….. or at least that’s what it felt like when Michael and I took a little road trip – about 45 miles to the north – to Molt, MT Saturday morning. Here’s the view on the way to Molt (where the grain silos are; the Crazy Mountains are looming in the background):
We hadn’t expected to encounter a kind of gospel-like church experience at all. We were only going for breakfast and music. We’d heard about the great bluegrass music that accompanied the morning meal at The Prairie Winds Cafe in Molt for sometime and had gone to the cafe one day last year, mid-week, for lunch. At that time, the restaurant was calm and quiet, with the two of us and one other table occupied.
From the outside, the cafe’s building – formerly a hardware and lumber store and built in 1915 – appears quiet and unassuming.
“Quiet” would not have described the place, however, on Saturday morning. From the time we pulled into the crowded parking lot (on the other side of the building) and stepped out of the car, we could hear and feel some lively toe-tapping music. In the front window, we saw – and felt the rhythm from – a large conga and bongo drum set. Once inside, we were enveloped in the sweet grace of incredible bluegrass music – the songs and heavenly harmonies almost like an aural incense that surrounded and settled upon everyone there.
The Prairie Winds is a popular place and we’d heard on Saturday mornings in the summer that there could be an hour wait or longer for a table. But this was a chilly day in February, so we hadn’t expected the “pews” to be maxed out. All but two chairs in the 56+-person dining area were taken, and folks were gladly “breaking bread” at their tables as feet kept time with the melodies. Two lovely women from the table that had those two seats available came and asked us to join them, but we couldn’t squeeze into the area, so we waited until a table opened – just enjoying the sense of communion and community as we took in the scenery.
The building’s previous life as a hardware was still evident, with the shelving along the walls, drawers with old-timey metal pulls beneath the shelving, scruffed-up hardwood flooring, and original (so we guessed) punched-tin ceiling. Rather than hardware items, though, the shelves now held lots and lots of rooster and chicken items, old toys, Calumet baking powder tins, books, old Mason jars, and antiques. We hung around the coffee station as we waited for a table. I liked the sign above the coffee:
In a short time, a table opened up for us – close to the music – and we got into the toe-tapping ourselves as we waited to order. The group, called The Spur of the Moment, played and sang with several guitars, a beauteous banjo, a harmonica, and a drummer with the conga/bongo set. I never would have thought that conga drums would complement bluegrass, but they were perfect. The drummer was really passionate about his rhythms. I liked how that passion even translated into his hair, which seemed to punctuate the music.
From our great seats, we not only got to hear and see the group (check out the hornet’s nest decor in the picture on the left),
but we also enjoyed the shards of light streaming onto the floor, the tow-headed two-year old with the duckling hair that lit up and glowed as he darted through the light, the incredible four-part harmonies and pickin’ to “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road,” the work-stained cowboy hats that bounced on the heads around the room, and the pair of snake-skin, wedge-tipped cowboy boots that tapped the floor to the music.
After we ordered breakfast from our kind and pretty waitress, we noticed another couple waiting for a table, so offered them the two extra seats at our table. Our breakfast arrived,
and then we got to spend some time – over and between the music – getting to know Peter and Kerry who took up the offer of the extra seats.
(I think it’s Fran – from the next table – who’s in the center, between Kerry and Peter. I forgot to ask her name.) It was great serendipitous fun to talk with them, and get to know them a little.
After we finished breakfast, we hated to leave (the music was so good), but since there was no one else waiting for tables, we decided we could stay a little longer and finish up coffee as we listened to more bluegrass. Michael bought a CD. Here he is coming back to the table (he moved too fast for the slow setting – so I wouldn’t have to use a flash – on my camera. He’s almost out of the picture).
Even though it wasn’t an official church, our morning at the Prairie Winds certainly seemed to embody the best elements of a church experience – reverence, awe, community, communion, kindness, and, of course – great, uplifting music.
Come visit us in Montana, we’ll bounce the backroads of Montana,
and enjoy communion at the Prairie Winds. And if it isn’t Saturday morning, that’s okay, ’cause we need to come back and try out some pie (which, some say, can also be a kind of religious experience).