Freedom Trails

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July 4th weekend usually signals the time when the snow recedes from the high country, opening the ridge trails and mountain peaks to serious hikers. It can be an opportunity for proud, patriotic, legal citizens of our great country to contemplate as they walk along serene mountain pathways and are nurtured by Mother Nature.

Personal reflections of this writer include memories of my maternal grandparents Patrick McDermott and Emily Garvey McDermott. Pat and Emily legally immigrated to the United States of America after doing their part to help win the freedom of the Irish Republic from domination by the British Empire.

The British had enlisted the services of hardened criminals to terrorize the Irish people. These units were called the Black and Tans, named for their black berets and tan uniforms. An informant had ratted out the young couple for having a gun hidden in the slate roof and stucco cottage the newleyweds lived in near Ros Comain, Ireland. Beating my grandfather with rifle butts and blackjacks, and threatening to rape my grandmother, the terrorists demanded surrender of the weapon. Pat and Emily refused, as they knew they would be helpless against evil forces without bearing arms. Upon finding and drinking bottles of poteen, an Irish homemade whiskey, they looted the cottage, and discovering all the money the young patriots had saved to come to America, left in a drunken stupor and spared the brave couple.

The high lakes of the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness may still hold some snow in July of this year. So we should keep that in mind, but the fishing for cutthroats, rainbows, brookies and even golden trout could be excellent!

Even when fishing on the fourth, and throughout July, internal thoughts turn to what it must have been like for a 23-year-old Harry Baxter to land on the beach in Normandy during the D-Day invasion of France. My father honestly admitted to that longest day of his life as also being the scariest. Harry carried a B.A.R., or Browning automatic rifle, and lost many friends that day and during the following winterís siege that ensued at the Battle of the Bulge. Dad did not talk about his wartime experiences much. And as he grew older, stated that he was glad his memories of those times in service to his country faded.

While exploring, extensively backpacking, and working in the proposed Scotchmanís Peaks Wilderness, the Northwest Peaks Scenic Area and the Ten Lakes Scenic Area, inner contemplations often recall the school field trips to the American Revolutionary War battle sites where I grew up. The old Dutch-style sandstone headstones are carved with the names of soldiers who died for the cause of freedom in the battles of Stony Point, Baylorís Massacre and West Point. General George Washington was forced to hang young British Major Andre for stealing the plans of West Point, near the present day site of the 1776 House at Old Tappan, New York. Many historians believe that Washington modeled the idea of a united states system from the Seven Nations Native American Tribes of upstate New York.

So folks, during the time of our Independence Day, perhaps it would be honorable to remember all of those whom have faced hardship, fought and died for our freedom. To remember that freedom is not free! To keep in mind that freedom loving peoples from all over the world have come here because our nation is very special. We must come together now folks, or lose this great country. The souls of patriots gone before us cry out to us to understand this. Think of them as you hike and enjoy the spectacular beauty of northwest Montana this summer.

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