack in Margaret's car & then walked & prayed the 1mile on to the Mawer's ranch, where Brian picked me up from the front gate. The meal was fantastic (particularly the pumpkin scroll for dessert) & with a very new position of not having to lug my backpack around I had the oppurtunity to then jog it off. It was a further 6km on to Margaret's place, which I jogged under a half-moon night with snow capped mountains on both sides of me. It was very quite & very still as i jogged along & apart from the possibility of running into a mountain lion, I enjoyed it. I rocked up at Margaret's place at around 9:30pm & after a good chat finally hit the sack. The next morning was today & I had another 50km walk ahead of me but at least this time with some idea of what was ahead. Back in Judith Gap a husband & wife had orgainsed for me to stay with their relatives, the Groves, near Moccasin. I was a little late leaving Margaret's place but with a very cool day I was able to push through with only one stop at 'Eddie's Corner', a highway stop-in. I grabbed a good lunch, called the Grove's to arrange a time & meeting point & then had a guy walk up to me & ask how far I'd walked. I turned around & there was two mini-buses full of youth dis-embarking for the rest rooms & take away store. We both remembered passing each other a few days earlier & it was great to hear that they were actually a youth group who had headed down to Billings for a Christian Youth Conference. It was great to get to know a few of them & chat for a brief moment before both of our journies continued, this time in same direction. I arrived safely here at the ranch despite the onset of snow in the last few kilometres & Greg & Karen have made me feel very much at home. My brother Chris is doing well, he's now in Great Falls & waiting for me to arrive, which should be in 3days time. By this time next week, God willing, I'll be writing to you from Canadian soil, where the moose are big & ice-hockey rules. Until then, please pray on. God bless, Sam.
"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, & it will be yours." Mark 11:24