What is a “stranger”?

"God's country"

“God’s country”

Montana has been described to me as “God’s country”; a place where the valleys are wide, mountains are tall, and the forests deep. How fitting it was then that in a place so perfect and grand, I encountered a rare adventure and learned a lesson of life I’ll never forget. Starting as only a walkabout through the woods of Montana, this small action soon grew into an adventure never expected, taking me clear across mountains and valleys alike.

I met Tom for the first time somewhere in the wilderness of Montana while wandering along a few muddy trails. This wasn’t like any other human introduction I had ever had encountered before. A typical encounter (like one of the thousands I’ve had in my life so far) would consist of a swapping of names, a handshake, and a smile to put forth a good face. This introduction was different from the start in that there was one question before all others that begged for an answer: “What are you doing out here?”. For me it was simple, “I’m just checking it out”. For Tom the answer seemed simple as well, “I’m getting myself an elk”. So our reasons for being there differed, yet a shared passion for the enjoyment of the outdoors fueled us to become friends. It was right after I left this part of the mountains that this friendship really began to lead me down an adventure of learning.

Tom was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ouellette, a wonderful couple who lived all their long lives enjoying the peace and calm that comes from a life in the far Northern reaches of this country. For 80+ years, Mr. and Mrs. Ouellette both spent their days appreciating the place they called home. When life brought changes and times of strife, neither lost their passion for what Mrs. Ouellette called her “God’s country”. I knew this to be true the first time I met them on a cold October night in Hamilton, Montana late in 2014. A simple dinner invitation from two strangers to me in itself was an experience I wouldn’t soon forget; but right from the start, I saw the Ouellette’s unique form of kindness, generosity, and hospitality.

Going into that dinner, I believed to them that I was just some “stranger” their son met deep in the woods; but then I had a night of conversation with them. After a dinner invitation turned into an opportunity to do laundry, take a hot shower, and a warm bed for the night; I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong. Listening to both Mr. and Mrs. Ouellette tell me the story of their lives, I quickly realized they both knew something I did not, and it took a few more months of reflection before I realized exactly why we met. They saw me that night not as a “stranger”, but rather as an untold story. The people all around us and the introductions we encounter are nothing but the beginnings of untold story’s. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone’s life will be a story of some type. The lesson I learned from this wise couple was to treat people exactly like that, and to me it’s quite obvious why I met Mr. and Mrs. Ouellette and their son Tom when I did. Never again will I let an untold story pass me by.

In Memory of Ben Ouellette (1928-December 2, 2014)

At the end of your life and the beginning of mine, you instilled in me a valuable lesson. A lesson that will forever be a part of who I am, thank you for this Ben.

-Warren Hylton

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Hamilton, Montana

 

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Days 11-14: Idaho Cont.

Well my time in Idaho with family is coming to an end. I have to say that I really enjoyed the time I spent here for many different reasons. Spending time with family is always a plus and sleeping inside is definitely a major plus. But the call of the wild and the thrill of open country is becoming to loud for me to continue to ignore. I’m well rested and ready to embark into what I’ve been told is some of the most beautiful parts of the country. I’m excited to share with everyone some beautiful pictures in the next few days. I’ll be leaving Idaho Falls for the greater Yellowstone area, as well as the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Both of these places should hold great opportunities for some really nice pictures and camping. So it’s back on the road for me, constantly in search of a new place to sleep and an internet connection.

-Warren

Stars over Idaho Falls, the city lights even in a town of less than 100,000 have a major impact on the night sky

Stars over Idaho Falls, the city lights even in a town of less than 100,000 have a major impact on the night sky

Idaho sunset

Idaho sunset

Double rainbow over Idaho Falls

Double rainbow over Idaho Falls

The Huffman sheds, full of all sorts of hidden toys and equipment

The Huffman sheds, full of all sorts of hidden toys and equipment

The property was first built on during the Great Depression times and has since become an incredible collection of the most unorthodox building materials. I think the saying should be, "one man's trash is another's building materials"

The property was first built on during the Great Depression times and has since become an incredible collection of the most unorthodox building materials. I think the saying should be, “one man’s trash is another man’s building materials”

Inside the car restoration shop. I was able to help finish an office inside and build a retaining wall outside for this shop

Inside the car restoration shop. I was able to help finish an office inside and build a retaining wall outside for this shop

The shop office, getting close to done

The shop office, getting close to done

All sorts of cool projects in this garage

All sorts of cool projects in this garage

Makeshift shop office

Makeshift shop office

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The Huffman Clan plus Grandma

Alexander being Alex

Alexander being Alex

Days 7-10: Idaho

Hello from Idaho Falls! So lately I’ve taken a few days off the road, and have been spending time with my cousin and her family. The family consists of 5 kids; a freshman in high school, a 6th grader, and 3 triplet two year old boys. Yes TRIPLET TWO YEAR OLD BOYS. Needless to say, there’s always something fun going on here in Idaho. So far I’ve been able to check out the city of Idaho Falls and the beautiful downtown area. The falls here in the city are incredibly pretty, and by building three hydroelectric power plants along the river, the city was able to generate 50% of their total power usage from a renewable energy source. I also have really enjoyed trying to keep up with 3 two year old balls of energy the last few days, as well as their two older siblings. There’s just so much going on around here, keeping me plenty busy. Part of the family out here is also always working on cool and interesting projects. I’ve been able to help build an office inside a car restoration garage, dig out a broken water main, and help lay the foundation for a retaining wall and concrete slab; all in the last 3 days. I’ve really enjoyed being around so many different and interesting projects that I normally never have the opportunity of seeing. I feel like a young sponge soaking up all the skills and knowledge around me. Seeing and learning about these many new things reminds me why I took off on this adventure in the first place. I’m planning on spending a few more days here in the area because my stay here happened to coincide with one of my aunts visits to Idaho. For me, it’s like a mini family reunion in Idaho Falls and I couldn’t be any happier.

-Warren

Pictures from Days 7-10:

Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls

Another view of the falls

Another view of the falls

Lots of wildlife and waterfalls in this area

Lots of wildlife and waterfalls in this area

Another section of the Idaho Falls

Another section of the Idaho Falls

Snake River right before the falls

Snake River right before the falls

Tractor fun

Tractor fun

Idaho sky right after sunset

Idaho sky right after sunset

The triplet boys, almost got a good picture of all 3 but then I realized that was impossible

The triplet boys, I almost got a good picture of all 3 but then I realized that was impossible

Alexander

Alexander

Benjamin

Benjamin

Charlie

Charlie

When triplets attack

When triplets attack, seek high ground