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Mountain High

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At the outset, you stand alone in a field of adversaries. In your hand, a soft yet accurate ball awaits an injection of kinetic energy. Your gaze falls softly on the shrieking, shrinking, shirking mob, each individual moving with intense awareness of the sphere you hold. Thus begins the game known as "Comrade."

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Any veteran player will tell you it's the first conversion that's the trickiest. As the ball renders its possessor immobile—much like in a game of Ultimate—the crowd has a seemingly easy time avoiding your tosses. But eventually, you strike one of your opponents—though not in the head, as that doesn't count—and suddenly you've got an ally with which to toss back and forth the insistent rallying cry, "Comrade!"

Now things heat up. Working as a team, your ever-growing squad of pinko-communalists hunts down the scattering, squealing capitalist pigs, each time witnessing a furthering of interconnectivity as you add another, and another, and another. "Comrade!" "Comrade!" "Comrade!"

At last, a lone individual remains, darting to and fro within the boundary cones, engaging in what's clearly a dead-end endeavor. With that final Nerf hit, the game concludes with everyone on the same team, an affirmation of our combined power when we work together toward a common goal.

As a nation, and a world, with seemingly infinite common goals right about now, it's time that we practice unity wherever we can. Organize a game of Comrade down at your neighborhood park. Bring it to the public schools. Block your street with a couple of abandoned cars and take over the pavement for an all-evening Comrade tourney. And keep your eyes peeled, dear comrades, as the Indy calendar will no doubt carry listings for upcoming games in your neck of the woods.

And we move into this week's activities. As a newly unemployed American, I'm exercising my liberty, as well as my legs, by biking to Butte for the National Folk Festival. I left on Wed., July 8, and if you're quick, you can still catch up with me. Take the route to Wisdom, and then up toward Anaconda. If we don't meet up, I'll be staying in the Butte High School courtyard, so drop in for a visit or a laugh.

For the rest of ye, here's what the Comrade's cooked up this week. Two trips with the intention of wild lands monitoring roll down the pike. The first, sponsored by the Great Burn Study Group and the National Forest Foundation, is a three-day expedition to the Ward-Eagle area of the proposed wilderness that leaves town on Fri., July 10. Activities include monitoring weeds, wildlife, trail conditions, signs and other aspects critical to management operations. To sign up or learn about other trips, call Beverly at 240-9901, or e-mail thegreatburn@yahoo.com.

Train your powers of observation on a different target, as the aforementioned second trip, this one led by UM's Wilderness Institute, is a three-day jaunt to Weasel Creek in the Bitterroot National Forest's Sapphire and Blue Joint Wilderness Study Areas that leaves on Fri., July 10. Your transportation and dinners are provided, provided you help seek out invasive and native species, learning applicable monitoring methods and the like. Sign up, or get info on other trips, at www.cfc.umt.edu/wi, or by calling Sarah at 243-5361.

One of my favorite local trips, in theory at least, is this next one. The Bitterroot Floating Weed Pull, in addition to providing me with great material, kicks off a fourth year of decimating invasives at 8 AM on Sat., July 11, at the Wally Crawford Fishing Access. Floaters are carpooled to the put-in at the Darby Bridge, there's a picnic and prizes at the end and you can tell all your friends you took huge pulls of weed on the Bitterroot this weekend. Call 777-5842.

It's a pity I'll be passing through Wisdom a few days too early, as this weekend's program at the Big Hole Battlefield features professional pow wow singer and dancer Leroy Seth, whose presentation on traditional Native American life-ways begins at noon and 3 PM on Sat., July 11. He's at it again at noon on Sun., July 12, so tell me, what's your excuse? Get on your bike and pedal down there. Call 689-3155.

Maybe I'm just romanticizing history, but I doubt there were many Playstation-addicted roly-polies running around Native villages of yore. We take a lesson in hopes of weaning our youth from the sweet bosom of obesity as the "Got Nature?" program Native American Games invites youngsters to meet at McCormick Park at 1 PM on Sat., July 11. There they'll learn about the natural materials used to make traditional gaming supplies—ok, so silicon is technically a natural material, but come on—and learn a few games to boot. It's free, no reservations are required and you can get more info at missoulachildrenandnature.org.

And in keeping with the "active kids" theme, allow me to inform you of a weekly opportunity to get both exercise and serious street cred. Kids, depending upon your age and gender, there's a week-long Sk8 Clinic just for you, the next of which begins at 8:30 AM on Mon., July 13, at MOBASH, and is intended for boys and girls aged 7–11. It's co-sponsored by Missoula Parks & Rec and the Montana Skatepark Association, so you've kind of got both yin and yang thrown into the mix. Call 552-6271.

And now I remove my chapeau, bow ever so slightly and with a sweep of my arm, wish you the most congenial of days in the wild. Remember your connections, to the Earth, to your fellow creatures and beings and to the mysterious Universe at large. I'll see you on the Comrade field, and sooner rather than later, we'll all be on the same team.

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