Keeping Weirdness Alive

My childhood in the Rattlesnake Valley north of Missoula, Montana seemed normal to me — at the time. As normal as your own name. The good folks of the logging-slash-cattle-slash-crossroads town of Missoula survived temperatures in winter in the forties-below. In summer my home on a west-facing slope achieved a hundred. I now know it was a place of many extremes.

Extremes beget extremes.

One of those extremes was the character of my childhood classmate and friend, Clint Harris. He goes by ?Clintus Harrisonii? now. He is a physical therapist living in idyllic quarters uphill from Hood River, Oregon. But back then, in the 1970s in rural western Montana, he was … a kinda weird kid.

What made Clint weird is not definable, whether a product of extreme Montana conditions or something even more mysterious. What made us realize he was weird is only slightly easier to discern. Clint has oddly square knees, an impish grin ? and not just a sparkle in his eyes, more like a blazing fire, a conflagration, damn near an inferno. Although he had greater capacity to get in trouble than anyone I know, he seemed to avoid it. He had good sense. He was not a trouble maker.

But he was weird.

For example, Clint rode a unicycle to school.

Kids did not laugh at Clint. He was weird, but he was cool. He locked his unicycle with the bikes, like it was just like them. He acted as though he were just like us. We liked to think that he was.

I lost track of Clint for about 20 years.

When I caught up with him a few years ago I learned his home was smack-dab on a two-day route from my house in California to my home in Montana, so I took him up on an offer to visit. My two pre-teen boys, our dog and I camped on his porch and played all daylight hours we were on site.

Clint introduced me to an apparatus that maximized the distance my dog would have to run to get a tennis ball while minimizing my elbow work (he would later teach me how to fix my tennis elbow exacerbated by throwing the ball for the dog.) His wife, Megan, made us a fabulous dinner, expressed her passion for all things equine and described her dream of starting a bakery. Which she has since accomplished.

Clint hauled out his newest unicycle and demonstrated to my boys how it was done. We all giggled our way through the afternoon as the boys took turns trying it out. With shoulders wrapped together, three of us could make it work, the middle person riding the unicycle.


It seemed crazy. Impossibly difficult.

But Clint could do it.

We tried again. By dinnertime we were all flat on the lawn, sore not so much from trying the unicycle, but from laughing.


I was reminded of this incident this morning when I received an email from another Rattlesnake Valley childhood friend, this one named Tarn Ream (right up there on the weirdness scale herself …) Tarn sent me this:

Unicyling bagpipes

In a frighteningly fast series of events, I shared this with my youngest son ? the one who plays saxophone remarkably well. He is tall, lanky and has that Harrisonii flame in his eyes. He quickly proposed that if I got him a unicycle, he would learn to play the saxophone while riding it.

My husband, who is on furlough, had mentioned he was going to a bicycle store to get his wheel fixed when he went out the door about a half hour ago. When I saw my son?s offer, I texted my husband immediately.

Stay tuned. Weirdness might not be dead yet.

By Maile

Maile Field is a writer living in Northern California. Born in Hawaii and raised in Montana, she earned her master of fine arts in nonfiction at George Mason University in Virginia. She encourages constructive criticism.