Confessions of a Desert Diva

By VERINA PALMER MARTIN

I really hate to admit it, but I’m not the same Montana girl my daddy raised. More precisely, I’m not the tomboy he took camping, hunting, fishing and competitive trapshooting. Hunter’s orange is no longer a color of choice in my wardrobe, four-wheeling is a bumpy drive on a dirt road, and the only shooting I do these days is with a digital camera.

Sure, I still drink beer and play an occasional game of pool, but most days I’d much rather be lounging by the pool with a foo-foo cocktail in hand and the undivided attention of my hot cabana boy who, yes, also happens to be my husband. A relaxing vacation at a lovely beachfront resort is absolutely delightful and being pampered at a luxury spa is unbelievably fabulous. Don’t laugh. I actually find myself using words like lovely, delightful and fabulous, which I can’t recall being in my Montana vernacular.

My upbringing in Missoula comes to mind at the oddest moments, like when I was trimming a simple chunk of pork for dinner recently. It struck me as odd that I was so intent at removing every ounce of fat and sinew. Then a vision of the marigold kitchen from my childhood appeared from the recesses of my mind and I thought I heard the thunk of an ice-cold elk quarter landing on the island counter. I could almost smell that pungent odor of wild meat, hear the methodic scraping of my dad sharpening his knife, and feel the smooth, white butcher’s paper in which we wrapped it to fill our freezer for winter.

It cracked me up to imagine explaining this lifestyle to the Housewives of Scottsdale, who are more likely to sharpen their stiletto heels to stalk a different kind of prey. It occurred to me that I have rarely seen women here handle even raw hamburger. I guess if you don’t kill it, why touch it?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no girly girl. I despise shopping, especially at the mall. My fingernails are a ragged mess, and I believe it’s more important for purses and shoes to be comfortable and functional than uber-fashionable. I still enjoy hiking, boating, camping and the serenity of wilderness. I simply prefer to be a little more comfortable doing it, like in my brother’s comfortable cabin in the Swan Valley.

Still, the diva gene must be hidden in my DNA, because I gave birth to a pretty-in-pink princess who believes her world should be bedazzled, fashion is a passion and pedicures are a necessity of life. She has a passion for pink, a zest for all things zebra, a disposition for drama and all the wiles of a woman in the making.

She has never frostbitten her fingers inside a frozen carcass, and she’s appalled that I once devoured the backstrap from a fresh kill roasted over a campfire. She prefers filet mion, medium rare, from a steakhouse. At least I never have to worry about her being a vegetarian.

So here is my confession. I love my life in the city, in the desert, in the sun; but I wouldn’t trade those hunting camp, meat-cutting, fish-gutting, target shooting days for anything in the world. (But don’t tell Tom, because I’m not giving up the cabana boy.)

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Verina Palmer Martin is a Missoula native who fled town in 1986 in search of truth and eternal sunshine, which led to a  longtime newspaper career in Arizona. She’s happily married to a Montana boy who tracked her down 20 years ago, and he still makes her laugh like he did in high school. She blames the UM School of Journalism for her addiction to news ink and ridiculously high journalisticethics.