Monday, October 3, 2016

Finding Community In Unlikely Places

Zortman is a small community in North Central Montana.  It is a historic mining community, and a living ghost town.  Many of the residents left when the mine shut down in 1997.  The remaining residents have grit and endurance.  

Zortman and the nearby community of Landusky were named after the original miners, who found gold on the Fort Belknap Reservation in the late 1800's.  In 1895 the tribes faced starvation and signed the Grinnell Agreement, selling the gold laden land to the US government.  The Zortman-Landusky Mine was the first cyanide heap-leach gold mine in the US.  The Pegasus mine closed in 1997.

Environmental issues such as cyanide spills, and other violations bring legal action.  Read more here at the High County News, The rise and fall of a gold mining company. (Dec 22, 1997). To read more about the Environmental issues and Native lands go here.

Zortman is listed as a ghost town.  I think of it as a functioning ghost town.  It sports the Buckhorn store; US Post Office; The Miners Club Bar and Cafe; Zortman Garage and Motel; and RV Park and has an active religious community.

The Zortman Garage and Motel is owned by John and Candy Kalal.  We met Candy Friday night when we checked in.  The motel is clean and cozy.  In front of the motel you will find many chairs and small tables.  It reminded me of the old verandas where folks gathered to visit.  Like many rural Montana communities cell coverage and internet service is temperamental.  I soon realized I could get signal outside my room.  So I took my computer and went and enjoyed the autumn sunshine.

Folks working and staying at the motel would stop and say hello.  I enjoyed catching the conversations taking place as people worked and visited.  I felt welcomed and included in their friendly banter.

My husband and another couple went riding their ATV's up the mountain.  That afternoon I headed for the Charles M Russell National Wildlife Refuge to watch the elk at Slippery Ann.

I was there about an hour went I decided to head back to the motel (about 25 miles).  I headed up the road and found a turn around and headed back to Zortman.  As I headed down the hill I met Mike and his wife in their Duely.

Mike said, "We left Danny at the Motel he had a Crash, but he's ok."

More conversation and I headed back quite concerned.

As I drove I replayed the morning conversations that I had overheard.  Somewhere I thought someone said something about being a nurse.  When I arrived back at the motel I saw Cindy and asked if she was the nurse.

"No, but there is an EMT."

I told her Dan had rolled his ATV.  My husband was a bit surprised as a roomful of people descended on him.  He was under the covers, "bare assed naked".  I quickly explained that there was an EMT and I wanted them to take a look at him.

Even though everyone firmly suggested getting checked out at the hospital in Malta I could not convince him to go.  Mike and his wife, Candy and her husband and many others stopped to check on Dan and see what he needed.  Candy brought him Tiger Balm and John brought him ice.  Many people stopped introduced themselves and then asked if there was anything we needed.  The next morning we met a few more folks.  It was amazing the sense of community that was at the little motel.

Dan said,  "the 4 wheeler "rared up" and went - end over end - as I went off the side. "

Dan told me he wend end over end a few times.  Felt his head hit the rocks as he rolled over, and remembered feeling the rocks dig into his side.

When the dust settled the 4 wheeler was at the bottom and he was on the side of the mountain.
He had jumped off his four wheeler as it somersaulted down the steep mountain.  He drove his ATV back to the motel.  It looked a little bent and beaten up.  Mostly it looked sad.

When I examined him he sported some scrapes and cuts and did not appear to have any broken bones. Thankfully he has a hard head.

I believe the angels were watching and protecting the three of them.   I also believe that when he goes riding they call in reinforcements.

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