Saturday, April 30, 2011

S is for Sagebrush

My husband loves to go “boonie bashing” – driving on non-roads with a 4 wheel drive.  He loves going through rough areas just to see if he can.  Since I have been going with him he doesn’t go through the rough stuff like he used to.  But that is another story.

Sagebrush can be found in many places.  It is often viewed as a weed.  In reality it is an important ecosystem.   There are 16 species of sagebrush in Montana.  I looked that fact up.  I can only name a couple of the species.  Any way, on with the story.

We had gone hunting up near Ismay.  We had a deep aqua green pick up with new running boards on the side.  We went down a coulee.  There below us head on was a clump of sagebrush.  I took one look …

“That’s old sagebrush, you might want to go around it.”

Incredulous he said, “It’s sagebrush, it bends.”

“Old sagebrush is hardwood, it doesn’t bend. The trunk is about 4 inches in diameter”

Laughing, he hit it head on.

The metal screamed, “SCREETCH, YEEE!  EEEH”, as it was rending from the box.  The sound was deafening as the metal ripped, and shrieked.  In my mind I thought “save the pieces.”

Dan looked in the side mirror at the fragments of metal strips that lay twisted and broken in our wake alongside the trail.

“Didn’t think it would do that,” he commented as he picked up the mangled and twisted pieces of metal that had been running boards.

“Guess we should have got those Nerf bars instead of those cheap running boards.” 

I shook my head as I looked out at the ocean of sagebrush flowing down the hill.  Under my breath, but loud enough to be heard, “Maybe we should JUST gone around it.

Friday, April 29, 2011

R is for Red Lodge

Red Lodge is the gateway to Yellowstone National Park via the Beartooth Highway.  The Beartooth Highway opened in 1936.   In 1884 Red Lodge was a stage stop.  Coal discoveries nearby turned it into a boomtown by the 1890’s.  Miners came from all over Europe.

The mines went into a decline in the 1920’s.  In 1943 an explosion killed 74 miners at the Smith Mine.  The mine closed shortly after the disaster, marking the end to Red Lodge mining days.

Today it is a popular tourist destination.  In winter people come to ski.  In summer people stop to admire the beauty of this mountain town.  Many continue on to visit Yellowstone National Park.

The Festival of Nations has been held in Red Lodge every August for the last 50 years.  Each day is dedicated to different cultures. There is food tasting, music, and dancing from the featured countries.  Historic artifacts, clothing and mementos are also on display.  It is a great family event.

I lived with friends in Red Lodge one year and commuted to Billings where I worked.  One morning I watched a fox hunting in the fields.  Another time I came home to find a moose and her calf eating vegetation out of the irrigation ditch.  I often looked out the window and would see moose in the ditch. 

Ever watched a porker run.  They move mighty fast.  The Beer Creek Saloon hosts the annual “Bear Creek Down’s Pig Races”. 

There is always something happening in Red Lodge.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Q is for Quilt

Quilters have pieced together the history of the state.  Their hands stitched their hopes and dreams into functional pieces of art.  The quilts were sewn with courage, love and sometimes despair but always with an artist’s eye.

When the immigrants, homesteaders, soldiers and missionaries came to Montana they brought with them their quilts and quilting traditions.  There are many types of quilting.  Each quilter brought with them their own history and traditions.  Quilting is both a solitary craft as well as a social one.  They learned from each other.  Together they exchanged news, patterns, and techniques.  

The Northern Plains women found this new art form intriguing.  Geometric patterns had long been traditions in their own functional artwork (moccasins, teepees, clothing.)  The morning star is an important part of Native American culture.  Native women learned how to make star quilts and brought and interwove their own traditions into their quilts.

Star quilts are given at powwows and giveaways to honor and recognize people for their accomplishments. Graduations, weddings, the birth of a child are all reasons to celebrate and recognize the individual with a gift of a star quilt.  The quilt is wrapped around the recipient to honor and protect the person on their journey through life.  It is a great honor to be given a star quilt. 

In 2008 I won two tickets to a Jack Gladstone concert in Helena.  Jack Gladstone is one of my favorite musical artists.  Sometimes he is called “Montana’s Blackfeet Troubadour”.  Many of his songs tell the stories of the Blackfeet people.

The concert was a fundraiser for the Montana United Indian Association, and was held at the Myrna Loy Center in Helena, Montana.   A star quilt was being raffled off.  The star tips were eagle heads, in the middle is a buffalo, at the center of the quilt are the four sacred colors:  yellow, black, white, red.  I bought several tickets and was ecstatic when I held the winning number. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

P is for Pryor

The dust bellows as we go up the road, hitting sections that are rocky and rutted.  Cars would have a difficult time proceeding.  We continue up.  Part of the land is private, some is tribally owned.  Other sections are public lands open for recreational use.  Hiking is unrestricted, but there are no maintained trails.

We have taken the 4 wheelers and ridden the roads around the Pryor Mountains.  I ride the more easy trails.  Refusing to go up higher.  The shadows take on sinister foreboding as I wrestle with inner demons.  Looking down into the ravines literally takes my breath away.

One time we rent a double up so I can ride behind my husband.  During the scary parts of the ride I squeeze my eyes closed.   As we ride, the tires crunch and spin along the rocky paths.  I feel like we are tipping, about to roll and tumble to the bottom.  My heart jack-hammers until we reach more level ground.

The mountain was named for Nathaniel Hale Pryor, a member of the Corp of Discovery.  The Absalooke (Crow) consider this mountain sacred.  Their name for the mountain is  “Arrow Shot Into Rock”. 

Traveling through the Pryors, the lucky viewer may catch a glimpse of wild horses. The wild horse refuge in the Pryor’s was established in 1968.   Lots of caves can be found in the region, the most visited one is “The Big Ice Cave”.  Several species of bats live in the area including some that are listed as “species of concern”:  the pallid bats, spotted bat, and the Townsend’s big-eared bat. You might even see a Bighorn Sheep.

Nearby on the Crow reservation is a small community that takes its name from the Pryor Mountains.  Just outside of Pryor is the Chief Plenty Coups State Park and museum.  During the fall a "Day of Honor" is celebrated to remember him.

I believe Chief Plenty Coups was a great trickster.  During the time that the US government was taking Indian land, he donated his land back to the government to be used by all people. How his spirit must have laughed as this piece of land caused the government many frustrating moments, even as they became stewards of the land.   Eventually establishing a State Park commemorating Chief Plenty Coups’ vision that it would become a Place of Peace.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

O is for One-Room Schools

Montana has about 61 one-room schools; the only state with more one-room schools is Nebraska.  I am the only one in my immediate family that did not attend a one-room school.  My mother taught in a number of one-room schools in Custer and Garfield County.  She taught from 1974-1988.

When I was looking up current background information for this post I read an article by Dean Reynolds, in the article he used a line that says so much. 

“We were tracing the route to the Stevenson Elementary School – a place so remote, even by North Dakota standards – that the closest mailman comes from next door Montana.”

I remember at many of the schools Mom taught the mail came only once or twice a week.  Rita helped me remember some of the schools Mom taught at: SH School; Cat Creek; Pine Grove; Powder River; Riverview and Pine Creek.

My mother loved the country and saw the beauty in these remote places rarely seen with human eyes.  I remember how she would recount watching the animals. 

One of the schools was up near the Missouri Breaks.  Calling that land rough or rugged is like saying Katrina was a bit of wind.  Mom often walked in the evenings.  She told me one time she had walked down a coulee and all of a sudden she felt like she was being watched.  When she looked up there a 5 or 6 mule deer watching her.  All of a sudden they bounded off.  She said deer are very curious. 

Another time she had been working in the schoolhouse when the electricity started to go out.  She headed back to the teacherage where she lived and got ready for bed in the dark.  About 3:00 in the morning she woke up because the lights had come back on.  When she got up she realized the lights had been left on in the schoolhouse.   Looking into the school windows were a doe and a couple of yearling fawns.  She guessed the lights had pricked their curiosity. 

She always had a story to share.  Now I wish she had kept a journal of her observations.  I miss hearing her tell about the country she loved.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

N is for Northern Cheyenne Tribal College

Flag of the Northern Cheyenne NationImage via Wikipedia

There are seven reservations in Montana.  Each reservation has a tribal college.   I taught one evening class at Chief Dull Knife College the year I also taught Special Education classes at the Northern Cheyenne School in Busby, Montana.

I was invited to attend many cultural events and learn about a culture different than mine.  I watched people navigate two very different worlds simultaneously. 

I remember sitting at the cafeteria table by students and staff.  I was trying to learn how to say, “Please pass the bread.”  My young teacher (a 3rd grader) was coaching me.  As I made the attempt there were a few muffled chuckles.

I realized I had not spoken the correct words.  My young teacher smiled and told me what I said.  She showed wisdom and great kindness when I asked her if she thought I would ever learn Cheyenne.

“No, but it is good that you try.”

Joseph Fire Crow, a Northern Cheyenne flute player.  Is considered one of the greatest flute players in the world.  This spring he visited several schools and lead a workshop at the Western Heritage Center in Billings, Montana.  His music speaks calls to my spirit.

I have many great memories of the time I spent in Busby.  I will always remember the Northern Cheyenne people with great fondness.

Montana Tribal Colleges

Chief Dull Knife College, is in Lame Deer,

Salish Kootenai College is in Pablo, MT on the Flathead Reservation

Little Big Horn College is in Crow Agency on the Crow Reservation

Fort Peck is in Poplar, MT on the Fort Peck Reservation

Fort Belknap College is in Harlem Montana on the Fort Belknap Reservation

Blackfeet Community College is in Browning, MT on the Blackfeet Reservation

Stone Child College is located on Upper Box Elder Road between Rocky Boy Agency and Box Elder, Montana.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, April 21, 2011

M is for Miles City, Montana

Fort Keogh was established after the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.  The fort was named after Myles Keogh an officer who died with Custer.   Johnny Horton recorded a song about Comanche, the military horse that survived the Little Bighorn Battle.  Myles Keogh had been his rider.

General Nelson Miles established the fort after the military lost the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  The village that developed around the fort was called Milestown, in honor of General Miles.  It later became known as Miles City. 

I have lived off and on in Miles City many of my adult years.  When I moved to Miles City my mother was teaching in a one room school about 50 miles from Miles City called the SH School.  My younger sister was one of her students.  I enrolled in Miles City Community College, a small two year college.

Shortly after college I worked for the Stabler Cab Company as a dispatcher.  The cab company had a small corner of the Bison Bar in downtown Miles City.  One of the drivers was Forest Ferris.  His son, Dan, came in one day and he introduced him to me.

Later I went to work as a barmaid at the Alta Club Saloon.  The Alta Club was owned by Burch Ray Palmer, and his wife Linda.  Burch was a very talented musician.  He and his wife now own the Cork Room Lounge in Nevada. 

While working at the Alta Club Dan came in and introduced himself to me.  I told him I knew who he was because his Dad had introduced us.  He didn’t remember meeting me.  We dated for a while then I took a job with the Montana National Guard in Helena, Montana.  It would be 20 some odd years later before we would again reconnect and later marry.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

L is for Lewistown, Montana

Lewistown is a historic community that sits in the center of Montana, almost dead-center.  It is surrounded by several small mountain ranges: the Judith Mountains north and east of town; the Big Snowy Mountains 20 miles south of town; and 40 miles southwest of town are the Little Belt Mountains.

According to Wikipedia - Company “F” of the 7th US Infantry established “Fort Lewis” there in 1874.  The Fort was on land belonging to the Blackfoot Nation.   Lewistown is supposedly named after that earlier fort.  The article goes on to say that the Metis were the first permanent settlers of Lewistown. 

Lewistown is still the location of the Metis Fiddle Celebration.  It also holds an annual Chokecherry Festival.  However one of its claims to fame is the Yogo Sapphires, (one of two types of sapphires found in Montana), that are mined nearby.

The Yogo Sapphires are a cornflower blue color.  In 1895 a prospector, James Hoover began collecting these little blue pebbles from where he and his partners had their gold mine operation.  During that year they made $700 dollars from the gold mine.  He collected the blue pebbles in a cigar box and sent them to Tiffany & Co in New York to be identified and see if they had any value.  Tiffany & Co sent him a check for $3,750 for the box of blue pebbles. 

The story of the sapphire mine is full of twists and turns.  Hoover and his partners eventually sold their shares to a British Company.  This probably explains the link to why there are Yogos in the British Crown Jewels.

My mother had started teaching in Montana the year I graduated from high school in Idaho.  She asked me what kind of ring I would like for my graduation present.  My choices were a diamond or a Yogo Sapphire.  I chose the Yogo Sapphire and have loved the stone ever since.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

K is for Kalispell

Kalispell MT montage-a-google

I have a montage of memories connected to Kalispell.  Memories, I have been visiting a lot lately. Among them a trip to Glacier National Park with my mom many years ago.  Magical moments in time that shine brightly years later.  These memories make up pages in my mental scrapbook.

When I think of Kalispell, I think of my most unusual find at a garage sale.  The Gatiss Gardens - flowers tended with love and dedicated to a mother.  And a place Known as the Montana Vortex and House of Mystery.  Among this collage of remembrances are seagulls and morning light.

We had stopped earlier at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT,  on display was a collection of fossilized dinosaur skin.  It was pebbly - reminiscent of goose bumps turned to stone.  I was fascinated that skin could have been preserved in such a way.  This exhibit toured my brain and kept prompting questions.

We continued to travel from Bozeman to Kalispell (322 miles) and I saw a sign advertising a garage sale.  On a whim I turned down the dirt road.  The sale was being held in a large shop.  Everything neatly laid out and most were clearly marked with the sale price.  Along one wall I found some shoe boxes with different rocks and similar artifacts.  Then I found IT.  It was a shoe box full of "stones".  These stones looked very similar to the display of dinosaur skin at the Museum of the Rockies.  Could the box possibly be chunks of fossilized dinosaur skin?

The box did not have a price marked on it.  I took it over to home owner and asked him, "What are these?"

He nonchalantly looked at them and commented, "Dinosaur skin."

My heart dropped.  He knew what he had.  I was sure the price would be out of sight.

"How much are you asking?"

"Oh, a dime a piece I guess."

I quickly purchased several dollars worth.  I would later give it all away to other teachers.  I know that was my most amazing find that I ever made at any garage sale.

The Gatiss Gardens (pictures) are a private garden that is open to the public.  The trail that winds through the garden is approximately a mile long.  We had the great good fortune to meet Bob Gatiss who gave us a guided tour.  Often stopping at different plants to share stories and legends.  He was a great storyteller.  I remember asking about the ducks that were wandering near the creek.  I remember his comment.

"They are part of my gardening crew.  They help weed the gardens."

I remember asking how the ducks knew the difference between weeds and plants.  He smiled, "We lose a few plants."

It was our good fortune to visit the gardens on several trips.  I remember an early morning seeing a bumblebee on a flower.  It wasn't moving very much.  Mr Gatiss said they don't move fast when it starts to get cool.  His eyes twinkled as he encouraged me to pet the bee.

I remember reaching out, and stroking the small body.  I could feel the fine "hair" almost like fur.  A snapshot in time, a memorable moment.

The Montana Vortex and House of Mystery was a delight.  It comes complete with a tilted house and some great optical illusions.  At the time we were there a family with 7 year old twins were also visiting. Each twin stepped up on the cement block.  One was now visibly taller.  They then switched sides now the other twin was taller.  It was left to the visitor's imagination whether to believe it was a vortex of energy that made this anomaly or if it was in fact an optical illusion.  Either way it was a fun stop.

We were up early one morning and watched seagulls dining on french fries from a nearby fast food establishment.  The gulls would dance and dart all the while squabbling over whose fry it was.  They provided quite a show as the morning sun continued to rise.

It has been fun revisiting these snapshots in time - this scrapbook of memories that only my mind can see.

Friday, April 15, 2011

J is for Jordan

Jordan, MT is the county seat for Garfield county.  There is a little museum complete with real dinosaurs found in the area.  Hell Creek is only about 26 miles (fisherman come from all over).  It is a mecca for deer and antelope hunting.  Some of you are scratching your head because there is a glimmer of a memory.  Yes your right it was in the news.  In 1996 the Montana Freeman made the news when they had a standoff with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

On a personal note my sister-in-law and her husband live about 30 miles from Jordan in an area known as Brusett, MT.  The town of Brusett now is just the post office.  The post office first opened May 29, 1916.  Fossils and dinosaur bones can still be found in the region.  Paleontologists often stop and visit Patsy & Alven when they are in the area.

Garfield county is a very rugged country. You still come across the old homesteads that are still standing.  Distances are a fact of life.  It is not reasonable to bus students to town so there are a number of one-room schools still in use.  Each school has its own district.  Pine Grove is one of those schools and is about 8 miles from my sister-in-laws home.  My mother was one of the teachers who taught at Pine Grove.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I is for Ingomar & Ismay

Ingomar, MT once claimed the title of "Sheep Shearing Capital of North America".  Between 1911 and 1917 Ingomar averaged 2500 homestead filings a year.  Today it is basically a living ghost town.  It sits alongside US 12 - (a two lane paved road), about 40 miles from Forsyth and 60 miles from Roundup. There are about 4-5 people living there.  "You've gotta be going to Ingomar to go to Ingomar" - author unknown.

My first trip to the Jersey Lilly in Ingomar was with a friend, Deborah Hanson.  We were on our way to the Montana Democratic Party Platform Convention being held in Great Falls, MT.  Deborah and her husband Terry had been long time friends with Bill Seward.  We stopped for lunch and ate the Jersey Lilly's famous bean soup.  While we ate Bill regaled us with wonderful stories.  Many of them were the back stories to some of the photos and clippings hanging on the walls.  Bill was a wonderful storyteller and a "true western character".

The Jersey Lilly started out as a bank. In 1948 Bill's dad bought it and named the place after Judge Roy Bean's bar in Texas.  Bill bought the place from his dad in 1958.  Bill sold it in the 1990's to Jerry J. Brown.

My other favorite little town is Ismay, MT it is also in eastern Montana not far from Baker, MT.   It boasts a population of about 20-30 residents.  Its most recent claim to fame was in 1993 when it temporarily changed the town name to "Joe" Montana.  Through some great publicity and some major events they raised around $70,000.  Enough money to build a volunteer fire station, fire truck and to restore the original jail.

I'm partial to the town because I know members of the Nemitz family.  I worked as a bartender with one of the brothers.  At one time several of the boys were council men and one was mayor during the same year, perhaps still.   In 1993 the mayor's salary was four dollars a month.

My sister joked it was probably one of the few communities were a city council meeting could be held over a family dinner and have a voting quorum.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

H is for Hats

What's the big deal about hats?  I am sure that hats are an important head accessory in other states besides Montana.  Cowboy hats and baseball style hats are two of the most common head coverings to be found in Montana.

During the spring of 1977 I splurged on a baby blue wrangler felt hat.  I wanted to be properly decked out for the upcoming Bucking Horse Sale. The Bucking Horse Sale is held in May.  Rough green stock is rode and sold at auction.  In years past it was an excuse for one large party.  People traveled from all over to attend.  I wore that hat proudly, convincing myself at least that this city girl looked pure country.

That summer I found what I thought were two young pups running down the street.  I picked them up and called a friend who worked at the pound to find out how to find them a home.  He told me they probably would not find homes.  So I decided to keep them.  I took them to the vet for a check-up and to see about their shots.  The vet said they were long haired dachshunds and both were pregnant!  

Tigger had a regular litter there were 7 pups.  Duchess had problems.  I took her to the vet.  He delivered one live pup.  As fall turned cold I brought the dogs in from the shed outside to the basement.  One morning I went to get them.  Coming down the steps I opened the door - there spread on the floor were pieces of baby blue felt, an overturned hat box and gloves missing a few appendages and many fuzzy fur balls.  I was furious - my new hat was tattered and torn!

I turned around and went upstairs to cool down.  My mom said, "You should have put it up."

"I had it up." I whined."They knocked it down and ate it."

Another slicer, tjkfirst, from the "Two Writing Teachers" Slice of Life Challenge left a comment on my blog. Her brother has the H Bar Hat Works here in Billings where I live.  Talk about a small world.  His company is on facebook and he says he has a one man hat shop specializing in custom hats!

Hats, every hat has a story, even ones long gone.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

G- Is for Glacier National Park

What is your phobia?  Mine is heights.  Back in the late 1980's I took my Mom to Glacier National Park.  We heard that the Going to the Sun Highway was very beautiful, without knowing anything more we set off to explore.  Bad decision on my part!

The road is windy, narrow hardly any shoulders and did I say steep.  A man I knew who lived in Kallispell, MT told me his father had worked on building the original road during the 1930's.  He said when he was a kid, they drove up there and you could touch the side of the mountain from the car window and on the other side was only a narrow shoulder.

By the time I drove the road it was two lanes with an occasional pull out.  (Place you could pull over to let other cars pass.)  Did I mention that I have major anxiety attacks connected to heights?  The trip up Going to the Sun Highway was beautiful.  It was also terrifying.  I realized early on that I was in for a difficult trip, but there was no place to turn around and go back.  I had to keep on going.

The Going to the Sun Road is approximately 50 miles long.  In places the drop is phenomenal.  You have to admire the engineering and grit it took to carve the original road out of the mountain.  It seemed like it took forever to get to the top of the mountain.  Once there I asked how to get back to Kallispell.

"Mam, you take the road you just came up and you go down.  Just retrace your journey."

These words sent ice shooting up my spine.  Perspiration dripped from my hands as they shook.  My heartbeat went into overdrive.  My chest felt like a 500 pound demon was sitting on it as I labored to breath.

I decided there had to be another answer.  I pointed to the road going in the opposite direction.  "Where does that go?"

"That will take you to Saint Marys."

"So if I take that road, how do I get to Kallispell?"

The ranger looked at me with confusion.  "Mam, its a long way out of your way.  But follow the road and you will see some signs when you get to Browning."

Its approximately 140 miles from Logan Pass to West Glacier KOA where our gear was.  Did I mention it was dark and I don't enjoy driving in the dark.  We eventually made it back to our cabin around midnight.

I recently learned that the park now runs shuttles up the road.  People don't have to drive themselves.  I would like to go again before the Glacier melts.  I know I would do better with someone else driving.      I can shut my eyes when it gets to scary.  That didn't work so well when I was the one driving.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, April 9, 2011

F is For Forsyth, MT

Have you ever tried to push a “Scout” off the side of the road?  Not only did I push the “Scout” off the road but, it started to roll down the hill into a fence.  I ran and grabbed the steering wheel to change its trajectory.  Finally it came to a stop.  I was very annoyed with myself, and the Scout.  In my peripheral vision I watched a highway patrolman coming down the interstate.  He crossed the meridian and parked near the edge of the road. 
I could tell that he had watched the whole episode, because he was trying to keep from laughing out loud.  I could also tell that he wasn’t succeeding completely. 
“Is everything ok?”
“Yes, the Scout stalled.  I tried to get it off the side of the road.  But I pushed to hard.”
Eyes laughing – “I see you got it stopped.”
“ It will start in an hour or so.  I had another car that would do the same thing.”
Trying hard to contain his mirth, “ We have to put a sticker on cars left by the road.  You have 48 hours after the sticker is put on it to get it moved.  I won’t put a sticker on it until tomorrow.”
“That’s ok I’ll have it running again before that.”
“Sure.  Do you need a ride into Forsyth to call a tow truck?”
“No, my mom is driving the Hyundai over there.  I’m taking the Scout to Busby and then I’m returning to Miles City.
“Ok ,  you sure everything is ok?”
“Yah.  We’ll leave the Scout for a while and visit some friends in Forsyth and then drive the Scout to Busby.  It’ll be ok.” 
As he drove off I could see him shaking his head. I knew he was laughing big belly laughs as he drove away.   I’ve often wondered how often he has chuckled over this memory.
I left the Scout to rest for a couple of hours.  Then we came back collected the Scout and continued on our journey.  I always thought that vehicle was just happy to be going down the road.
Wherever you are officer, I wish I could have heard you tell this story.  Just so you know I would have laughed out loud if I had been you.
Happy Trails.

Friday, April 8, 2011

E is for Ekalaka

Ekalaka (ee-ka-la-kha) is in the southeastern part of the state.  We used to joke that it wasn't at the end of the world but close.  It was however where the pavement ended.  In the last couple of years pavement has finally connected Ekalaka, MT to the nearest community to the south Alzada, MT.

Eureka, MT is in the far northwestern part of the state.  The distance between Eureka and Ekalaka is about 721 miles one way.  Distance plays a big part in living in Montana.  The upside is the rugged beauty.  We live in a state that has two diverse regions.  The western region is mountainous and the other region is the plains of eastern Montana.

The Medicine Rocks State Park is just outside of Ekalaka.  The sandstone has been sculpted by the wind.  There are similar outcroppings in the Badlands.

My first year of teaching was in Ekalaka, MT and I would drive back to Miles City on the weekends. When you turn off the main road and head into the Medicine Rocks there is a hand pump right by the dirt road.     I would stop at Medicine Rocks on my way home to Miles City and fill jugs with the freshly pumped water.  The water was cold and delicious. Definitely worth all the effort of pumping it and hauling it to town.

I loved the Medicine Rocks and enjoyed hiking among the outcroppings.  Listening to the wind whistle its mournful song, as I contemplated the future.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Digging Up Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs are abundant in Montana.  Paleontologists are still recovering them, and learning about them.   Jack Horner is one of the worlds foremost authorities on dinosaurs.  He was born in Shelby, MT and works closely with the folks at the "Museum of the Rockies". The Bozeman museum has recently opened the "Hall of Giants".

Walt Disney said," When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do."  "Montana Dinosaur Trail" is a map showing 15 museums that have their own paleontology section.  Many of the artifacts have been found in Montana.  Perhaps it will spark your curiosity.

There are also a few living creatures whose direct ancestors lived during the dinosaur age.  There are about 26 species of sturgeon in the world today, some are found in Montana rivers. Fossil records of sturgeon date back 200 million years.  They can live to be over 100 years old.  The Pallid Sturgeon can weigh 60 pounds and is very rare.  Sturgeons are classified as at risk of extinction.

Montana is one of 23 states that are home to another interesting creature that time forgot - the "Paddlefish".  They have looked the same for over 60 million years, only two species have survived. They are Montana's largest fish and are related to the Sturgeon.

Dinosaur Resources

Judith River Dinosaur Institute

Makoshika Dinosaur Museum

Museum of the Rockies

Timescale Adventures

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

C is for Carousels

There are three carousels in Montana -  "Great Northern Carousel", Helena, MT, "A Carousel for Missoula", Missoula, MT; "Dream Maker Carousel", Somers, MT.

Great Northern Carousel is a menagerie-style carousel.  They were hand carved by Ed Roth from Long Beach, CA.  Hand painted by Bette Largent of Spokane, WA.  On the top of the carousel are magnificent stained glass artwork created by Mary Harris.

The artwork features important landmarks around and in Helena, MT - the state capital.  The 37 carousel pieces depict animals that are native to Montana from the now extinct dinosaurs to the energetic Jack Rabbit.

"Dream Maker Carousel" Somers, MT - is in the private gardens of the Cherot family.  It is open to the public

"A Carousel for Missoula"  is really about a community that made magic.

Relevant Links

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Billings, MT

Billings MT is my current hometown.  Tonight the megaloads come through town and will go to the refinery to be set up.  It is always interesting to track journeys, even that of inanimate objects.

Billings is the biggest city in Montana.  It has a population of about 106,000 people - about 1/10th of Montana's population.

In the city we have the Alberta Bair Theatre, Yellowstone Art Museum, Western Heritage Center, Rocky Mountain College, Montana State University-Billings, the Moss Mansion, and Metra Park.  We were also the site of the Father's Day Tornado, June 2010.  We made the news because we rarely have tornadoes.  The Barstow Collection is housed at MSU-Billings.   Parts of the collection can be seen online.  Billings, MT is definitely a place of great attractions.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Alberta Bair Theatre

The Alberta Bair Theatre was  built on the original Charles Bair homestead.  It was originally called the Fox Theatre.  It opened its doors November 13, 1931.   The theatre began a renovation project in 1987.  Alberta Bair gave the lead gift for the project.  The theatre was named in her honor.

 "The Fox Theater had the distinction of being the last Art Deco style theater in the United States built by the 20th Century Fox Corporation and designed by Robert C. Reamer." Alberta Bair Theatre/History

Today the Alberta Theatre is home to great theatre and educational opportunities for students, teachers, and community.  I had the good fortune to attend a class there on Visual Thinking Strategies.  There are three basic questions to ask students as they look at a piece of art.

Basic VTS

  1. What's going on in this picture?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?
  3. What else can you find?
I have used this technique with picture books.  My students love the opportunity to really look at the art work and share their thoughts.  My three favorite books to use this with is "Rosie's Walk" by Pat Hutchins and two books by David Weisner "Flotsam" and "Tuesday".  The kids love these stories, and it is great to see the stories the illustrators tell.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, April 1, 2011

Reflections on Slicing My Life in March

I have enjoyed the writing challenge this year.  I have "met" some great people, and enjoyed their writing.  The slice a day has been "challenging"  so often I didn't know what to write or where to start.  From reading the many posts of others I have gleamed ideas for class, read recommendations for new books, learned new idioms "before the sparrow farts".  I have learned about the lives and concerns of many great people.  I am sad it has come to an end.

In our district it has been a long standing practice to move teachers to new schools every 12 years.  This is my twelfth year.  The idea of starting in a new school feels daunting, yet exciting.  I have become so attached to the children, families, and staff where I work that it makes me sad that I am leaving.  It hurts to know I am leaving this teaching community.

Daily writing has helped me examine many of my thoughts that were fluttering around my brain.  I even took risks and shared my writing with several of my classes.  Quickly realizing that my writing did not pass my student delighted screening.

I think what I valued the most was the comments.  It was proof that someone out there was listening.  That what I wrote made a connection, a chuckle, or was thought provoking.  Those comments gave me encouragement.  They made me feel connected.  They made me feel that I was part of a community.  The year I participated in the NWP I felt that community, and I have missed that type of daily connection.

This was my second year participating.  Last year I only made it a few times.  This year I wrote 30 out of 31 days.  I feel exhilarated with that accomplishment.  What I feel the most is thankfulness.  I have learned so much reading "Two Writing Teachers" and the many other blogs.  I have found many that I decided to follow.  I hope they keep posting on a regular basis.  Here is to the future - Tuesday slicing and to the wonderful friendships we are building.