Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Do You Have Any Questions?

I get so frustrated when I get a new piece of technology and someone smugly asks, "Do you have any questions?"  No - is my basic response.  No because I don't know enough yet to know what questions I have.  I look at my tormentor and think, "Of course I have questions!"  "Like where do you turn it on?"

I went from a vintage 2007 (one of the sales clerks said "oldddd and wrinkled her nose" - Motorola flip phone to a Droid Charge.  Talk about a learning curve.  The sales lady turned me over to a couple of her younger colleagues when I had questions.

The girl was fairly patient and then I left with my new gizmo.  Only to walk a couple of feet and realize I hadn't asked, how to get to the contact section.  I walked back to the kiosk at Sam's Club and the young man happily said I will show you.  Which he did, (fast).  I am now old enough and self confident enough now to tell sales clerks - "Stop I need to do that again but slower, and I need to be the one doing it."

The young man looked at me and reluctantly said, "ok here" when I told him I wanted to do it, while he told me what to do.  He became very anxious - he wanted to do it for me.  I knew he was frustrated that I didn't get it.  I could see from his expression it was painful for him to watch me struggle with such a basic step.  I thought of my students and how often I have asked, "Do you have any questions?"

This new phone is a marvel.  I figured out how to answer it.  I accidentally discovered you can put facebook information into your phone contacts.   Did you know that if you hit the right button and sync it to your phone, facebook information it will download all your friends information onto your phone?  I didn't even know facebook knew their phone numbers.

I intensely dislike being intimidated by a machine.  I downloaded the manual to my husband's new laptop.  I bought it for him for Christmas.  His technological comfort zone is running the computer remotely.  "Honey, would you look up ______?"

When he opened the package he was both pleased and frustrated.  He wanted one, but would probably have been happier with a new rifle.  I wanted him to learn how to operate a computer and figured if he had one of his own he might try to figure it out.  I also high-handedly told him I would find out when classes started at the Community Center.

His measured response, "I don't know why I have to take a class, you could teach me."

"Honey, I tried that.  You tune me out.  I think if someone else showed you, you might pay attention."

I really want him to have the skills to enjoy using a computer.  He's not so excited.  Kinda like my students when I tell them we are going to work on _______________.   As an educator I realize my students need scaffolding.  Sometimes I don't always get how much.  

My helpful teaching style is kind of like my phone - I start to type and it tries to anticipate what I want to say. Only to make me frustrated because it adds letters I'm not interested in.  I asked those young sales people how to turn off that function.  They looked at me and said, "Just type.  It will figure it out."

Hmm - I'm not so convinced.

I discovered that Verizon is offering a class on how to operate Droids during my winter break.  I signed up.  When they ask, "Are there any questions?"  I'm going to say yes - "How do you shut off that function where it tries to type words for you?  It really is annoying.  I would rather do it myself."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Librarians Rule the World"

Saturday I stood in line at Costco for 1 hour and 22 minutes to have Christopher Paolini sign his fourth book "Inheritance".  One copy was for me and the other was for the Washington Elem library.  When I told Christopher I was a librarian.  This delightful young man's eyes twinkled as he said, "Tell your students, that I said, 'Librarians Rule the World'."  He made my whole week with that remark.

My one regret was that 13 years ago I did not buy his book Eragon when I had the chance.  Christopher had self published this first book at the age of 17.  Barb and Ron Scherry owners of the Great Northern Bookstore was carrying his autographed book at our Book Fair and I was broke.  So sad.  That $25 dollar book a couple of years ago sold for over $500 on ebay.

In line I was sandwiched between 2 young men.  The young man behind me had brought in several books to be signed.  They were loved to death, several of the paperback books were tattered and torn.  Proof of the eight times he had read each book.  The other young man held a stack of his books, reverently stowed in their case.  Two young men who are ardent readers.  This was evidence that touched my heart as a librarian.

Did I mention that the book signing was in Bozeman Montana approximately 140 miles from my home in Billings.  Through miscommunication we got a late start and didn't leave town until a little after 11:00.  The book signing started at 1:00.  I was at the back of the line at 1:22.
We didn't even stop to take the picture of the bald eagle standing in the middle of a frozen pond.  He looked kind of perplexed as he stood on that ice.

Life is filled with choices.  Some we take, some we don't.  Here's to all the people who make the choices and follow their dreams. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Are You On Santa's Naughty List?

Did you ever write a letter to Santa?  I remember my Mom helping me write one every December when I was little.  How I would watch the mailbox anxiously waiting for a return response from Santa.  I recall the magic when finally I would open the mailbox and inside was a fancy letter.  There were always colored drawings on the outside.  That's how I would know it was from Santa.

I would hold the envelope in my shaking hands.  I remember asking for confirmation, "Is this my letter?"

Mom would smile, and show me my name on the outside of the envelope.  Then we would walk back to the house.  I guess I usually ran.  There I would open it and Mom would read it to me.   I remember the wonder.  How did he know all that about me?  As I look back I wish Mom would have saved one of those letters in my Baby Book.

I was an adult the first time I saw Santa's Sleigh flying through the air one Christmas Eve.  It brought back all that wonder I felt as a youngster.  Here in Billings Santa's sleigh can often be seen in the sky on Christmas eve.  The last few years it has become a tradition for my husband and I to go driving and watch for Santa's Sleigh.  Each time I see it I think of  Chris Van Allsburg's book the Polar Express.

This last week two of the teacher's at my school shared videos that Santa made for their children.  They were amazing.  New technology, but that Christmas anticipation was still there.

I decided to send an email to Santa at the Portable North Pole concerning my husband.  You see sometimes he's been naughty and gets coal in his stocking.  You guessed it Dan received a video from Santa.  If you would like to see it here is the link.  (He's ok with me sharing it.)   http://www.portablenorthpole.tv/watch/gCht1ABoWZEOAMUhKdc6qHw?utm_campaign=share-video&utm_medium=share&utm_source=copy-paste  

Santa is truly a technology leader, that old elf even has a facebook page.  Here's to Christmas magic.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kids Make Me Laugh

The other day I was visiting with a friend at Costco (Box Store).  He was accompanied by his wife, young daughter (preschooler) and younger son.  While we were talking his wife found a potential present for their daughter.  She surreptitiously passed it to her husband.    She took the kids and continued shopping.

When they returned the package was visible in Dad's hands.  Daughter eyed it, and asked him what he is doing with it.  (He was so busted.)  Thinking quickly he explained that I was buying it for my granddaughter and he was just looking at it.  He carefully placed it in my cart.

Again his wife and children went to browse.  He reclaimed the package. Carefully he hid the package from his daughter's prying eyes.  His family returned.  I noticed his daughter eyeing my empty cart.  First looking at me, then her Dad.  I knew he was so-oo busted.  I hoped the package wasn't on the list of presents Santa was bringing.  As I walked away, I chuckled to myself.  He was so busted, she had noticed everything.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Have You Heard of Square Butte Montana?

What makes the community of Square Butte memorable?  There were actually several things.  We were returning home from Fort Benton and we came upon Square Butte.  We already knew that the post office had closed there in 1962.  So why did we turn off there?  We just were curious and decided to take the tour.  From quite a distance we watched two buttes as we came closer to the community of "Square Butte" named for one of the nearby formations.  Square Butte is visible for about 75 miles.  It is also the home to a herd of Mountain Goats (50-80 head)

In July 1805 Lewis described "Fort Mountain" after observing it through his telescope thirteen miles away.  The laccolith or butte was formed from magma pushing through previous layers of lava.  The process makes a blister on the earth.  According to Joseph Mussulman there are more than 2,000 geologic features in the US known as buttes.

Square Butte was one of Charlie Russell's  favorite laccoliths.  If you look through some of his paintings you will see Square Butte in the background. Look at his painting titled " Charles M. Russell and his Friends" 1922.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Are You Old School?

Old School - Square Butte, MT
Today's students learn 24/7.  This phrase resonated as I continued to read.  I thought wouldn't it be exciting to take the library classroom and move it more to the "old" poet/artist coffee-shop atmosphere of years passed.  The years that were noted for innovation and creativeness.  How can I re-create that creativeness in my classroom?

Stuart Woods opens many of his Stone Barrington novels with "Elaine's late".  In the author's notes he thanks her for extending fellowship to him and other writers in her restaurant and bar.  I want to create that atmosphere in my class.  I want my students to feel free enough to explore new learning and creativity.

I know from reading other educators' blogs, many of you have achieved this level of creativity in your classroom.  My question is how do the rest of us achieve this on a regular basis?  I know there have been lessons and days when I have achieved this; but it has been an unconscious achievement.  How do we replicate the successes in a conscious way?

This picture was taken in Square Butte, Montana.  There was a sign that said "Rooms" and a second sign said "make payment to Square Butte Water Committee".  That old school epitomizes ongoing change to me.  In my mind - learning happens 24/7 - takes on a cadence. I am reminded that education is a thread that runs through my life.  

I kinda like being "old school" with new dreams. 

I used http://warholize.me on the original photo.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Serving up a Cup-a-Joe at the MERC Coffee Shop

Why is the Midland Empire Reading Council hawking bags of ground coffee?  We are raising money for two literacy projects: 1)  Local - Young Writer's Conference  2) International - Hands for Haiti .

Membership has been down for the last few years. Our finances have been iffy. Previous Boards worked very hard to get us back into the black. Unfortunately we did not have a large cushion in our savings account, when I became President in April.

Fundraising has always been a part of our culture; t-shirts; vests, etc.  Did I mention T-shirts?  When I became MERC-President we still had a couple of boxes of T-shirts from past years.  We now have sold them.

Our treasurer came to a board meeting with a possible fundraiser - coffee.  Not just any coffee.  Coffee with our own private label "The Readers' Blend". We entered into a partnership with City Brew and bought 1/2 pallet of ground coffee - 320 bags.  Choice of Bold or Medium blend.  We had 30 days to pay for the coffee.  City Brew is a great company to work with, and is expanding their partnership venture to other non-profits and schools.

The way it works is that for a specific donation you get a bag of coffee.  It sounded like a winner.  We had the Montana State Reading Conference coming up.  I felt confident that we would sell at least 150 bags and would be in good shape.  Reality, we sold 50 bags at the conference.  Since then we have sold more.  We still have plenty left.

A portion of the money we raise will go towards Hands for Haiti our International Literacy Project.  The rest of it will go towards our Young Writer's Conference.

You guessed it, neither my board nor I, have ever planned and put on a Young Writers Conference before.  It has been at least 10 plus years since MERC sponsored a conference.  We have a tentative date of May 2012 for the conference.  Very little capital and only good intentions.

If you are interested in the "Readers Blend" coffee you can order it online by following this link  http://mercbillings.weebly.com/fundraising.html  I love the aroma of coffee.  Here's to pouring a cup-a-joe from the MERC Coffee Shop.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Looking for Story-Magic

I am feeling hungry for new ideas, new adventures, new stories.  I need - I want - some story carbs.  I want to get lost in another world. Something magical, something mysterious.  I want to fill my soul with story-magic.  I want inspiration for myself and my students.

So where to start.  I want the process to be fun.  I want to find some cool ways to create a story.  Along the way I had an interesting insight into my own reading choices.  Most of my free lance writing has been nonfiction.  Yet my free choice reading is heavy on the fiction side.  An interesting conundrum. So back to the question at hand, "How do you write great fiction?"

For the last month I have been asking myself what ideas would make a fun and exciting writing prompt.  I wanted a non-threatening activity that produced quality writing.  I know, you're asking, how does she spell "clueless"?

I was in Barnes and Noble  and found the book the "The Chronicles of Harris Burdick".  (I admit I may have been living under a rock and missed it when it first came out.)   There are 14 well known authors who each wrote a story about one of the pictures from the book "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick".  What a great connection - what a fabulous mentor text!  I think my intermediate students who like stories a little on the dark side will be thrilled with this book.

So then I started googling Harris Burdick.  I found  treasure.  Lots of people have been inspired by Chris Van Allsburg's illustrations and writing.  I found video's on YouTube.  I found music.  And I found animated pictures on the publisher's website.  I did an internet search and found some great lesson ideas.

I look over the collection, and ponder how I will put these puzzle pieces together.  I am reminded of the line from the Once Upon a Time Storytelling Cards (Atlas Games) "Not all fairy tales have a happy ending".  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Jan Brett on Tour - Billings, MT

Are you looking for books for the Christmas season?  Maybe stories to start a new tradition or to enhance an existing family tradition.  Check out two of Jan Brett's Christmas stories.
Her newest book is "Home for Christmas" about Rollo the troll.  "The Night Before Christmas" illustrated by Jan Brett is my favorite rendition of Samuel Clement's famous poem.  This book was first released in 1998.  This year it was re-released with a DVD featuring her fantastic artwork and music by the Boston Pops.  Jan is donating her profits to the Boston Pops as a fundraiser for them.
Jan Brett is a fabulous illustrator.  Her books for children are beautiful.  Thursday November 17, 2011 she did a presentation in Billings, Montana.  I loved her presentation as she showed us how to draw a moose.  She took the time to visit with each person who attended her book signing.  A very gracious lady.
She is also hosting a contest.  People are encouraged to take pictures of her tour bus when they see it.  If they down load a picture they are eligible to win 10 books for their school.  Please check out her facebook page and vote for your favorite picture.  The one I submitted is "Reading Takes You Places"  http://apps.facebook.com/whcontests/jan-brett-tour-bus-photos.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Celebrating Editing & Revision

I accepted a writing assignment from the Montana Historical Society last spring.  It was to develop lesson plans using Digital Newspapers in the classroom.  Montana has digitized some of their historic newspapers for Chronicling America.  Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment of the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

These newspapers are a rich goldmine for all kinds of research.  Now that many historic newspapers are digitized people everywhere can access these primary resources.  This in itself  is so exciting!

My deadline for the original work was July 1st, a deadline I met.  I had revised my work so many times before I turned it in.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work with a fabulous editor, Martha Kohl.  With her help I have revised my work a score more times.  Today I submitted my final revision!!!!!!  It now goes to the Graphic Artist and will be on their website by January 1, 2012.

This is my first really large free lance project.  And I am thrilled.  Once it is published on their website postcards will be sent out to every 4th grade teacher in the state.  This lesson is actually easily used with older students.

When it is up I will share the link.  I hope you will take a look at it and see how you could use it  in your classrooms.  I would love to hear your thoughts about the lessons.

I feel really good about this project.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Have You Ever Heard of the Payphone Project?

While checking information about post offices, I noticed the web address said "Payphone Project".  Being of a curious nature I googled it.  I found several web pages with pictures of payphones and their stories.  My favorite is the one by Mark Thomas http://www.payphone-project.com .

After reading the web pages I was glad that I had taken a few pictures of payphones along the way.  I took them because you don't see that many phone booths anymore.  This picture was taken at Brockway, Montana.

Brockway, Montana is in McCone County.   The closest town is Circle, MT about 12 miles away.  Brockway is located near the Redwater River.

In 1910 three Brockway brothers filed adjoining homesteads near the Redwater River. By 1913 the settlement opened its first post office.   This is a current picture of the Brockway Post Office.   It is on the left side of the building.   It is one of the 85 Montana Post Offices under consideration for closing.   July 21, 2012 Brockway will host the 82nd Annual Dairy Day Rodeo.  In 2010 Brockway celebrated its 100th birthday.

The 2010 Montana census says 140 people live in Brockway.  I'm guessing that's the number of people in the surrounding area with Brockway as their address.   Coleboy22 in his song about Brockway says the population is 19.  I think that is probably optimistic about the town proper.

As I was taking pictures one of the four footed citizens stood guard duty.  He mistook us for paparazzi, and chose to escort us out of town.  He had such a satisfied look of a job well done.  I could almost hear him say, "They looked like shifty characters to me.  They didn't even put up a ruckus when I ran them out of town."

A one of a kind doggy.  Notice how the wind is blowing his fur.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Honoring Those Who Served

Throughout history, many soldiers have died never to be identified.  After World War I, a movement started in several countries to recognize these soldiers by constructing a tomb for an unknown soldier.

In 1921 these tombs were unveiled in Italy, Portugal, and the United States.  Chief Plenty Coups, a Crow Chief, (Montana) was chosen to represent all Native Americans at the dedication of "the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" at Arlington, Virginia.

During the dedication ceremony Chief Plenty Coup paid tribute to this fallen warrior by laying his coup stick and warbonnet at the tomb.  The New York Tribune Nov 7, 2011 reported that Chief Plenty Coos [Coups] would pay tribute to the Unknown Soldier on at a ceremony on November 21, 1921.

NY Tribune Nov 7, 1921



After World War I there were over 1200 soldiers that were never identified.  I remember watching the news after 9/11. They had asked family members to bring in brushes and personal items so they could use the DNA to identify the victims.

 I remember turning to Dan and saying, "You will never have to go through that for me.  The military has my DNA on record.  There will never be another American Unknown Soldier."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bloomfield Montana 59315

Bloomfield, Montana is a small agriculture community.  There are a couple of houses, a school and the Post Office.  Notice that a home is attached to the right side of this Post Office.

The last census said there were 200 people in the extended community.  The town is about 23 miles from Glendive, Montana and about 70 miles from Sydney, Montana.  And that distance is on paved roads!   The 2010-2011 enrollment for the school was 8 students.

This hay bale was sitting on the playground.  The side windows are photographs encased in plastic.  I assume they are of the current students.  The driver is also a photograph - my guess it is their teacher.  I thought this was a clever display.

One room schools are alive and well in Montana.   

Fairview Montana - Sugar Beet Capital

Fairview, Montana 59221

Sunday we left Miles City, MT to take pictures of 15 Post Offices.  We took pictures of 12 of them.  Saturday it snowed.  Not deep, not blizzarding.  But sections of the road we traveled were icy stretches that even made our  all wheel drive - Equinox shudder and slide.

My husband is a very experienced driver. (He used to be a long haul truck driver.)  There were sections that were not plowed and took longer to get across, and now the days have begun to get shorter and our trips a little longer.

Last Sunday we traveled approximately 750 miles.  Did I mention I'm not yet ready for the snow and ice.  Oh well I live in Montana and no one has put me in charge of the weather.  So on with the story.  One of the Post Office pictures we took is in Fairview, Montana.  Right now this community is experiencing an oil boom (Bakken Oil fields).  Every available room is rented and then some.

Fairview has experienced Boom and Bust cycles before and probably will again.  It is known as the sugar beet capital of both Montana and North Dakota.  There is even a monument to the sugar beet in town.

Fairview is Montana's most easternmost town; it is also North Dakota's most western town.  Yep, the town belongs to two states.  There are other communities with similar dual personalities.  But this one belongs to Montana.  Most of the town, including the Post Office sits on the Montana side. (No sales tax).  Interstate Avenue or State Street as it is locally called is the dividing line.

Near Fairview, Montana there are two rare bridges.  The Fairview Lift Bridge is located 3.5 miles east of Fairview in North Dakota and the Snowden Lift Bridge is about 10 miles north of Fairview.  The bridges construction began in 1912.  In 1997 the Fairview Lift Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fort Buford was home to the 10th Cavalry - often known by their nickname - the Buffalo Soldiers. "Many workmen on the construction job were Negroes from old Fort Buford or farther south. They suffered from the cold that first winter of 1912-1913. Stories are told of deaths of workers who fell from the span of the bridge into the open water at the site and drowned in spite of rescue efforts"  Sidney Herald Nov 27, 2009  

The lift bridges were built to accommodate the steamboats. The bridge was connected to the railroad that made the need for the steamboats obsolete.    Fairview Montana is a place of hidden historical caches.  Perhaps it would be better to describe it as a survivor of historical irony.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Was a Little Bit Stressed

Now that the conference is over I can admit that I was a little stressed.  My presentation was scheduled at 3:25 on Thursday and a different one at  2:15 on Friday.  Both were the last sessions of the day.  Well on Thursday I had gone to the luncheon and listened to James Dashner speak.  He is very good. (Check out his trilogy).  Then I went to look at the vendor's exhibits.

I was in the lady's room when I overheard someone say it was 3:25.  PANIC!!!!  I raced out of the room, picked up my computer at our booth.  Then raced to the room I was presenting in.  I got there NO ONE was there.  I was crushed, I was angry with myself, and I felt devastated.

I went and laid out my materials.  Put out the hand outs.  Then called my spouse to whine.  I told him no one had come and how I was late.  Finally he asked me what time my presentation was supposed to have started.  I told him.

"Ruth, it is 2:37 now.  What time does your clock say?"

How do you spell RELIEF?

Well my mood took an immediate upswing.  As it got closer to my session people started coming in.  All in all it went very well.  My Thursday session was "Thinking Like a Historian: Using Digital Newspapers in the Classroom".

When you look at the whole conference my part was small.  I can't imagine what my stress level would have been if I had been responsible for ALL the planning.  Ah well, all is well that ends well.

Did I mention our council bought 1/2 a pallet of coffee that we have to pay for within 30 days?  That is 320 bags of coffee with our own private label - The Readers Blend.   It is available in medium and bold (ground).  We sold 50 bags at the conference. Not as many as I thought we would.  Maybe I still feel some stress.

Anyone want to buy some coffee for holiday gifts? I know where you can get some!

Monday, October 31, 2011

What I Discovered on the Way to the Post Office

Virginia City, Montana Post Office 2011
In a time not so long ago and a place not so far away - men discovered gold in a place called Alder Gulch (May 26, 1863).  As the way of the world, nine mining camps popped up along a 14 mile stretch of Alder creek within a week of the gold discovery.  Within a year of the gold discovery Congress created the Territory of Montana.  Virginia City was the middle camp in the original nine.

Alder Gulch was estimated to have a population of 10,000 that first year.  Most of that 10,000 lived in Virginia City, Montana.  It was home to the controversial organization that was known as the Vigilantes of Montana.  It is a city connected to many important historic events.

              • Montana's first Masonic Lodge
              • 1st Montana Newspaper (Montana Post)
              • 1st public school -1866
              • 1st Meeting of the Montana Historical Society - 1899
              • Territorial Capital - (1865 - 1875)
              • The Montana National Guard was organized - 1885
              • 1st Montana Town to get a telegraph -1866

What is amazing is how many of the original buildings are still here.   In 1961 Virginia City was designated a National Historic Landmark.  In 1966 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1902 Virginia City had 28 telephones.  In 2010 cellular service finally arrived.  Today there are about 150 residents.  Virginia City is a town filled with living history.   During the summer the town welcomes visitors who have come for a glimpse of another time.    One YouTube video (clayguy1) says it well, you can look "through windows to a bygone time".

One of my presentations at the Montana State Reading Conference dealt with Historic Digital Newspapers.  The newspapers I used were from Virginia City's - Montana Post, part of Chronicling America http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov that was digitized by the Montana Historical Society. The Library of Congress is one of the partners of this project.  Every state has digitized some of their historic newspapers.


Links of interest

Audio Tour of Virginia City - http://visitmt.com/experiences/audio_tours/   

Photos of Virginia City - MT Historical Society/Library of Congress.  
Contents Corner was the name of the building that acted as Territorial Government Offices.  It was located at 300 West Wallace (the territorial capital offices were on the 2nd floor). http://montanahistorywiki.pbworks.com/w/page/21639866/Virginia%20City%20-%20Contributing%20Properties

http://teachingmontanahistory.blogspot.com  Teaching Montana History Blog

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Teaching Montana History: Tech Tools for Teachers

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Leaves of October

I like October.  There are birthdays of family and friends.  I like the visual mosaic of fall - the orange pumpkins, yellow stalks of corn and the colorful falling leaves . I like listening for the sounds of crunching and crackling leaves, as I walk through them.  I like watching the leaves dance in the wind.

One year I watched a marmalade cat chase a skittering leaf.  There was a light breeze that teased that cat. He stalked that leaf, always prepared to pounce.  Only to have the leaf  tumble, and whip just out of reach.  Finally the breeze tired of the game and let the cat catch that leaf.  That marmalade cat pounced.  Then looked up so disappointed when the leaf failed to fly away.

One of the things I like about cool October nights is having a cup of warm Carmel flavored Cider and reading a great ghost story.  Savoring the scary parts as I read the leaves of my book.  Unlike some of my students I like mildly scary stories of the supernatural.  I don't read Steven King because I have enough nightmares of my own, without borrowing any of his.

That being said, I have thought a lot today about Ghost Walks and Ghost Tours here in Montana.  Karen Stevens is the author of "Haunted Montana" and in years past has organized  the Billings Ghost Tour.  Many communities sponsor ghost tours and tell about historic events that happened in the community.  Bannack sponsors several Ghost Walks.  The Ghost Walks   are reenactments of historic events.

Several other hauntingly good books are "Spirit Tailings: Ghost Tales from Virginia City, Butte and Helena by Ellen Baumler.  She also wrote 13 Chillers: 13 True Tales of Ghosts and Hauntings.  Yes there are some spine tingling reads to make you shiver during the October nights.

As I close my books I can here the sounds of October whispering.  The whoosh of a slamming door, the creek of stairs, the squeak of a gate.  The crackle and crunch of leaves, as something runs through them.  I think of these things when I see the leaves of October.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Windows to a Bygone Era

Looking through windows to a bygone era, I am reminded of a quote found on the front of  the Bannack guide.

"The roads and boardwalks are deserted.  The doors sway in the wind.  There are no children laughing and adults gossiping.  The gold rush is long over.

It is but a memory left in old dusty journals.  With nightfall the spirits return to tell their tales." - Sue Kaiser

Last week we stopped in Bannack and I took a short walk.  I was mesmerized at what I saw.  I would truly have loved to have spent more time in this preserved ghost town.  This town where I would love to listen to the walls if in deed they could talk.

In the early 1900's the original "Governor's Mansion" (a one room log cabin) burnt down.  Some of the logs were salvaged and were used to build a sod house behind this red roofed cabin.  This was also the location of the "Governor's Mansion".

While I was walking back to the pick up a gust of wind began to blow.  The golden leaves of fall began to rain down. I was fortunate to have just snapped a shot capturing the wind-dancers. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

I've Got One Track Vehicle, Who Has...?

We were out driving last weekend and went through a small Montana town.  I saw this unusual vehicle and stopped and took a few pictures.   After looking at it, I made some educated guesses as to it's age, origin and purpose.

First off it has tracks in the back.  Round windows.  Looks like a metal exterior.  You can still see the tow rope.  It looks like it may have sat in this spot for awhile.  The yellow color suggests it might have been used in Yellowstone National Park.

I guessed that it was probably built late 40's early 50's.  There was no visible name.  Because of the tracks I figured it was an early snow coach.

When I got home I began to do some research given what I had observed and what inferences I could make.

  • The back tracks told me travel on snow
  • round windows - portholes - early years maybe company that made planes or ships
  • front looks like could have had round tires but that didn't work with the tracks
  • metal exterior probably 50's some earlier vehicles have wooden exteriors.
  • Yellow paint -  color of Yellowstone National Park vehicles
With this information I tried searching to see if I could find pictures of similar vehicles.  I found out that it is probably a Bombardier snow coach.  Yellowstone did use them, as did Glacier National Park.  They were built in Canada and were used as school buses, ambulances, many doctors used them.  The biggest buyer was the military.  Bombardier also made planes. In some models the front was designed to use skis in winter.   The skis could be replaced with tires for summer use.  I don't know if the tracks were taken off in the summer or not.

My curiosity was still unsatisfied so I made some calls to the little town to see what I could find out.  One lady I talked to said her cousin would be able to answer my questions and she would have her call me back.  So now I wait and see how close I came.  Nothing like a little mystery to solve.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Things That Make Me Laugh

I saw this sign Sunday when we were driving in the "Big Hole Country" near Jackson, Montana (Beaverhead County).  We drove passed and I commented that the name would make my readers laugh. 

Dan asked me, "You really want me to turn around so you can take a picture of that sign?"

"Yes.  They will laugh."

The ground looked dry.  So Dan pulled over in the borrow pit.  The looks were deceptive. Underneath the ground was muddy.  He had to put the pickup in 4 Wheel Drive so we could drive out.  He just shook his head.

"I can't believe I almost got stuck so you could take that picture."

My answer, "It's because you love me.  That's why you turned around.  And they will love this sign!"

Monday, October 24, 2011

Have You Ever Heard of a "Beaverslide?

How about a hay sling?  We were in the "Big Hole Country" near Jackson, Montana when I kept seeing these wooden structures.  I asked my husband what they were and what they were used for?

It turns out they are used to make a haystack.  Long time ago horses pulled these frames.  Now they often use tractors.  The frames are built by hand with lodge pole pine.  If you look at the bottom you can see the runners. (Looks like the bottom of a sled.)
The hay in the haystacks made in this way will last up to four years.

The short piece is called the floor.
I think next year I would like to watch them stack hay using the beaverslide.  This form of hay "technology" has been around at least from the 1880's. One of the video's says they were invented in 1910. "Technology" can be pretty amazing. This year I have learned lots about putting up hay. 

YouTube video about how Beaver Slides work. 

Also watch the Horse-Drawn Loose Haying at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch - Deer Lodge, MT

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