Here’s why the lights went out in Terry, Mon­tana, in 1958.

Country - - CONTENTS - BY KURT CLEMMENS Bur­bank, Wash­ing­ton

Ev­ery small town in Amer­ica has un­solved mys­ter­ies. They can range from “Who tipped Pas­tor White over in the out­house back in ’48?” to “Who carved his undy­ing love for Dianna Jones on the big oak in front of the old high school 50 years ago?” And while these enig­mas might stem from pranks, they can also be the re­sult of an ac­ci­dent—which is what hap­pened to the Christ­mas lights in Terry, Mon­tana, in 1958. A year be­fore I was born, my then-20-year-old dad was driv­ing a truck headed east on U.S. High­way 10 on a cold win­ter night. He was haul­ing Wash­ing­ton state Red De­li­cious ap­ples and his load had to be in Glen­dive, Mon­tana, the next morn­ing. At about 2 a.m., Dad was hun­gry and de­cided to stop in Terry and grab a bite at the old bean­ery, a lunch­room along the rail lines. So he got off the high­way and rum­bled through the sleep­ing lit­tle ham­let. Af­ter a good meal, he rolled out of town, en­joy­ing the bit of cheer of­fered by the Christ­mas lights strung above the streets. In those days Terry’s pop­u­la­tion was maybe 200, and there wasn’t a soul in sight. As he shifted, Dad heard some­thing odd and looked in his side­view mir­ror. All of the town’s Christ­mas lights were danc­ing be­hind him! For a sec­ond, it seemed as though the hol­i­day dis­play was just for him and he felt like a kid at Christ­mas. He drove on, mes­mer­ized, un­til he re­al­ized that the lights were hooked onto his trailer. The “danc­ing” was the lights blink­ing out as they were pulled from the util­ity poles. That’s when my fa­ther made a de­ci­sion. He checked both mir­rors to make sure no util­ity poles had been pulled over onto the road. And when he was sure there was no dan­ger, he just kept go­ing be­cause he had to stay on sched­ule. Dad’s truck was the le­gal height and the road was a le­git­i­mate route for truck­ers, but the lights were hung too low. He was the un­lucky one who dis­cov­ered the mis­take. So if there is any­one out there who won­ders what hap­pened to Terry’s Christ­mas lights in 1958, now you know the an­swer. Dad is still driv­ing and go­ing strong at 80. He does his best to steer clear of Christ­mas lights and not drive off with any­one’s hol­i­day cheer.

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