Gardner River Incident
John Burgess


The night she left her husband she fooled around with another man whose pickup broke down just before they reached the state line. Later her family likened the incident to her "being trapped in lyrics to an especially maudlin country-western song."


Stones are often stacked in pagoda-type configurations, known as cairns, by hikers or surveyors. These cairns serve as markers or guideposts and indicate where someone has passed.


Early fur trapper Johnson Gardner, lesser known that his acquaintance Jim Bridger, gave his name to Gardner's Hole, Gardner River and the mispronounced and thus misspelled town of Gardiner, Montana. By 1831 or '32 he was known as "in general a worthless, dissolute character," more recently as "illiterate and brutal" and according to travel brochures as "colorful" who was finally scalped and burned alive but nonetheless ended up on the map.


Although it's commonly said the 45th parallel is halfway between the equator and the north pole, because the earth slightly bulges at the equator and is slightly flattened at the pole, surveyors know this isn't precisely so. You're actually closer to the equator by 12 miles than when you locate the exact midpoint of 45 degrees, 8 minutes, 47.5 seconds.


Pull over where the shoulder widens to about the width of a pickup not more than a mile past the misleading marker "45th PARALLEL of LATITUDE HALFWAY BETWEEN EQUATOR and NORTH POLE" and from the uncairned trailhead take off upriver on foot to locate the Gardner hot springs. After dark a flashlight is advisable.


Thesis could be written that traces the parallels between the piling of stones and the evolution of civilization into warring and indifferent states. Evidence remains of throwing of stones by hand, slingshots as recorded in Biblical times, Dark Ages catapultry, the Great Wall of China and in America New England cobblestone fences and dams along western rivers.


Voyeuristic elk often watch from the other side of the river. To them how undeveloped naked humans must appear, on the far bank those furless embryos of being.


At the precise minute from her position in the Gardner River the pole-star is located at a 45-degree angle above her head. This won't change until she's carried downstream for several seconds.


A deputy later confirmed alcohol was involved in the incident. The victim may have already been unconscious or at the very least extremely intoxicated when at approximately 4:17 AM she slipped into the faster current.


It was as if she had become stacked under stones. Last thing in her field of vision was the red of pickup taillights heading northerly.