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Steve, Choteau, Montana
Steve, Choteau, Montana

Stephen Odden, Choteau, Montana, Aug 22, 2018

These are my three daughters. Sarah’s the oldest, Jamie is in the middle, and Katie is the youngest. The photo was taken at my oldest daughter’s wedding in California. She was going to school at USC. So, we all made it to California for that. I can’t remember what year it was, probably 20 years ago. She studied nursing, and she’s been a practicing labor and delivery nurse for twenty or so years. Her mother was there too. We got divorced in 1995. At one time, all three daughters lived in LA, but now two live in Phoenix.

When we got divorced we were living in Billings, Montana. I got custody of Katie. The other two were old enough, they were living on their own. So, Katie was still in high school. She helped with my used car business and the body shop. My middle daughter Jamie (in pink) was not too keen on hunting. She liked camping and fishing, but was never big on hunting. The other two liked hunting. They were good shots, rifle or shotgun it didn’t matter. I was a fish and wildlife biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, but to make ends meet I had the used car lot. Katie helped with that, but she eventually graduated with an art degree, and was in advertising and package design stuff for a number-of-years, and now because the internet wiped out graphic design, she’s back in school getting a degree in ultra-sound tech.

I don’t see Jamie a lot. She’s got two little kids. They’re three and five now. I see Sarah and Katie a couple times a year. They usually come out and go skiing. If they weren’t in LA, I’d be more inclined to go visit them. My wife, she took a job in Arizona when we still had two of our three kids at home. The oldest had gone to college and I still had the other two in Billings. So, I pretty much had the kids most of the time. My wife took a teaching job and just left. But she was an absent parent most of the time anyway. She just sort-of took off. She didn’t participate in most of our weekend activities anyway.

I’d tell my wife, ever since the kids were little, we’re going camping, and my wife didn’t want to go, so I’d take the kids anyway. She was always horrified because we’d have such a great time. It didn’t matter what age the kids were, we always did fun things. My wife didn’t participate much at all. She thought it strange that girls would want to go hunting and fishing and not rather stay home with her. They never got along very well with their mother. There was too much butting heads.

I wanted the girls to be independent, not relying on anybody. They all know how to change tires, change the oil on their cars. They can all do auto body work. They can pull an engine out and put in a clutch if they needed to. When my youngest daughter was in high school, she was dating this guy, and they were out at his parent’s place, which is about thirty-miles out of town, and they were running late to go to this wedding, and his car wouldn’t start. Her boyfriend and his dad had no idea what to do, so they were going to call Triple A. Well, it would have taken a wrecker an hour to get there. So, Katie, who was all dressed up to go to a wedding said, I know how to fix that. She tears the battery cables loose, cleans them all up, put them back on, and started the car up, and off they went.

A lot of their friends were more inclined to go to the keg parties on Friday nights. And I was determined we’re going to be up at six o’clock in the morning to go skiing. So, they made the choice, they’d rather go skiing than party with their friends. I kept them busy, so, knock on wood, so far as I know, none of them were in trouble or in jail. They all had their own cars when they were young. I was on the road with the government job, so the kids had to drive. A lot of my daughter’s parent’s friends gave me grief, because they said, you can’t trust those kids with their own cars at fifteen years old. And I told them, I don’t have a choice, but I trust them, and they know what the rules are. None of them ever abused it. Although, a lot of their friends tried to get them to abuse it, but they never did.

All three turned out very independent. They’re their own thinkers. They don’t rely on anybody. Their friends would come out to my car lot to hang out. If they’d want to learn how to drive a car with a clutch, I’d take them out there and show them how to use it, or my girls would teach them. When Katie was just eleven or twelve, we’d go out hunting, and she was just learning to drive the old pickup with a straight stick, and I told her, if something happens to me, you need to be able to drive us out of here, back on this two-track road, twenty-miles from nowhere. She was pretty-tentative, about driving the truck up this steep hill, and I kept telling her, you gotta give it some gas, you don’t want it to stall. And she’d start up the hill and kill it, and couldn’t get the shifting down right. And finally, she got it figured out, and then it was yeehah! Hold that sucker to the floor, Dukes of Hazard, flying up over the hill, maybe too much the other way. I said, maybe we’ll both be walking out of here.