Then last summer, after a volunteer stint at a farm in the Bitterroot Valley, I managed to return, this time with a girlfriend. The splendor around us left her in the same hushed marvel I'd experienced two years before. All the same, I don't think Flathead would mean what it does without Barry and Anita. On this visit, the guesthouse was rented, so they just put us up in their home. We ate dinner together (braised elk and a salad of vegetables from the garden spiked with garlic) and talked past midnight about everything — gun rights, staring, and the Philippines, where their son and his fiancée served in the Peace Corps. Anita got me thinking about her gluten-free, dairy-free diet — with a loophole for logs of grass-fed butter — and I got Barry, a devotee of technical journals, thinking about opening a novel for the first time in years.