Shivaree in the Judiths

shivaree noun
shiv·​a·​ree | \ ˌshi-və-ˈrē , ˈshi-və-ˌrē\
Definition of shivaree: a noisy mock serenade to a newly married couple. In 19th century rural America, a newly-married couple might be treated to a mock serenade, performed with pots, pans, homemade instruments, and other noisemakers. In much of the central U.S. and Canada, … it was called a “shivaree,” a loan from French charivari, which denotes the same folk custom in France. 

In 1989, my grandparents invited me to hunt deer with them in the Judith Mountains near Lewistown, Montana. My family had been hunting there since the 1950s and I grew up hearing dozens of stories about their hunts and the beautiful, historic area. Living a few hours away in Idaho at the time, I jumped at the chance to tag along.

Our family hunted on the Abbott Ranch on the eastern edge of the Judiths near the ghost town of Gilt Edge. The owners were direct descendants of “Teddy Blue” Abbott, who had come north from Texas on longhorn cattle drives. Abbott worked for Granville Stuart, a prominent Montana pioneer, on his ranch and eventually married his daughter. Teddy Blue’s memoir, We Pointed Them North, was published just before his death in 1939. Teddy Blue was a good friend of Charlie Russell as well as Calamity Jane.

I met Grandpa and Grandma, as well as Grandpa’s cousins Stan and Edwin Tuve, along with Edwin’s wife Marie, at the Lewistown VFW. Because I had run out of gas on the way, I was about 3 hours late and the party was on. Eventually, we made it out to the ranch and set up camp near the outbuildings.

The next morning, Grandpa posted me at the top of a draw and he and Grandma, ages 69 and 66 respectively, made a drive for me. That is, they walked up the draw to kick deer out toward me. I got my deer right away. Afterward, while we were waiting for someone to come with the pickup to load the deer, Grandpa and I sat in the meadow and passed a bottle between us. After listening to Grandpa’s stories about Montana deer hunts all my life, I could not believe I was there with them, a part of it all.

Later that day, I was assigned again to post along with Grandma. As we were walking toward the ridge where we were to position ourselves, a deer came bounding over the top of the ridge at full speed. Mule deer, unlike whitetails, tend to run stiff-legged, making it look like they are bouncing across the ground. They do not seem fast but they’re still tough to hit. I watched Grandma pull up her Winchester .32 Special and drop the deer with one shot from about 60 yards. It was well known in the family that Grandma was the best shot; I got to confirm that in person!

The rest of the hunt was a lot of fun as we had little trouble filling our tags. As the only non-senior citizen in camp, I was obliged to do most of the dressing and dragging of deer. I didn’t mind the work one bit. It was on the warm side for October, so we skinned the deer and hung them in one of the ranch sheds.

It was the perfect weekend: beautiful weather, gorgeous central Montana scenery, Grandma’s delicious cooking and great stories around the fire. Grandpa and Grandma’s 49th wedding anniversary happened to fall during the weekend. As they were in the camper preparing supper that night, the group got together some pots and pans and lids and spoons and shivareed them! We kept up the racket until Grandma and Grandpa came out of the camper and gave us a kiss. We celebrated with a beautiful cake baked by Mrs. Abbott in a wall tent also provided by the Abbotts.

Little did I know this would be my last hunt with them. I never got back to Minnesota to hunt with them before Grandma “retired” and Grandpa passed away. I will always treasure the memory of this hunt.

******

We lost Grandma Arleen last week, at the age of 96. She is at the center of so many of my memories; it’s hard to imagine life without her. These last few years I was able to visit her often and listen to her stories. I am grateful for the time with her. Now she is back with Grandpa, on another grand adventure.

 

 

 

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