Snow, cold lure desk-bound drone to go exploring

Tuesday afternoon, I almost felt guilty, staying inside as much as I had over the past few days.

I thought how terribly I’d miss the cold and the snow when the Chinooks returned, as they always do. So I went out looking for lasting images of winter, as reminders of what we had when we don’t have it anymore.

Not that I really got out much, since this was a motorized tour of wintry Billings, but I did have to go out into the snow and cold at least briefly for each photo. To take a series of photos I ended up not using, of the Yellowstone River at the fishing access in Lockwood, I tromped through knee-deep snow in my hiking boots. I should not have been wearing my hiking boots.

The most surprising scene that caught my eye was the ice-fishing tent on the pond nearest the parking lot in the city-owned Shiloh Conservation Area, west of Shiloh Road opposite the giant Scheels store.

I don’t know why I was surprised, since I’ve seen plenty of people fishing out there in the summer, but this just seemed odd. And I guess technically it was, since no one else was doing it. I heard at least two voices inside the tent. I thought briefly of talking to their owners, but my notebook was back in the car, back where I wanted to be.

Something else I had never seen: geese, hundreds of them, gathered on top of a mountain of sugar beets at the Western Sugar plant. I suppose no matter how cold it gets, that giant pile of organic matter is going to be giving off heat, enough to meet the small needs of a downy goose.

To get another series of photos that ended up on the editing floor (because they were all pretty lousy), I went to the spot on the north side of Swords Park where the city deposits snow scooped up from city streets.

Not 15 minutes later, my phone alerted me to a freshly delivered Facebook message. It was from a gentleman I know who happens to operate a city plow. His message said, and I quote, “I hear you were snooping around our snow piles.”

Such is life in the surveillance state.

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