By Toni Massey-Wheeler
We were living in Miles City, Montana, at the time of the eruption, and I was in first grade. I remember waking up to what appeared to be snow outside in May. My dad was shoveling the steps and wearing a bandanna around his face. The ground, car and streets were covered.
I found out school was canceled, and we had to stay inside the house. I spoke with my parents and brother, who was in fourth grade at the time, and these are their recollections.
The first day, my brother and parents recall a slight fog in the air. Toward evening, my brother had basketball practice outside. He remembers bouncing the ball and giggling with his friends as light ash bounced back off the ground. By late evening, the fog appeared quite a bit heavier, and on the evening news they advised people to keep children and pets inside.
They also called off school at this time. By morning, my parents said there was about an inch of ash on the ground, patio and car. The news said to not try and brush off the ash on cars as it would scratch the paint. My dad took a hose to the car, and my brother recalls watching from the window as the plumes of ash came off with the spray and my father cursing at the mess it was creating.
My brother snuck out the back door to play with his friends with my winter scarf tied around his face. He and his friends pretended they were on the moon because their footprints stuck in the ash. They collected ash in baby jars at his friend’s house.
My mother was constantly on the phone talking with her friends about the latest developments (probably why my brother was able to sneak out undetected). She set up church circle groups to help the elderly neighbors clean up their yards and cars. Both my mom and brother recall my dad being frustrated with all the extra work it created, especially because he got roped into cleaning up other yards as well.
My brother and I were excited because it created such urgency in our town, and volcanoes are always cool to discuss and especially experience. My brother said that everyone in his class had volcano experiments for their science projects that year. My parents and brother recalled a similar sulfur smell in the air.