In the winter of 1980 The Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road) abandoned almost 2000 miles of track between Miles City, Montana and Cedar Falls, Washington -- part of a passenger and freight shipping route known as the “Pacific Coast Extension
.” Today, what's left of the Extension is "cut up among different railroads and the best engineered rail line through the rugged Rockies and Cascades is but weeds and trails,
a vital transportation artery no longer available to shippers and the American economy." But in August 1980, before it was abandoned, two former locomotive firemen and engineers spent $400 to rescue a track-maintenance railway car, a 1952 M-19 Fairmont Speeder
, from a scrap heap in a Maine train yard. They used it to travel the route and took photos along the way
. [more inside]
In the Mansfield Library
of the University of Montana, librarians discover some cold war rations
, produced in 1962. Their reaction was to eat them. “I took a taste of one [of the survival biscuits]; It’s like a stale graham cracker with a hint of vanilla in it. It could be far worse
.” Making your own food time capsule? A few suggestions
Faced with dropping enrollments, and deserved negative public image, some members of the Klan are experimenting with a novel, if bewildering, strategy - welcoming black, gay, and Jewish members. A Montana KKK chapter is advertising that they will take any xenophobe over 18 in order to better fight the "new world order" - even going as far as to meet with the NAACP and organize a peace summit
. As is common in such cases, the Old Guard is displeased. While the Imperial Wizard of the United Klans has okayed meetings with the NAACP before
, this seems to be a bridge too far
. However, Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League suggests that only one man, John Abarr
, is involved with the chapter.
Where would you say the big US surf towns are? Santa Cruz? Haleiwa? Montauk? Paia? Ocean City? How about Missoula
. River Surf Session [more inside]
At the turn of the last century, Mary MacLane wrote of her life in Butte, Montana, but she was no Laura Ingalls Wilder. Instead of comforting tales of a tough life, she instead imagined herself conversing with the Devil, and she could come across like "an off-kilter Walt Whitman with odes to her red blood, her sound, sensitive liver
." Her first diary was originally titled I Await the Devil’s Coming
, but her publisher re-titled it The Story of Mary MacLane
, released to much (publisher-stirred) flurry and attention
(Google books preview). Thanks to her book, she was able to move to Chicago. She wrote two more books, a variety of news paper columns
and even a movie entitled Men Who Have Made Love to Me
(Google books), which she wrote, directed, and starred in, directly addressing the camera at times
. But for all the attention and publicity of the era (she was commemorated in a drink recipe, paid $500 for her likeness to be used on cigar boxes, and a Butte baseball team took her name as the team name), she has largely faded away, in part thanks to a public who turned from intrigued to mocking
. Recently, Mary MacLane has found a renewed interest, thanks to the re-publishing of her original diary under its original name
, as well as an anthology of her writing with additional notes
(Google books preview). [more inside]
Reuters photographer Jim Urquhart recently captured these scenes from a fading culture, as he followed Montana ranchers on their final horse drive, moving more than 300 horses down from their winter range.
Every spring the Mantle family, along with with a group of wranglers, drives the herd north over 35 miles and three days, through the small town of Three Forks to their ranch. After decades of supplying and tending to horses, the Mantles, citing financial challenges, now plan to sell off their herd and shift to raising beef cattle. Take a moment to travel with the Mantle family through big sky country, on a journey once so familiar and iconic, now fading into memory with the rest of cowboy culture.
"Dozens of federal agents on Monday
raided the Oakland businesses
and apartment of Richard Lee
, the state's most prominent advocate
for the legalization
and regulation of marijuana, carting away loads of pot
and belongings but not revealing
of their investigation." ... Today, "[f]our of the six medical marijuana providers
who are suing the U.S. government
over last year's raids of pot businesses across Montana have been arrested on federal drug charges."
The Berkeley Pit
in Butte, Montana started as an open pit copper mine in 1955, and was closed in 1982. At that time, groundwater pumping ceased and the pit started to flood
, leading to what is now one of the largest Superfund sites
. The water body was considered uninhabitable, with high concentrations of copper, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, manganese and zinc and of pH of 2.5
(as acidic as a lemon
), but in 1995, a small clump of green slime was noticed floating on the water's surface
. Since then, the algae blooms have been studied as a possible method of remediation for the toxic waters
. That same year, a migratory flock of snow geese landed in the pit lake
. Stormy weather kept the flock on the lake, and when the weather cleared, 342 birds were dead. A Migratory Bird Protection Plan was then put in place
, to prevent such occurrences from happening again. In the spring of 1996, a surprising discovery was made: yeast, which shouldn't grown in those pH levels, was surviving, and absorbing eighty-seven percent of the metals in the water
. Furthermore, Andrea
and Donald Stierle
, professors who have been studying the pit lake since 1995, have found 70 compounds that might be medically useful. [more inside]
If Scenic, South Dakota
isn't scenic enough for you, now you can have the opportunity to buy a chunk of Custer's Last Stand. The "town" of Garryowen is for sale on eBay
, perched at the point where the Battle of the Little Bighorn came to a head. [more inside]
A short and sweet video to get your juices flowing this morning: Mike Speed cycles down from the Western Summit
of the Beartooth Highway
. Here's some info if you want to give it a shot yourself
...after enrolling in public school and moving to Montana — a predominantly white state, albeit one with a decidedly hippie-ish vibe — Lamb and Lynx decided they simply no longer believed what they’d been taught. Prussian Blue, five years later. Previously, previously.
1.4 acre property in Lincoln, Montana. Great fishing and hunting! Cabin
Walter Breuning reminisces about his life in three centuries
. As the oldest man in the world and in celebration of his 114th birthday
on September 21, Mr. Breuning agreed to this exclusive interview. Questions were gleaned via the internet from individuals around the world.
In Montana, a rabbi is an unusual sight. So when a Hasidic one walked into the State Capitol last December, with his long beard, black hat and long black coat, a police officer grabbed his bomb-sniffing German shepherd and went to ask the exotic visitor a few questions. [more inside]
Where have you gone, Delino DeShields?
Seven years ago, Delino DeShields
was released by the Chicago Cubs, ending a 13-year, 5-team journey through Major League Baseball during which he earned almost $29 million. He's now the hitting coach for the Billings Mustangs in the rookie-level Pioneer League, making as much money for the season as he used to make per game. The Washington Post goes to Montana to find out why. [more inside]
may have been smarter than the average, but Ranger Smith had it right. Don't feed the bears. As a Montana game warden put it: human feeding "can lead to problems later and ultimately mean the animal has to be put down."
A similar event had a Utah ranger upset, saying: "when you have a bear that becomes unafraid of humans, that's not a good thing."
The unprecedented slaughter of over 1600 of Yellowstone's bison this winter
(resulting in a 50% decrease in the overall size of the herd) will go down as the largest wild bison kill since the 19th century. Despite vehement protests and bold acts of civil disobedience
instigated by the Buffalo Field Campaign
, the slaughter will continue according to the tax-payer supported Bison Interagency Plan
- the goal of the plan being to prevent economic losses from the unlikely spread of brucellosis (a cattle disease)
from Yellowstone bison into Montana and Wyoming's livestock. TERRA
aired a gripping three-part 'fly-on-the-wall' film series chronicling the story: ONE
. [more inside]
Members of the Montana legislature
(out of session) appear to be attempting to force the Supreme Court's hand in a fairly landmark gun-control case, Heller v. DC
. Through an extra-session resolution
, they are invoking contract law, by stating that the contract between the Montana people, through our Constitution, and the Federal Government will be ... ? ... if the Heller case is decided 'incorrectly'. What is at issue is one of the SCOTUS' seminal opportunities to rule concerning collective rights versus individual rights
for firearm possession. [more inside]
In July 1915, a fresh-faced young man got off a train and presented himself at a working cattle-and-sheep ranch on the North Fork of the Smith River, a few miles outside of White Sulphur Springs,
Montana. He was slender—about 5'8," 150 pounds—and arrestingly handsome, with champagne-colored hair and blue-green eyes. He carried himself so lightly on the balls of his feet that his wife later wrote, "There seemed to be some heavenly support beneath his shoulder blades that lifted his feet from the ground in ecstatic suspension, as if he secretly enjoyed the ability to fly but was walking as a compromise to convention." The ranch hands must have been astonished at the sight. F.
Scott Fitzgerald had arrived in Montana.
wrote but one story set in Montana, The Diamond
as Big as the Ritz
, but what a doozy of a story.
Fiddler on the prairie.
The story of a 1970s high school production of Fiddler on the Roof
. The school was in Billings, Montana.
, the Matisse of the ceramics world, has passed away
at age 70. Born in 1926 to a Finnish family in ethnically diverse and bustling Butte, Montana
, Rudy went on to study ceramics with Frances Senska
at MSU. There he met future ceramics titan, Peter Voulkos
, and became founding residents of the Archie Bray Foundation
. Because of their revolutionary work, the 2 of them helped bring recognition to a field that had previously only been considered craft. Autio's giant torso-shaped vessels are often decorated with post-impressionistic horses
and dancing women
, but he also ventured into printmaking
design and murals
. According to Ken Little, "If the ceramics world had a Mount Rushmore, it would be Peter Voulkos
, Paul Soldner
and Don Reitz
Hopkins, wearing a black ski mask and latex gloves, allegedly walked up to the casino's cashier and pointed a shotgun at her, robbing her of $336, according to court records...At about that moment, a man named Tyrone, whose last name no one seems to know, charged Hopkins and grabbed the shotgun, pointing it into the air. With the robber pinned, Ren, 30, grabbed a full roll of duct tape and went to work. "I wrapped his hands, legs, whatever," Ren recalled Friday, as he smoked a cigarette, sipped a Budweiser and held the duct tape in his hand. "He ain't moving. He ain't going nowhere."
At that point, the men, feeling bad for the woman who had been robbed, decided to make Hopkins apologize to her. When he was placed in front of the cashier, Hopkins apologized and "cried like a baby," Kleppen said.
Hopkins and Caward were scheduled to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court Friday morning, although they were "too high" and instead will make their initial appearances on Monday, Judge G.L. Smith said.
A Damned Good Dam Site.
The Fort Peck Dam in Montana, authorized by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 and completed in 1940, is the largest hydraulically filled dam in the United States. The website is a wonderful compendium of history
, personal stories
, a webcam
and much more. The dam also has the distinction of being featured on the very first Life Magazine cover
, photographed by Margaret Bourke-White
Frontier Myths Meet Reality
Ten years ago, two events occurred that thrust Montana into the national spotlight. On April 3, 1996, Theodore Kaczynski, aka "The Unabomber
," was arrested in his tiny cabin
. This murderer
was responsible for mailing package bombs that killed 3 people and injured many more over the span of nearly 20 years. His hermit-like
life in the forest went a long way towards many people associating "Montana" with "crazed loners." At the same time, the weeks-long standoff at the Montana Freemen
compound ("Justus Township") was entering its second week; it would last until mid-June
. The Freemen rejected United States federal authority, tried to create
"unique" banking and legal systems, and according to some reports
believed in racial superiority. This occurred a few miles away from the tiny community of Jordan
, itself one of the more remote
towns in Montana. Again, Montana was seen as a haven for rebellious, anti-government, anti-social types, although some didn't think that image was necessarily
a bad thing. In the midst of this bizarre confluence of negative events and media coverage, it took another Montana (part-time) resident, David Letterman, to make some humor out of the bizarre situations: Top 10 Things
In The Unabomber Cabin, and Top 10 Demands
of the Freemen.
Every now and again, a story or scandal falls off the newswire that reminds you good guys and bad guys don't happen in real life. The fantastic original expose
and ongoing coverage
of the Dick Dasen case in Montana is one of them. The testimony of dozens or hundreds of women Dick Dasen, a wealthy Christian pillar-of-the-community businessman type, has paid for sex (or sometimes nothing at all) over several years are bringing the Flathead Valley meth scene to light, and thanks to what I personally think is some excellent local reporting by the New West
, you can read along as it happens.
A really good reality show for gay people would be five gay men dying of AIDS.
Changing the channel has gotten so much easier since the invention of the remote control. Who doesn't love free speech?
Bear prowls Montana neighborhood.
Climbs tree. Animal Control. Tranquilizers. Trampoline. Hilarity ensues . . .
If this summer's unending parade of spiritless sequels has you down on that whole film-can-be-art thing, I strongly recommend you rejuvenate your sense of wonder by taking a journey with the Polish Brothers to the Heartland of their America, Northfork
, Montana. It's the third installment of a cinematic trilogy that has taken them to Twin Falls Idaho
, Nevada. You will either love Northfork
: "There has never been a movie quite like "Northfork"") or you'll hate
: "meticulously crafted but frustratingly meaningless"); there seems to be very little in between
. Some background
won't hurt, if you're the literal type; hearing from the filmmakers in their own words
provides some additional perspective. But in the end, all that matters is what you see
... Please. Just go
- it's not very likely you've ever seen much else like it... (Flash-enabled pages at those official film sites, sorry...)
Meet Senator Burns (R-Montana) "...The senator said the rancher asked him, "Conrad, how can you live back there with all those niggers?"...Senator Burns said he told the rancher it was"a hell of a challenge."...The anecdote was published and Senator Burns apologized...in 1991, immediately after a civil rights bill had been passed, Senator Burns invited a group of lobbyists, some of them white and some of them black, to accompany him to an auction....When asked what was being auctioned, he replied, "Slaves."
Political crybaby? Helena, Mont. - Republican Mike Taylor dropped out of the Senate race against Democratic Sen. Max Baucus yesterday, complaining that a Democratic Party ad was calculated to make him look like a gay hairdresser.
I've seen a still from the TV ad. It used a video clip from the early 1980's that really does make him look awful. The thing is, most people looked awful during the early 80's, and the clip was from a TV bit Taylor used to host. Is this a cop out or does he have a legit gripe? Is it a low-blow to use an unflattering photo from someone's past? (Lock up those prom pics!)
Blue man runs for Senate
Stan Jones, the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate in Montana suffers from argyria
, a condition in which the skin becomes stained a permanent shade of blue. How do you come down with it? You drink lots of colloidal silver
. Jones started mixing his own shortly before Y2K to help boost his immune system in the antibiotic-short apocolypse he was sure was coming. No word if he is now engaged in weird behavior
involving metal tubes.
There's big trouble in Flathead county (n.y. times link, reg. required)
There's so much to ponder in this completely insubstantial story including the first time I know of that the Newspaper of Record has described someone as having "... a long history of being annoying".
Has Rep. Barbara Lee just destroyed her political career?
was the only person in Congress to vote against House Joint Resolution 64/Senate Joint Resolution 23
, the bill that authorizes use of military force. Her reason: She believes military action "will not prevent further acts of terrorism." On Dec. 8, 1941, Rep. Jeannette Rankin (R-MT)
was the only member of Congress to vote against the declaration of war on Japan, and voter outrage ended her career. Interestingly, Rankin - the first woman ever elected to Congress - had ruined her political career once before, after voting against the declaration of war on Germany in 1917! So ... Whither Barbara Lee?
Young Men and Fire
is a masterpiece of nonfiction. The autor is Norman McLean, who wrote A River Runs Through It
, made famous by the Robert Redford movie
. It is the story of the Mann Gulch Fire . Fifteen Smokejumpers parachuted into a remote Montana gulch to fight a fire sparked by lightning - within 90 minutes, 10 were dead
, overtaken by a searing wall of flame 200 feet high. Take a virtual tour of Mann Gulch
. Read and order the official report
. Lean about the Smokejumpers
. Imagine yourself in a Montana fire.
Zap those wolves into submission
- Conspiracy buffs beware. This one's true.
So the U.S. Agriculture Department, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Department are conducting experiments involving livestock, electricity and wolves in Montana - on a ranch owned by Ted Turner.
Apparently those nasty wolves have a habit of biting livestock, so to stop it they are strapping electric collars on the wolves to train them with an electric jolt when they get "within biting distance" of a particular calf. The "trained" and somewhat damaged wolves are set to be released into the wilds in October.
Beautiful counter-quote for this is from a USA Today article about Ted Turner's preserve. Turner is quoted as saying "You can see what we're doing, right? We're just getting out of nature's way. That's all we want to do - get out of the way and let nature go back the way it was." (halfway down page)