Liam O'Gallagher
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Way Out West: Four Short Stories from a Small Town

Liam O’ Gallagher, 1972

Feathered Pipe Ranch – Colorado Gulch
Helena, Montana

Feathered Pipe Ranch - Photo by Keith Levitt
Feathered Pipe Ranch
Photo by Keith Levitt

In a small town in central Montana lived a very young girl who was known to keep a pet bumblebee. People for miles around had heard of this and among them were not a few skeptics. U.J. Phiffer, who was among the latter, decided to investigate for himself and traveled some sixty miles to satisfy his curiosity. Arriving midday, he stationed himself outside of her window on the far side of the house. Later, he reported what had happened to a small group of friends that had gathered to listen to his story.

It seemed that, just before being discovered, he succeeded in drawing back the curtain from the open window and saw, through the sunlight that drifted into the room, the shadow of a giant bumblebee on the table below. A young girl sat at this table running her fingers delicately along the black and yellow body of the giant insect. Finally, in the changing light, both disappeared from sight.

Lengthy discussions took place among Phiffer and his friends concerning whether she had, in fact, touched the insect at all. Some concluded that the girl was indeed the bumblebee’s pet, while others maintained that the situation was quite the opposite. In any event, they could not arrive at any common agreement.

A certain fly who had managed to get to the moon wrote a story about his experiences, which later appeared in the Helena Gazette. From his viewpoint, although there were vast open spaces, it did not seem unlike other places he had been. He recalled the distances he had flown over in the Mojave Desert and the enormity of the tundra in the far North. All this he was busily recounting when he realized he was lodged in a bottle floating on the open sea. It seemed that his editor, who was fond of drinking, had left the bottle uncorked and sent it spinning as he blindly staggered toward an open door.

A young man had an appointment with the local librarian concerning a job available at the Helena Library. He decided to concentrate on how well dressed and groomed he would be. The librarian, a woman in her late sixties, thought that she must look her best for the young man, since she was, after all, a woman as well as a librarian.

The young man neglected that her eyesight, dimmed with time, would not see the details of his handsome preparations. The elderly librarian neglected the fact that the young man could see her age.

When they met she felt compelled to challenge him on his knowledge, since he didn’t seem impressed with her beauty. He, in turn, felt at a loss to explain why it was she hadn’t succumbed to his youthful charms.

Beyond the reflecting pool at the far end of his garden, the Mayor of Helena stood in a grove of Quaking Aspens. It was noticed by the Mayor, as well as by several of his friends, that one tree came into leaf a good deal later than all of the others. Curious, the group determined to watch for any peculiar or unusual signs and to search for the reasons why.

Late one May, after a cold and somnambulant winter, the Mayor was awakened by the sound of a bird outside his bedroom window. Loving birds he hastened to the window to see if he could identify it. Looking out across the garden he dimly discerned the form of a large woodpecker tapping on the unleafed tree.

He returned to bed and, after what seemed to be a long and very deep sleep, he awakened to the call of a friend, who noticed in passing that all of the Aspen were Quaking.