The phone rang. Looking at the caller ID, I answered, “Howdy Paul.”
“Hey Eugene, what are you doing June 21 through June 24?” Paul was an army chaplain, recently retired, and is now a supporting chaplain at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.
I responded, “Nothing’s on the calendar for those days – yet. What do you have in mind?”
“You want to fly to Montana with me?”
“Are you driving?”
“No, big brother. We’ll fly commercial.”
“Are you looking for grizzlies, moose, bison, or what?”
“Wrong on all counts. I want to see the shortest river in the world. You coming with me on this ‘brother’s trip’ or not?”
“Count me in!” And that started an adventure that two close brothers will never forget; and will result in a co-authored book.
Flying out of Oklahoma City, we changed planes in Salt Lake City, then made Helena, Montana home for two nights.
Over dinner, we discussed the purpose of the trip. Up near Great Falls, Montana, there is a natural phenomenon called Giant Springs from which flows what has been dubbed the shortest river in the world. Paul informed me, “Both the Springs and the River are why we are here.” The next day, we drove 75 miles to Giant Springs.
The Little Belt Mountains are sixty miles from Great Falls. As it rains and snows in those hills, water seeps into the Madison Aquifer. Most of that water flows underground into five surrounding states and up into Canada, but a portion travels to Giant Springs. There, approximately 150 million gallons push to the surface every day through openings in the limestone overlaying the Madison Aquifer. Situated on the east bank of the Missouri, some spring water flows directly into the Missouri, while the remainder enters the Missouri by way of the 201-foot-long Roe River. Fish eggs are called roe, and a portion of the short river is diverted into the fish hatchery. Therefore, the name Roe River.
As Paul and I approached the water, I incredulously asked, “That’s a river? That’s shorter than a football field.”
“Sure is. I was on a business trip in 2004, and I always wanted to come back and study it.”
Well, study it, we did – and still are. Various reports say it takes the water twenty-six to fifty-six years to make the sixty-mile trek through the Madison Aquifer, flowing from the Little Belt Mountains to Giant Springs. Yet other reports say some of the water is diverted through different layers of limestone and takes 3,000 years for the journey. Why is there a diversity of opinion about how long it takes? There is an answer, and we will find it.
Another point: the water becomes impure as it seeps into the ground. It can become contaminated by animal droppings, dead animals, mold, and so forth. But as it flows through the limestone, much of the impurities are filtered out.
But what’s the point of it all? I’m glad you asked.
There is a cause and effect working here. The mountain rain and pristine snow (the cause) and the beauty and majesty of the springs (the effect) remind us of the timeline of human life. As it takes many years for the water to seep through sixty miles of limestone to the Springs, things also happen in our lives that often produce a delayed response.
As a child you may have been told, “You’re dumb; you’ll never amount to much!” Or, “You can’t do anything right!” Those are devastating blows that contaminate life; and the clock begins ticking for results to push to the surface. But as the limestone removes the impurities from the water, someone’s intervention can remove those impurities from life. Loving interactions heal wounds.
On the other hand, you might have heard, “You are GOOD at this! You will do well in life.” That, also, sets the clock ticking, and what bubbles to the surface years later can benefit both humanity and God.
The point is: events and personal interactions shape us, but it may take years for the results to show. So be kind to others and guide them. Help shape lives in a positive manner. Love others as God loves you.
Well, after the working part of the trip, we drove to the town of Stanford, Montana, where Paul treated me to lunch. He said, “I’m taking Stanford (my first name) to Stanford for lunch in honor of your first name.” It was sixty miles out of the way, but who cares? We had a wonderful time up in Big Sky Country.