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Twenty years after the writer’s adventure, Saco, Mont., now has a motel. (Donnie Sexton)
Twenty years after the writer’s adventure, Saco, Mont., now has a motel. (Donnie Sexton)

In middle-of-nowhere Montana, these 8 words saved our bacon Add to ...

Sometimes things don’t go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures.

The icy April night wind was whipping through the ill-fitting top in the MGB as my brother Paul and I aimed for a late night arrival in Saco, Mont.

On the second night of our eastward cross-country journey on U.S. Route 2, we selected Saco simply as an interesting name on a map. It turned out to be a sleepy intersection with one gas station, a bar and no motel. With both of us freezing when we arrived, the bar, Sonny’s, was the only choice.

To say the conversation and pool-playing stopped dead as two obvious out-of-towners stepped in out of the night is possibly an overstatement, but “Two Buds and two shots of Jack, please” was clearly the right password.

The bar, full of tough-looking cowboys – mostly handlebar moustaches, denims and plaid down-filled vests – warmed to us slowly as we chatted, playing pool, telling them where we came from. Everyone had a Canada story to tell, and did we know cousin Ernie in Scarborough? Within the hour everyone was on a first-name basis.

At 1:30 a.m., with closing time approaching, the bartender, Sonny – balding, portly and only 35, simply chose to move the party. He invited everyone to his house for an early breakfast of steak and eggs – including the lads from Ontario. Sonny’s awoken wife was only a little surprised to see us, and as hospitality seems to be deep in the genetic code of Montanans, she was quick to host the impromptu party.

By 2:30 a.m., steaks were served and more cases of beer opened. By 3:30, Paul went off with new friend Jim to his ranch to see to an expectant cow – Paul’s role to help with the birthing if necessary. Meanwhile, I brought out my guitar and played every country tune I knew in the kitchen. Yep, cowboys love to sing.

By 5 a.m., Paul had returned, the calf was born, the hosts were snoozing, I packed up the guitar, we had thanked the five who remained upright, and Paul and I were back in the MGB heading for the nearest possible motel and an overdue snooze.

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