I arrive in Bozeman on March 10, my second visit of 2020, the second step in pursuit of my goal to be Bozeman for 8 months of the year. During the preceding three weeks that I spent in NY, however, the bad news of Covid19 had begun to consume the world.
My employees and I had begun taking precautions; washing our hands, using a wet-wipe whenever we had to touch public surfaces (elevator buttons, door handles, etc). We noticed many people in the Times Square area already wearing masks (I remember thinking they looked silly) and we talked about what to if things got worse. Infections had begun to occur in upstate NY after large gatherings like funerals. We agreed that we would continue working from home if it became necessary. But none of us foresaw what actually happened, or how swiftly it would consume us.
The first sign that a big change is coming was at the airport in Newark. As boarding begins, I stay back as people begin to crowd the gate. When the Sky Miles category is called, no one advances. Not one person. Hmm. Mine is the next category and as I board, I see three passengers already seated, wearing masks. I have brought a bag of disinfectant wipes with which I carefully cleanse my seating area, even though it smells as though this has already been done. I remember feeling odd doing it, like I was a nerd.
I have a window seat; another passenger takes the aisle, leaving a seat between us. But as boarding finishes it is clear this flight is no-where near full; in fact I would say maybe 2 thirds of the seats are empty! So gett up and move to an empty row with the flight attendant’s blessing. Several other passengers spread out, too.
In the Minneapolis airport I see containers of hand sanitizer all over. That’s new. The flight to Bozeman is more “normally full” but quite a few middle seats are empty. I see no masks at all on this flight. Again, I cleanse my seating area, and I am grateful when no one occupies the middle seat in my row.
I land in Bozeman, happy to be back in my cozy home.
The next afternoon, March 11, as things in NY are rapidly becoming more dire, my employees and I agree, over group email, that the time has come for them to vacate our mid-town office and to work remotely from home for the time being. Although Montana has no cases, yet, I know it is inevitable that it will find its way here. My Bozeman friends warn me there is neither toilet paper nor Lysol wipes in any of the supermarkets. Luckily, I currently have enough of both.
The very next day, March 12, we get the news that all Broadway shows, the lifeline of steady work for my clients and my company, are shutting down. “Until April 12” they said at the time, but we all sense it will be longer than that. We did not, however, anticipate that live theatre across the world would STILL be dark to this day, eight months later.
It is with this sense of doom and dread that I nevertheless continue with my plans to drive to Yellowstone for a week-long wolf-watching visit. I did not know then that March 2020 would deliver a succession of virus-driven bad news, worsening every day. Nor that my stay in Bozeman would continue as it did.
In this report I frequently refer to the youngest members of the Junction Butte pack as “pups”. I could also reasonably call them “yearlings” because they are all roughly 11 months old, having been born in April 2019. Still, since they are technically a few weeks shy of that threshold, I call them pups.
There are two surviving wolves from the Junction Butte Pack’s 2018 litter. They are now almost 2 years old. We call one of them “the gray male” since he is the only gray male in the pack. The other is an uncollared black female who is sometimes hard to distinguish from the other black wolves.