Fieldnotes – The Yodeler

The Reedys – John and Heather, Brigid and her brother Johnnie – are a pretty remarkable family. I first met them several years ago, at the Helena farmer’s market. I was heading home with two full bags of produce: golden beets, leeks and parsley, rainbow chard and sweet onion from my Hmong friend Mai, a fat fryer and some Yukon Golds from the Milford Colony truck, a pint of honey from Ed Heinlein – when I heard a sound so sweet and mellifluous that it took me a moment to identify it as a human voice. It was, of course, Brigid Reedy, about five years old at the time, in a white cowboy hat and scuffed boots, with her trademark long braid. She was yodeling so beautifully, naturally and unselfconsciously that people stopped and gaped.

I have run into the Reedy family several times since. Last fall I was buying a loaf of bread when I heard a conversation in Italian. Helena is, unfortunately, not the kind of place where you often hear foreign languages, so I spun around. There were Brigid, Johnnie and Heather chatting away in the language of Dante. “It just seemed like a good thing for us to learn,” Heather told me, matter-of-factly.

A few weeks later, I visited them at their place along the Boulder River: a little clearing on the edge of an aspen grove that gives way to lodge pole pine and Douglas fir. Brigid pointed out to me the trail where she often takes walks with her father.

“You might think it is boring to take the same walk all the time,” she told me. “But when you walk along the same path, it gives you a chance to see the seasons change. And that gives you a fresh perspective on your world.”

By the way, John Reedy, AKA Twisted Cowboy, is a pretty fair musician in his own right.