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Visiting Hyalite with a good friend

"The Lord made the world round so Labradors wouldn't fall off the edge." -- Gene Hill

"So, how far are we going?" Tommy Moon asks from the passenger seat of the old Suburban.

"Sixteen miles to Hyalite Reservoir. It's about 3,000 feet higher in elevation than Bozeman, and it will be a bit cooler up there. We're at 4,600 feet here."

"Do I need a jacket?"

"No, it won't be that cool."

Labradors Oscar and Lucy are jostling in the back of the Suburban, watching out the windows. They know where we are going after spotting the training dummies. (Trying to "sneak" something by Labradors is like trying to fool smart children -- it seldom works!)

In any case, have you ever had a long-time friend who always has been true, and not one who is frequently offended? Well, that is my friend Tommy Moon, a native of Blackduck, Minn., who I met in the dorm at NDSU in 1967. We became fast friends, kept it touch over the years, but hadn't seen one another since he attended my first wedding in 1974, some 38 years ago! (I attended Tommy's wedding the previous year.)

Tommy and I made the mistake of rooming together in fall 1968, and studying was not our forté. We quit college that fall, sparing NDSU the trouble of flunking us out; Tommy joined the Navy, and I joined the Marines. I got out after three years, earned journalism and English degrees at UND. Tommy spent four years in the Navy, got an accounting degree at Bemidji State, then enlisted again in the Navy for another six years! After 10 years of service, he went back to NDSU, finished his pharmacy degree at age 39, and spent the next 25 years working in that field in Las Vegas and Phoenix. He just moved back to a cabin 40-plus miles from Blackduck.

"Beautiful country," he says, looking out the Suburban window as we climb the winding road to the reservoir. Hyalite Creek tumbles along the road, clear and inviting.

"I did some fly-fishing years ago in this creek ... small brook trout, rainbows and cutthroats ... lots of trails in this country," I continue. "Laurie and I hiked many of them over the years. This close to Bozeman, the trails are pretty 'busy' though."

We come into the open, and there surrounded by the high peaks of the Gallatin Range is Hyalite Reservoir. I pull up near the boat ramp, turn loose the Labradors while Tommy parks the Suburban. Oscar and Lucy see the dummies, and they know for sure now what is going on.

I hurl one dummy and say, "Oscar -- fetch!" Fling the other one in a slightly different direction, and shout, "Lucy -- fetch!" The Labs plunge into the cold water, swimming out to the dummies. They snatch each dummy in their mouths, then swim back toward me, breathing noisily. Oscar tries to steal Lucy's dummy. Tommy arrives after parking the Suburban, so we each toss a dummy. Again and again, the Labs swim out, bring the dummies back, and wait anxiously for us to toss them again.

"How about a rest, guys?"

But they want no rest. They want to keep fetching. We continue tossing for 20 minutes or more, then I bring the Suburban back to the ramp and we load up the Labradors. They are soaked and both "smiling." Lucy waits until she is inside the Suburban to shake, spraying the inside of the vehicle's glass.

We have the windows turned down during the drive to dry out the inside of the Suburban and the dogs. "You guys smell like wet dogs." Oscar licks me behind the ear. "You boneheads will sleep well once we get home."

And so we make our way back to Bozeman, continuing our visit, telling old stories amid much laughter. Laurie sends a couple sandwiches along in Tommy's cooler the next morning as he begins the 900-mile drive back to Minnesota. So long, my friend, and I hope we can visit one another again soon.