Sunday, November 2, 2014

Montana Celebrating 100 years of the Women's Vote

Nov 3, 1914 women in Montana went to the polls for the first time.   I have spent the last year and a half learning about the women's suffrage movement.  My guiding question, "Why is this event that effected over 50% of the American population given such short shrift in our history books?"

I want to share a political cartoon I found in the Washington Times, Dec 18, 1918.  Notice the caption that accompanied the cartoon.

Caption (reprinted for easier reading) 
What does this illustration mean to you?  What does it mean to fathers and mothers responsible for the wise teaching and enlightenment of their children in youth?  What does it mean to women, whose problems have not been discussed, who have been asked to keep silent while men have decided all important questions for them?  (See editorial on this page.)         

Have you voted yet?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

QR Codes Adding Layers to Learning

Last week I attended a wonderful Woman's History Conference in Helena, MT.  The wonderful team at the Montana Historical Society put it on.  I always look forward to attending.  Follow Martha's Blog - Teaching Montana History or Listserve and she will let you know about other wonderful events.

There were many wonderful speakers and topics.  I am excited about incorporating what I learned into my classroom.  Montana is celebrating our 100th anniversary of women getting the vote this year.  An awesome milestone!

Part of the conference explored the exhibits at the Montana Historical Society.  We were given a paper to complete a scavenger hunt in the Montana Homeland Gallery.  This is a permanent exhibit created in the 1980's.  

Questions & Reflections

  •  Find at least three places where women's history is included in the exhibit?
  •  How does the material enrich the narrative or change the exhibit's overall interpretation?
  •  Find at least three "missed opportunities" -- places where women could have been included but  wasn't.
  • Would adding women here simply enrich the current storyline or would it require a change in interpretation.   
This event got me thinking.  I was amazed when I realized that women were not a focus in most of the exhibits.  They were mentioned in some or off handedly referred to.  I had been through the exhibit several times before and had never noticed this glaring omission.  As an educator I am troubled when our texts and educational experiences neglect to tell the story of half the population.  

The next day our group was divided up and we again went through the gallery.  This time there were 5 stations.  At each station was a reading that connected to the individual event.  A reading from a woman who told the story.  We each had a page with questions to help us process the information.  It was powerful to hear those stories read aloud.  It gave the rest of the exhibit so much more depth.

I have pondered how the audio component could be added to the exhibit without lots of work or starting over from scratch. I have been thinking about this because the original exercise we did was powerful.  I tried to think how other people could also experience it.

As I pondered I did some experimented.   I opened an account (free in Audioboo)  I recorded one of the readings - Crow Women and their Lodges.  It took me several tries but it worked.  When you scan the QR Code it will take you to the recording I made from an excerpt of Frank Linderman's Pretty Shield.  

How did I attach the audio recording to the QR code?  First I recorded the reading.  Then opened my account found my recording. Clicked on edit.  On the page it shows a button for creating a QR code.  I created the QR code then saved the sheet as a pdf document.  Scan the QR code and then click the triangle to play.

Other free recording apps that would also work.
Croak It (free in itunes)
Eurl voice (android)
Vocaroo (itunes)

I am sure there are many other recording apps that you could use.

Scan the QR Code to hear the recording I made.  Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Remembering the R.M.S. Titanic

Want to pair a historical event with fiction?  Lauren Tarshis is the author of a YA book "I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic".  Think about how excited your students will be when they start to dig into the primary sources connected to the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic.  The Library of Congress has put together a great collection of primary sources for you to use in your classroom.

Titanic Tag It Tuesday (National Archives)

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Reflection on Loss and Grief

I have been up quite a while this morning.  Working on lesson plans that need to be posted.  Realizing I need to make sure I have a sub coming in for me - possible snafu.  Worrying about friends.

One of the lessons I have been working on is the Earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco.  So many things came out of that devastation.  It was the first Earthquake disaster to be  photographed.  I read that it is one of the most important quakes because of the scientific information that came out of it.

I compare that to our own individual disasters.  Many people do not realize the scope of problems until it happens to someone close.  Many older women did not have careers outside the home.  These women are often totally dependent on Social Security.  Lets pick a number from the sky - lets say the husband gets $2000 dollars a month.  The wife would draw about $900-$1,000 depending on variables.  Many women are unaware that if the husband dies first they will continue receiving the $900.  This is a loss of 2/3 of the income that had been coming into the home.

Did you know that if a person goes into some hospice homes or a nursing home the institution receives all but $50.00 of the person's social security check?  Many times family members must also contribute more money to pay for this care. I didn't know that the spouse can be required to contribute additional money from their social security.  I was under the impression that our laws had changed to protect the surviving partner from financial devastation.

There is a small amount of money known as the Social Security death benefit $250 that was set up to help with burial costs.  It is only paid if there is a surviving spouse or dependent children under the age of 18. This amount of money has not changed since the 1970s.  If the couple is not legally married this money is not paid. 

For many couples not only do they lose their life-mate but often their homes, their independence and their pets.  Health and a change in finances are big factors.  Some of these families have pets that can not go with them to their new residence (nursing homes, relatives, etc).  This compounds the loss and grief that the survivor experiences.

For many older Americans, Social Security is their only income.  In the midst of grieving they are pummeled by each new loss.  Now the dominoes start to fall as we wonder why many elders are living in poverty.

How do you figure the cost of death? 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Love Hate Affair

Technology - my friend - some days not.  I see myself as technological competent.  I work hard to stay knowledgeable.  Somedays I see myself as technological clueless.

Take my ipad.  I have had it for awhile and am just now trying to set it up to send email and to send imessages.  The imessage one seems to be where I am struggling.  I get this message "recipient can't receive messages check your network"  Ahhg  I want to scream!

That's about the time when Hank drops his toy on my nearby computer keyboard and wants my attention.  How can I admit to myself that I haven't a clue at what I'm doing.

What do I do - I google.  How do you set up.  I read directions.  Yes done that.  Success?  No.

I experiment with my own addresses to see if I have been successful.  Ok I now can send a picture by email.  Still not by message.  Ahh I will wait until a later hour and see if I can talk to a friend who is a technology whiz.

I always feel so dumb when I can't figure out how to do these things myself.  I feel like such a charlatan when people refer to me as their technology go to person.  I always look over my shoulder to see who they are talking about.  Then realizing oh they meant me.

When they come with questions.  I usually answer-" well lets looks at it and see if between the two of us we can figure it out.  What have you already tried?  What do you think the problem is?  What are you trying to do? Alright, lets see what happens when we do this."

I love technology, but I hate feeling so ignorant.  Technology is SOOOO FRUSTRATING.

Friday, March 28, 2014

My History Fix

Stories matter.  I love hearing good yarns, well told tales.  I relish the stories of real people.  2014 marks the 100th anniversary of Montana Women getting the vote.  One of the sites for great glimpses into stories about Montana women is at Montana Women's History.

Teaching Montana History by Martha Kohl.  Is another favorite blog.  She shares lots of resources, many that would be applicable to other parts of the country.

Teaching History. org  is a site I'm sure many are already familiar with.  If not block out some time and enjoy.  It is a site that I go to frequently.  The History Project is full of resources for teachers.  

I've already shared Montana Moments by Ellen Baumler.  I lover her humor.  It always amazes me the gems she shares.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Classroom Practice and Chronicling America

The webinar went well at least until the lights went out at our school towards the end of the session.   It was the first time the Library of Congress had used google hangout to present a webinar.  The team said they had about 50 people watching live.   It is archived on YouTube and is available to watch at .  

Diane Cormack from Harrison County West Virginia was the other librarian that spoke about using Chronicling America in the classroom.  There were two ladies, Deborah and Robin that work directly with the Chronicling America Program.  Cheryl Lederle was the host from the Library of Congress.

We were asked questions about what ways we had used the newspapers in the classroom.  Then Deborah and Robin explained that the newspapers are in public domain through 1922 and 36 states have digitized newspapers for the program.

One of the things I did not know is that some of the newspapers are in other languages.  Many immigrants settled close to each other and published newspapers in their native language.  When I heard that I thought what great resources for classes studying a second language.  To be able to read about communities while learning another language.

It really turned out to be fun and I got some new ideas.  Diane said she laminated the newspapers and let the kids use dry erase markers to circle new vocabulary.  I thought that was a great idea.  

I believe Chronicling America is the closest thing we have to time travel.  Today I had the opportunity to talk about using the historic newspapers with kids.  I enjoyed the experience even if the lights went out.

Lemon Pie With History

One of my favorite cookbooks is the one I bought from the Current Catalog back in July of 1983.  It was a blank book.  The page format that I use - Recipe from, date I got it, recipe, serves.  If there is room sometimes I have added the back story.

I decided I would share the story of the Lemon Pie Recipe.  During the summer of 1998 I attended a Bead Society Potluck and ate a wonderful slice of lemon pie (pre gluten free life).
Ruth Clancy, a lady in her late 70's, was the pie maker.

I expressed my delight with the pie and she graciously shared the recipe and story.  She had gotten it in 1945 from an elderly lady who had had it for at least 50 years.  

Lemon Pie

1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cup boiling water
3 Tablespoons butter
6 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 egg yokes 
4 Tablespoons lemon juice (squeeze real lemons)

Mix cornstarch and sugar together, stir in water and yokes.  

Over direct heat in cast iron skillet cook until thickens.  Add zest of lemon.  Pour into baked pie crust.


I have often thought that this is a lemon pie recipe with history.  I always smile when I come to the part of the cast iron skillet.  I still cook with my Mom's cast iron skillet, the one she bought in the 1940's.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An Invitation

I am nervous and excited.  Tomorrow I will be participating as a panel member for the Library of Congress Webinar on Chronicling America. Chronicling America is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program.  They have some newspapers dating back from 1836 - 1922.

You can find newspapers about the Titanic, Abraham Lincoln, the fight for the 19th Amendment and so much more.  It is a rich vein for mining primary resources.

This will be the first time they have used google-hangout for their format.  I understand that it will also be available on YouTube afterwards.

Join us for a webinar on teaching strategies for using historic newspapers on March 27, 2014, 3:00 EDT.  The Library of Congress Education Team in partnership with the Teaching with Primary Sources Program at Metropolitan State University of Denver is pleased to announce its first-ever Hangout for March 27th at 3:00 p.m. EDT.  The panel will highlight the historic newspapers available through Chronicling America and discuss teaching strategies for using the materials with students.  More at

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Favorite History Reads

Ellen Baumler writes about Montana History.  She finds interesting stories and shares them with humor.  Two of her titles that I really enjoy are Montana Moments and More Montana Moments.  The stories are short and well told.  They are great read-alouds.

She has also written a collection of "Ghost Stories":  "Montana Chillers: 13 True Tales of Ghosts and Hauntings";  Spirit Tailings: Ghost Stories from Virginia City, Butte, and Helena.

For a flavor of her writing check out her blog Montana Moments   It was from Ellen's work that I first learned about Camel's in Montana during the Gold Rush era.

Another writer I have recently been introduced to is Lauren Tarshis. She is the writer of the historic fiction series "I survived".  The books are written for kids but are solidly researched.  I am currently reading "I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906" to my 5th graders.  The books provide the hook and background knowledge for working with primary sources around the event.

When I told my students that Lauren Tarsis was a female author they looked at me and said, "The author is a girl?  How do you know?"

"She was in Billings in October and I got to hear her talk about her books at a luncheon."

It is always fun to find new reads and authors?  What are some of your favorites?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Picture Books Not Just for My "Littles"

In case you didn't know I love books! Small ones, big ones, funny ones, scary ones, true ones, and fantasy.  History is my passion though.

At times I pair favorite pictures books with primary sources (historic photographs and historic newspapers.  My older kids come to the library once a week for an hour, this includes check out time.  It is always fun to read a story and then show them an actual newspaper clipping about it.  I often hear "Is that real?"

I love the Picture Book format because I can read one during class and the next week we can examine the primary source.  There are so many wonderful writers.  I believe that Picture Books are not just for my "littles".

Here are a few of my favorites.

When Marian Sang:  the True Recital of Marian Anderson 

Marian Anderson: Realizing History Through Song

"Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" - recording  Marian at Lincoln Memorial

Papa's Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming

Interview with the Candace Fleming

Philip Lodner

Marching With Aunt Susan by Stacey Schuett

Sept 26, 1914 Montana Suffrage Parade

The Wonder Horse by Emily Arnold Cully.*
(*Check the author's note for other primary sources)

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Cookies & Milk
Freshly Baked
From the store

The List Goes On

Some I like
Chocolate Chip
Thin Mints
Peanut Butter
Snicker Doodles
Oatmeal Raisin

The List Goes On

You eat them
With milk
With tea
In your lunch
At celebrations
After school
In the Park

The List Goes On

You share them
By yourself
With your children

The List Goes On

You make memories of
Shared times
When they baked
Who made them
Whose recipe
Who ate them
Where they were

The List Goes On
Until the memories stop.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Yesterday was spring.  Today we got snow.  Winter is staying late.

Tonight we went to the Hospice Home to see a friend.  Pulling up I saw my first Robins of the year.  There were 10 of them on the roof.  All fluffed up against the wind.

I watch one head pop-up from inside the rain gutter.  His head peeks over the side,  looks around, then down it goes. Up, down, around.

We watch for a couple of minutes. Opening the car door I watch them fly up.  Walking I notice the icicles hanging from a bush.

Inside we laugh, and talk.  I watch my friend and the love of his life say good-bye.  Their love is palpable - strong, sweet, and timeless.  K. our other neighbor is taking her home.  Tomorrow I will pick her up so they can spend time together.

As I look out the window, snow has begun to fall again.  I think about our life stories - a colleague is expecting a new baby, my nephew and his sweetheart will say I do in May.  June will mark seven years since my Mother passed away.

As I walk out I look for the Robins.  They have not returned.  Another missed opportunity.  Determining to bring my camera tomorrow - I snap the icicles with my phone. Tomorrow is full of possibilities.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

An Epic Journey

My first bicycle was a used blue Schwinn bike.  My Mother paid a princely sum of $10.00, quite a lot of money for the 1960's.  She didn't know how to ride, but she made my Dad teach me.

Our house sat between the High School and Grade School where I grew up.  Behind our house was the baseball field and the football field. Dad took me down to the baseball field to learn to ride.  I remember trying to peddle through the soft powdery dirt.  When I would fall off the bike, the ground that met me was hard as a rock.

Dad's idea of teaching me to ride was to get me on the bike hold it  while I peddled and then give me a push and tell me to keep my balance and peddle.  Eventually I was able to peddle and keep my balance.  I loved that bike.  I remember feeling the wind in my face and the sense of speed as I traveled on the streets of our small town.

There came a day when something broke and I took it to my Dad to fix.  Unfortunately he was not very mechanically inclined and the bike got taken apart but never re-assembled.  I wouldn't experience the freedom of riding until I was in high school and in another town.  That  bike was also a Schwinn and had a banana seat.  I don't remember the model name but after looking on ebay I think it was probably a Stingray.

I wrecked it my senior year in high school and never rode very often after that.  I really didn't care for riding in gravel and rocky terrain.  I always admired the people who went mountain biking and rode so effortlessly.

In the late 1970's I was living in Helena, Montana working at Fort Harrison when I ran across some photos of the Bicycle Corp from Fort Missoula.  My interest was captured and then stumbled on an article about them in the Army Times.

In 1896 the 25th Infantry Regiment (an African American Company) was stationed at Fort Missoula (Missoula, MT).  The 25th was one of the most respected units of their time.  Most people would know them best as one of the "Buffalo Soldier" units.  The 25th was made up of African-American NCO's and enlisted men and white officers.

Second Lieutenant James Moss was assigned to Fort Missoula and the 25th Regiment.  His claim to fame at that time was having graduated at the bottom of his West Point class and for being a bicycle enthusiast.  He believed that the bicycle could prove invaluable to the US military.  When he filled out all the forms and requests to test bicycles at Fort Missoula.  His letters found their way to Major General Nelson A Miles, Commanding General of the US Army from 1895-1903.  He would later be known as the Army's "patron of military cycling".

25th Infantry Regiment, 1890 Fort Keogh

You may best remember him as "capturing" Chief Joseph in the Nez Perce campaign.  In 1877 General Miles was stationed at Fort Keogh (outside of Miles City, Montana).

General Miles approved Moss's request and the first test was to Glacier Park.  There would be other tests.  Tests of their skill, knowledge and dedication against the attitudes and prejudices of their day.  Their's was an epic journey.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Out of Sync

I woke to find 4 sets of eyes staring at me.

It was late afternoon of an emotionally grueling week.  Lack of sleep and exhausted I came home and fell asleep in my chair.  I woke up about an hour later 6:30pm to 4 sets of eyes staring.  The eyes belonged to my dogs and 6:30 is supper time.

Lady our chocolate lab is diabetic.  So mealtime for the dogs is regimented.  They know how to tell time even when I have lapses.

The alarm goes off at 5:30 am unless they decide they want out earlier.  One or the other will come in and nudge me.  Max will lick my hand until I respond.  All of them if they are not quickly successful will put their head under the covers and prod me with their cold nose.

Occasionally they will allow me to sleep in like this morning.  My phone had died so the 5:30 alarm didn't go off.  My husband woke just before 6:30.  None of the dogs had stirred - we all over slept.  And my day has been out of sync.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Charlie

"Five, five, five who'll give me ten, now fifteen, fifteen, fifteen sold to #71."

I had bought 3 boxes unseen.  - The auction lasted over 5 days and I arrived on day 3.  And the items were numerous.  Unfortunately I was not to learn the real value of the boxes until it was to late.  You see they were in the basement when my home was vandalized and the basement ended up more than a foot deep in water.

Inside one box was  a scrapbook and two photograph albums.  There were several pages of photos recording a funeral.  The funeral of Charlie M. Russell.

Both of these stamps depict some of Charlie Russell's paintings.  I believe he created over 1400 pieces of art (sketches, paintings, sculptures).  

He was 16 when he came to Montana.  He started by working with a sheepherder. He had always wanted to be a cowboy and soon followed his dream.  He sketched the land and people as he kept watch over the cattle.  In 1886-87 blizzards killed thousands of cattle in Montana.  

Charlie Russell painted a postcard sized painting later named "Waiting for the Chinook" and mailed it off in response to an inquiry about the well-being of the owner's herd.  This painting told it all and was to mark the turning point in Charlie's career.

In 1888 Charlie lived among the Bloods in Alberta Canada (part of the Blackfeet nation).  Many of his paintings told of life in the west from the Indian point of view.

The Custer Fight

"The Gift" by Ian Tyson

Further Exploring

Charles M Russell Museum

Nancy Russell

Monday, March 17, 2014



Not being heard

Shards and slivers
Strewn over table and floor
Slivers of anger
Droplets of blood

Lay like
Broken shards

Not heard
Slivers of Anger
Shards of broken dreams.

God Loves You When You Are Dancing

"God loves you when you are dancing."  That is a line I heard on TV yesterday.  The name of an album by a young man from Australia.  That line has teased me all day.  As I opened my computer another blog popped up on my reading list, "Following the Whispers".  I think there is a theme with these lines.

I am reminded of a friends quote "Don't postpone your joy." Glenis Redmond.  Finding joy in each day is my goal.  There are days when that is easy other days when I want to pull the covers over my eyes.

God Loves You When You Are Dancing

God loves you when you are dancing
Reminds me of the admonition to always
Praise and thank God for all my turmoils.
Praising and giving thanks reminds me
That I have many blessings.

I remember the time
I followed the WHISPERS and watched
One winter night the rabbits dance,
I am reminded that all gods creatures play
The river otters slide on snow
Prairie Dogs romp and play

I hear the whisper in my mind
"God loves you when you are dancing".

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Greycliff Prairie Dog Town

Greycliff, MT Post Office
The sentry was on duty.  As I came closer he stood and barked - warning of intruders.  Then quickly scampered to his burrow.  Scanning the village, I watch as other heads pop - up like people peeking over their cubicles.

One of my favorite state parks is "Greycliff Prairie Dog Town".   It is located between Big Timber and Columbus.

Prairie Dogs at Greycliff

Black tailed Prairie Dog at Ulm

This barking squirrel makes me laugh as I watch their antics.  When I read the Lewis and Clark Journals one of my favorite passages was about taking all their men and spending several days trying to catch prairie dogs to send back to President Jefferson.  In my mind I see these 40 men crawling on their knees trying to capture the prairie dogs with their bare hands.  I can only wish there had been a video recording it would have won America's funniest videos.

One of the journals talked about taking buckets and kettles and pouring water down the holes to try and get them to come out.  They did send one live prairie dog back to the President and he made it there alive.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The World In Black and White

"Mrs Ferris, long ago was all the world black and white?"

I looked at my student and finally grasped he was literally asking me if color was something new.  I had been working with 4th and 5th graders with primary sources.  I had been using black and white photographs.

My youngster had been examining pictures that dated back to the 1880's. (Really old time.) Previously my students had asked me if there were cars back in the 1990's.    I swear there are days when I would guess that some of my students believe I grew up playing with dinosaurs in my back yard.  Yes the concept of time is a bit shaky.

On one level that question is funny.  On another level it shows critical thinking.  Evidence-all pictures from long ago are black and white.  Today all pictures have color.  I would guess most of my kids have never owned a black and white TV.  Probably never seen a traditional camera.  Film is a totally unknown concept.

I could see that the idea of no color had troubled him.  He could not imagine a world in black and white.


The pothole could have eaten my car.  I drive a small Prius so it is not real big, but it doesn't like holes.  It doesn't like snow and ruts either.  My husband drove it in the alley when the snow was kinda melty.  The ruts had gotten soupy.  As he drove through the alley I could hear crusty snow grating on the metal undercarriage as he drove over it.  The tires were digging into the ruts.   Oh yes, the pothole.

Potholes are a sign of spring in Montana.  Most are average sized, easily seen and avoided. But the other day I was surprised.  I had turned down the street to go to Walmart.  As I was coming to the stop sign I saw it.  Just feet away.  It was about 6-8 inches deep.  Probably 4-5 feet across.  See I told you it could have eaten my car.

It was straight ahead.  I patted myself on the back for seeing it in time.  Thankfully there was no oncoming traffic as I swerved to avoid it.  As I drove around it, my imagination painted a  picture of the tires snapping off as the pothole ate my car.  Scary huh.

Some people judge spring by the arrival of the Robins (I haven't seen any.)  Some people by when the daffodils start popping up.  (No not me.)  For me it is officially spring when I start seeing potholes.  

Now I will begin mentally mapping the potholes and take bets with myself of if and when they will be filled.  Spring is officially here - I have seen the granddaddy pothole.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Yesterday I read a post from Inspiring a Love of Reading about writing from  a word   I thought I would use this inspiration to do todays slice.


I am planning to read "I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
by Lauren Tarshis
When I think of Lauren Tarshis I think of hearing her speak
in Billings, MT this year
She talked about her series
and the magazine she used to edit
Then I think of all the books in her series what a great format
I will use them to scaffold teaching about primary sources
I want them to have some background knowledge
Then we will look at Chronicling America and other primary sources
When I think of Chronicling America, I think of time travel
Being able to read historic newspapers
Reminds me of sharing "I survived the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Bucket of Daffodils

In the spring when I see the first daffodils; my memory returns to the day I saw a carpet of yellow daffodils surrounding an old log cabin skirting the edge of newly turned field along a windy backroad in Idaho.  Memories return of picking the flowers - their fragrance.  But mostly the stark beauty.

I was in high school and we were on a windy backroad in Idaho.  As we topped a hill, an old homestead was on the right side of the road.   The old log cabin still stood at the edge of a newly turned field.  The soil was dark loam.  Across the road were tall trees, probably pines. But my eye was drawn to the bright yellow color surrounding the cabin.

Images spring to mind- the battered metal bucket, old log cabin, freshly turned field, tall trees, daffodils and a windy road.  Not single daffodils in a small patch, but a  carpet of yellow daffodils surrounding the cabin.  There wasn't even a path to the door but a solid lawn of yellow daffodils.

We stopped and picked a bucket of daffodils.  I was surprised to find that there were two kinds - double daffodils and regular daffodils grew together. I remember transporting that bucket of daffodils, the sloshing of water as it occasionally escaped when we hit a bump as the motorhome went down the road.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Panic Day?

According to our morning news program today is National Panic Day. I didn't know I needed a special day to panic.  I thought that was just what happens.  It made me laugh that there is an official day for panic-ing.

The newsmen suggested choosing one thing to panic over today.  I usually panic when I can't find:

  • car keys
  • cell phone
  • purse
  • notebooks
So what makes you panic?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Watching an Aerial Ballet

Winter snow has begun to melt.  Icy streets transformed to wet pavement.  Mud replaces snow packed areas.  I am reminded that everything leaves a mark.  Looking towards the ground no matter wether it is mud or snow I often see footprints.

Yesterday I was visiting a couple of neighbors.  Kathy and I stood outside talking and I looked down to see tiny footprints.  So small, so perfect.  I could see from the prints that one of the neighborhood squirrels had spent some time under that tree.

Later as I brought groceries into the house a brown tail flashed above the gable.  I knew inside Tank would be whimpering as he stared out the back windows, watching for his frisky friend.

The squirrels will scamper across the wires in the alley.  I love to watch their aerial ballet.  My dogs watch with a different intent.  They are convinced that they are one jump from catching them.  I am convinced that the squirrels enjoy this game.  They sit and eat just above the yard.  Grow bold jumping from the wires to the trees. Racing through the branches to the roofs.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"She Wore a Smith & Wesson Strapped Under her Apron"

"A Gun Toting Black Woman Delivered the U.S. Mail in Montana

They say 'Black Mary' could whip any two men in the territory.  She wore a Smith & Wesson strapped under her apron and they swear she couldn't miss a thing within 50 paces.  She was tall [6 ft], weighing well over 200 pounds, and,  except for an apron and a skirt, wore men's clothes."   -  Gary Cooper  - Ebony Magazine Oct 1959 reprinted Oct 77.


Cascade, Montana was home to Mary Field - the second woman to drive a US Mail route, she was also the first African-American woman.  Mary by all evidence was quite a character.  She came to Montana to care for her childhood friend Sister Amadeus and stayed.
According to several articles the Mayor of Cascade passed a special ordinance to allow Mary to drink in the bar.  During her day most women were not allowed in the bars.

The town of Cascade owns one of Charlie Russell's pencil sketches title "A Quiet Day in Cascade".   Charlie Russell was also a fan of Mary Field.  In fact she is featured in the sketch that belongs to Cascade.

Michael Searles said it best: "A legend in her own time, she was also known as STAGECOACH MARY." 

Further Reading

Cascade Community Website

Diversity Room

Gary Cooper reprint Oct 1977

Postal Museum History

True West

Friday, March 7, 2014

We Should have Named Him Scooby-Doo

Last August we got a new dog.  Dan's daughter had been involved in a dog rescue and wanted him to have a new home.  She had been told he was 1-1/2 years old and a Canadian lab.  The rescue dog came with the name Tank.  If I had realized how scared he was of everything I would have changed it  to Scooby-Doo.

We had lost our dog Sammi in May and "Baby" was still mourning the loss of her playmate.  So we had talked about a new playmate.  "Baby" was not impressed with her new friend.  Her nose was severely out of joint when we brought him home.

It didn't take us long to realize "Tank" was much younger than we thought.  He had not yet learned how to raise his leg.  He was closer to 8 months.  He may be a lab cross but he definitely is of Great Dane ancestry.  He runs, looks and sounds just like Sammi.  He also thinks he is a lap dog.

"Baby" is still not real impressed.  She gets tired of him treating her like a chew toy.  Are my older dogs impressed with Tank? Not so much.  They think he is annoying.

When we first brought Tank home he was terrified of everything.  In fact my husband farted and scared the dog.  Now he runs away and then shortly comes back to investigate what scared him.

We really should have named him Scooby-Doo.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fort Benton - Where Stories Abound

First Bridge to Span the Missouri River

  • Choteau County Seat
  • On the banks of the Missouri River
  • Canoeists and History Buffs seek its solitude
  • On the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
  • On the Nez Perce National Historic Trail
  • Gateway to the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument
  • It was the world's most Innermost Port
  • Steamboats went up the Missouri River to Fort Benton for 30 years
  • Shep's home
  • Registered as a National Historic Landmark
I think it is one of the most beautiful towns in Montana, Forbes and the National Geographic have long held that same belief.  In the tapestry of Montana's History, Fort Benton is the Woof threads.  

In September of 2011 we stayed overnight in Fort Benton and the next morning we walked along the steamboat levee trying to see it through the lenses of time.  From the levee you can see the first bridge to ever span the Missouri River,  and a statute of Old Shep sculpted by Bob Scriver. 

The morning we were there I noticed a man and a dog at the nearby picnic table.   As I watched them I kept thinking of Old Shep's story.

Old Shep started out life working partnered with a sheepherder.  The sheepherder's name has long been lost.  But some in Aug of 1936 the sheepherder took sick and went to the St Clare hospital in Fort Benton.  The nun who ran the kitchen, Sister Genevieve,  took pity on the dog who was keeping vigil and fed him.  His owner did not survive.  The sheepherder's remains were sent back to Ohio.  The dog tried to remain with his owner but was left behind.

Four trains would pull into Fort Benton every day and the dog met everyone with excitement and anticipation.  Only to be disappointed when his beloved owner did not appear.  The railroad people started calling him Shep when they realized he wouldn't go away.  For the next 5 -1/2 years Shep met every train.

Several months into his vigil a conductor by the name of Ed Shield's kept asking questions about the dog.  Over the next two year's Shep's story began to untangle and Ed reported it to the Great Falls Tribune.  They ran the story of the lonely shepherd dog.  From their his story grew.  People road the train just to see the dog.  Letters were sent.  January 1942 Shep now hard of hearing slipped on the icy track and was killed.  Two days later the city fathers arranged a funeral for Old Shep, people came from hundreds of miles to say goodbye.

The railroad erected a concrete tombstone that can still be seen today.  In memory of the 50th anniversary of Shep's accident the town commissioned a bronze sculpture.  They also asked Jack Gladstone to create a song for the dedication.  You can hear the song "Old Shep" here it is also on the interview at

Sneed Collard III wrote a children's book that I love "Shep Our Most Loyal Dog".

I have often heard that Fort Benton is Montana's birthplace.  I don't know about that but I know it is where stories abound.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Jack Gladstone and Charlie Russell

My taste in music is very eclectic.  One of the many performers I enjoy listening to is Jack Gladstone.  He refers to himself as a "Blackfeet Troubadour".  His music combines traditional as well as contemporary music.

The first time I heard him play was probably the summer  of 1988 or 89.  I was living in the dorms at what was then Eastern Montana College.  (Now its called MSU-Billings.)  I was on the sixth floor and it was a warm Sunday afternoon and I was studying.  

As I was studying I could hear music coming down the hall.  It spoke to me.  I figured someone had the volume on their tape player on high.  I decided to learn the name of the album.   As I went down the deserted hall I came to the commons area and the doors were open overlooking a grassy area of the school. The music was coming from outside.   I followed the music to the piper.

 By now I was very intrigued and decided to go down and listen to the performance.  The man performing was Jack Gladstone and the name of the tape was "Wolves on Sea and Plains".

Today he has published 15 albums.  One of my favorite songs is "The Bear Who Stole the Chinook" and the "Fossil Fuel Sinner among others.  This is a link to YouTube where you can hear the "Bear that Stole the Chinook"

Over the years I have crossed paths many times with Jack, always enjoying his music and storytelling.  Last week he was one of the presenters at the conference I attended.  The 8th Annual Indian Education For All Best Practices Conference - "Pathways to Success"  .   Jack's presentation was on Charlie Russell's Montana.   At first I thought this an unusual pairing, then I learned that Jack was the first Montanan to receive the Charlie Russell award.  

One of the paintings Jack talked about was the "Fire Boat".  I had seen the painting many times and never knew the name.  It was a painting that always bothered me.  In the picture one of the warriors is holding his hand in a very unnatural way.  I always found it odd and wondered why he had painted it that way.

Sign language was a common language developed and used by many of the tribes in Montana.  (Our American sign language for the deaf got its start from this tradition.)  Jack showed us the sign for fire.  Umhm - the warrior in the painting was making the sign for fire.  On the water there is a steam boat, a piece of the picture I had never really noticed or paid any attention to.

And now you to know the rest of the story.

Fire Boat image from

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Can You Even Check Out Books?

I really love my job as an elementary librarian.  I never know what my little kids are going to say next.  They make me laugh so often.  This year I am at two schools. Monday-Thursday I am at Washington Elementary K-5 and on Friday I am at Rose Park a K-6 school.  Rose Park has another part time librarian - Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

One Friday a youngster (1st grader) came in to check out a book.  He skidded to a halt when he saw me sitting behind the desk instead of "his" librarian.  He gave me the once over and his face betrayed every thought going on behind his eyes.  As I watched his face I knew he had come to a decision and so I waited.

"Can you EVEN check out books?" my young man queried.

"I think I can handle that."

"Good.  I want a book."

"What kind of book?"

"Science.   I like science."

I took him over to the shelves and found him some books about animals.  None of them met with his approval.

"No, I want the ones on the cart.  My friends find them on the cart."  (Books are on the cart waiting to be shelved.  On this day there are not many on the cart.)

I try to interest him in some other likely books and again they do not meet his approval.  I finally let him browse through the books on the cart.  He finds an old Star Wars book and proudly brings it to me.

Again I watch his expressions dance across his face as I ask his name and punch it into the computer, then scan the book.  As I hand the book to him I hear a soft exhalation of breath.  Until that moment he wasn't convinced that I really knew how to - check out books.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Photographing Montana - a Post Office At a Time

Terry, MT Post Office
Why should you put Terry on your bucket list of places to see? Here are the basic demographics about Terry -
  • Prairie county
  • population 605 (2010 Census) 
  • once called Joubert's Landing.  
  • had a post office since 1882
  • incorporated in 1910     
So why do I think this community is worthy of being a bucket-list item?  The answer for me is centered on a previous resident.  Her name was Lady Evelyn (Flower) Cameron.   She was an English aristocrat who came with her husband and Honeymooned in Montana in 1889.

They fell in love with the badlands and relocated to Montana.  She and her husband started raising Polo Ponies in the hardscrabble hills of Montana.  Yes Polo Ponies.  The first time I read that I was shocked and said to myself no wonder they went broke.  As I dug, it was actually a good idea at the time - the Miles City area and nearby Wyoming boasted 5 active Polo Teams.  One was at Fort Keogh.  Europe was clambering for Polo Ponies with endurance.

Ewen was ill most of their married life.  During the 1893 financial scare they lost most of the money they had.  Evelyn tried many ways to earn money to help them survive.  She kept a daily diary of  their life (1893-1928).  These diaries have recently been digitized and are part of the Montana Memory Project .  Evelyn's diaries were transcribed years ago by the Prairie Museum in Terry.  The transcriptions have not been digitized.

Evelyn's diaries give an amazing snapshot of life in the west.   She raised and sold vegetables to earn money and started taking in boarders.  One of her boarders introduced her to a new piece of technology - photography.  In 1894 she would create what would become a great legacy.  Evelyn's photographs would document the western frontier and its changes.

Donna Lucey in her book "Photographing Montana 1894-1928:  The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron" not only shares many of her photographs but shares the story of how this photographic collection was re-discovered.

I have been inspired by Evelyn's fearlessness, grit and her vision.

Evelyn Cameron self portrait.

Ewen and their wolves.