Montana To Rice

Montana to Rice

On Sunday, April 5, 2020, my friend, Ken Stark, age 72, died in King David Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, almost certainly from COVID-19 (he had the symptoms of the virus, but the nursing home didn’t have the test for it and didn’t diagnose him with it). Ken was in the nursing home, declining, and on hospice because of Parkinson’s Disease, which he suffered with for at least the last fifteen years of his life. Before he went into the nursing home Ken and I would often greet each other and say goodbye with, “Montana to Rice!” Ken lived for much of his adult life in San Francisco and loved the the Forty-Niners, especially Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, whom some have named the “best quarterback-wide receiver duo of all time” ( They were known for getting the Forty-Niners out of difficult situations with almost miraculous passes and catches. When Ken and I said “Montana to Rice!” to each other, we were telling each other we would, together, get through and even turn into wins the struggles he was facing. Ken was also an artist and loved golf.


In the last second,
scrambling behind the line, he
threw the Hail Mary.

He arced up into
the blue, got lost in the sun,
curved into the end

zone, into our hands;
we broke the stillness with our roar,
“Montana to Rice!”


Ready to tee off
on the 19th hole, he thought,
“No more mulligans,

just a Montana-
to-Rice,” and he drove himself
over the fairway

and the rough, onto
the green, where he bounced, rolled, and
fell into the hole.


Red and white blobs streak
and clash on a field of green.
A blue wash freezes

the pass, not yet caught,
a tiny brown dab, almost
lost in the crowd of

red, forever still
and waiting for the completed

Roy Herndon Smith