Mt. St. Helens2

Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii had a sizable eruption yesterday, May 17th, one month before my daughter Katy’s wedding on the Big Island. On May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted, one month before my wedding in Missoula Montana.

A weird coincidence. Or is it? wedding bells2

I don’t care what anyone says, this is freaky. Volcano eruptions a month before mine and my daughter’s weddings 38 years apart, the same month and almost the same day, one month before each wedding. We now think of it as an ashy family tradition.

Thirty-eight years ago on May 18, 1980, I sat on spring grass at a picnic in Missoula, Montana, watching a dark, anvil cloud move overhead. I wondered at the dark speckles on my plate. Almost broke a molar chewing potato salad. Oh yum, volcanic ash, crunchy and delicious. (I figured I was running low on my daily Sulphur requirement)

Holy crap, Russia finally nuked us!

mt st helens 5Ran to my car and turned on the radio. Not a bomb, a volcano. Mount St. Helens. Where the heck is that? Oregon. Didn’t know they even had volcanoes. (I was clueless) Why is ash falling in Missoula? The Jetstream carried it? Break out the hankies. Didn’t have N-95 masks back then.

No one drove, cars stopped dead on the road. Once ash gets in the engine forget it. And you can’t see. Everything closed, no work no school. We lived in a six-plex, twenty miles east of Missoula, next to I-90. The Forest Service put me on a week of “Administrative Volcano Leave.” (They didn’t know what else to call it) Half of us worked and half were college students and all of us were deemed “non-essential.”  Party Time!

The 12 of us and our neighbors partied nonstop for a week. wedding meatballs

We raided our freezer for the wedding food I’d prepared. Cocktail pasties. Swedish meat balls. Rum cakes. We drank all the beer and wine we’d purchased for our wedding. You wouldn’t believe how fast a dozen people can blow through a freezer of food during a non-stop party. We raided everyone’s freezers and ran out of beer.

Uh-oh, someone had to do a beer run to Poor Henry’s Bar, two miles down the road. We flipped for it. Our next door neighbor called heads and then passed out. So we had to go. Took up a collection, then inched our V-Dub along the frontage road to Poor Henry’s. Bought some beer

In a weird coincidence, the day before I’d bought a bucket of volcanic ash for ten bucks to put on my vegetable garden. I scowled at the bucket, with new ash falling on old ash. What were the chances? The universe was folding in on itself. mt. st. helens4

Everyone looked like outlaws, bandanas and surgical masks over mouth and noses. We even had a mask on our golden retriever.

We played all night poker, Monopoly, and Risk. Couldn’t believe how ruthless people were taking over the world. Two neighbors got in a fist fight over Madagascar. Pieces flew everywhere, took forever to crawl around and find them again.

mt st helens retrieverMt. St. helens5When May 18th rolls around each year, I think of our fellow six-plexers and the fun we had cooped up together, roaming from apartment to apartment, taking turns hosting all-night parties.

So next month when we fly to the Big Island, as long as volcano goddess Pele lets us. Who knows, we could be stranded by another ashfall. I can think of worse places to be stranded than Hawaii.

This time I’ll keep a closer eye on my potato salad. ballet1

© Lois Paige Simenson and The Alaska Philosophaster, 2018, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to The Alaska Philosophaster with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.       

Written by Lois Paige Simenson


  1. Yvonne Cappelano May 18, 2017 at 3:37 pm Reply

    I enjoyed your recount of the eruption of Mount St Helen. I lived in East Glacier etc that time. We got our share of the ash, as well. On the Wednesday after the eruption, our thoroughbred gave birth. And yes, we named her colt Ash Wednesday!

    • Lois Paige Simenson May 18, 2017 at 10:54 pm Reply

      A horse named Ash Wednesday, I love it! Cool Yvonne, thanks for reading 🙂

  2. Ginny May 20, 2017 at 12:03 pm Reply

    Thanks for the wry grins in your reminder that the ash cloud spread so far to the east. At the time, the papers were full of the tragedy with no lightness allowed, but your college-kid take gives a different spin. All events have assorted stories. Kudos.

    • Lois Paige Simenson May 22, 2017 at 9:50 am Reply

      From a twenty-six-year-old perspective, for sure. Had a much different perspective in Alaska’s volcano eruptions, you know, maturity and all that. Thanks for reading, Ginny! You’re my Number One Fan 🙂

  3. Don Neary May 22, 2017 at 2:12 pm Reply

    I think we got less ash in Portland than you did in Missoula!!

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