Miles down the road one morning east of Medora
I found a lone tree on the side of the road under which to rest.
A mild drizzle began and soon turned into
a bit of a rain.
I could almost hear my mother hinting,
"Don't you have the sense to come in out of the rain."
A spacious, white barn stood across the highway.
So I walked over, stopping at the farmhouse en route.
I got not answer there but perceived a wave
from the owner who was keeping dry in the barn.
I went over and met Victor Oukrop and had
a delightful visit with him.
He told me about himself and his farm and life.
His wife was in town visiting relatives.
After the weather had settled,
he filled a couple water bottles for me and I marched out.
Within a few minutes, Victor reappeared on his 4-wheeler and
invited me to lunch.
I accepted and went to his house for leftover makings of sloppy
Milk and Oreos topped off our repast.
Actually, the gifts of conversation and friendship
beat the luncheon menu by a long way.
Thanks again, Victor.
During lunch at Victor's
I couldn't help noticing he was Catholic.
Many pictures and images of Jesus and the Sacred Heart
were placed strategically around his house.
Victor mentioned that there was
at whose church he used to worship
in Richardton, the next town to the east.
This fact almost synchronized
with the suggestion of Leslie Hetrick (right),
who was traveling west with Ginger Arnold to meet me on the road,
to look for a monastery in Dickinson.
So, I was on the trail within
I encountered the sign SACRED HEART MONASTERY
with a skip of my own heart.
A SIGN, I thought.
As I approached, I could see the monastery
in the distance,
but another collection of buildings lay closer at hand - or foot.
I turned off at first opportunity to find a Benedictine convent.
Interestingly, the first woman I met was from Billings, MONTANA.
I was quickly directed on into town and the Abbey.
I made it to Assumption Abbey, just as 7:00
Vespers were beginning.
I entered the church and sat in front, quietly taking off my
shoes during service
(for my benefit only - my feet were hot and aching, as usual).
After the service was over, I asked for Brother Elias (left).
He soon came to find me after a phone call.
I told him who I was, how I had come there,
nd that his friend of 20 years past,
Leslie Hetrick from New York City,
was on the way at that moment to Richardton.
I stayed at Assumption Abbey for
During that time I recuperated
from what seemed to be too much heat.
I attended services 3-4 times a day with the Assumption Monks.
I got to know Brothers Elias and Jacob and Michael, in particular,
and Fathers Odo and Robert.
88-year-old Father Robert and
I went out to
the Abbey Cemetery one morning to prune trees.
Both Brother Elias and Father
Robert kindly showed me Abbey properties
and explained the workings of the monastery.
While Ginger had to make a quick
return to New York,
Leslie stayed on to enjoy the peace and quiet of the Abbey for
Via email, Leslie tells me that she will return to the Abbey
I have to think I will be back
there again some day soon.
Another source of inspiration during this
time of the trip also appeared quite unexpectedly.
A few days after leaving the Abbey, I was
struggling with the heat again.
I walked into New Salem, ND, one morning
expecting to have breakfast and continue on the road thereafter.
Breakfast didn't do it for me,
so I decided to take the rest of the day off and rent a motel
What I discovered on North Dakota Public TV
that day was FRONTIER HOUSE.
This is/was a short series about 3 present
who moved to the Boulder River Valley of Montana
and lived for 5 months the lives of 1883 pioneers.
They dealt with the elements, built log cabins, raised livestock,
cooked over wood stoves, and managed to survive under extraordinary
At that moment, I was reassured that I too
could deal with the elements
nd "go the distance" for 5 months.