Summer of surprises won’t be forgotten


Life is full of surprises, each one a chapter in the book that spices up a life. For me, one of the greatest surprises of the year was my son being asked to photograph a June wedding in Big Sky, Mont. Better yet that he was healthy and strong enough to happily accept the job.

While making reservations for lodging, he spoke on the phone with a woman in Montana. When it came time to give his address to confirm the accommodations, the young woman said, “Wait … I think I know that town. Is that near Ashland?” When Cort answered that it is, she said, “I graduated from Ashland University just a few years back.” What an ironic surprise.


They talked like old friends, with Cort mentioning he would love to see the area while he is out there, asking for input. She happened to have a friend who serves as a guide through the mountainous terrain. The idea was hatched for a father-son trip.

In this year of travel, two of our kids’ friends had taken off back in March, heading for California with no return date set. Kristen checked in with us from time to time, letting us know she was safe, happy, enjoying the amazing, life-changing experience.

I had talked with her a couple of weeks back, still in California, and she was wanting to head back, but Rachel was not. “I don’t know when to tell you to expect me, but I miss you guys so much!”

Doug and Cort were enjoying a meal in a restaurant in a little town near Yellowstone the night before they were to begin exploring. With the wedding in Big Sky behind him, Cort was relaxing and looking forward to heading off on horseback in to the mountains with the guide and his dad.

Unexpected company

Someone approached their table with a pitcher of water and said, “Here is your water, sirs.” When Cort and Doug looked up, they were speechless. Two young ladies with brown hair were smiling joyously at them. They knew those smiles, those sparkling eyes. When the wigs came off, the blonde hair revealed the girls we have known and loved forever, Kristen and Rachel.

There were hugs all around, and the girls joined in on the meal, catching up, explaining how this surprise of epic proportions came about. Kristen had sent Cort a text, letting him think she was still in California, inquiring where he was, what all he was up to, hoping he was enjoying his trip.

He gave enough clues that, by driving all night, they were able to arrive and pull off the surprise that the four of them will never forget.

Just a few nights later, sitting on my back porch, knowing it was going to be a very quiet week here for me, I noticed bubbles floating in the air. Thinking, “that can’t be …” I got up to investigate. Kristen’s smiling face popped up and said, “Helloooooo” and the hollering and hugging ensued.

All nighter

I heard, for the first time, how the girls had surprised Cort and Doug. It proved to be a wonderful slumber party kind of night, talking with Kristen in to the wee hours. The summer of 2011 will be remembered as a little slice of heaven.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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