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VOLUME TWELVE NUMBER TWO, TWO THOUSAND SIXTEEN | SUMMER

Big Snowy Harvesting


Prize Winners Roadkill
Tess Fahlgren and KJ Kern Get Ready to Get Messy

Montanas Jim Harrisons


Hmong People Goodbye Poems
40 Years Later Wisdom from a Master

Pollinators in Peril
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VO L U M E X I I , N U M B E R 2 | S U M M E R 2 0 16

SCOTT M c MILLION
editor in chief
JEFF WELSCH
ALAN KESSELHEIM
senior editors
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associate editor
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sales manager 315 E. Main
Bozeman, MT 59715
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M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 3
LET TER FROM THE EDITOR

Big City
Turn me loose, set me free, somewhere in the middle of Montana.
And give me all Ive got coming to me.
And keep your retirement and your so-called Social Security
Big city, turn me loose and set me free.
Big City by Merle Haggard

There used to be a bar called the Village Idiot in New York City, way downtown.
The jukebox held a lot of Merle Haggard records and that crummy neighborhood
housed a handful of Montanans, a generation ago. Wed always play that Haggard
A GIFT SUBSCRIPTION song, often singing along. The Idiot had the cheapest drinks in the city and we tossed
WILL KEEP THEM back a lot of them.
ON THEIR TOES New York was pretty wild in those days and a lot of fun. Intoxicating, even, and
it wasnt just the booze. We were young and single and money was pretty easy, if you
knew which end of a hammer to grab. But the stock market went bust, then the real
estate market, and most of us came home. The city turned us loose, back to the middle
of Montana. We got what we sang for, Buck and Kevin and I.
A
BEST IN MONTAN
Year after year
l
Society of Professiona
Journalists

Buck had a good run in Great Falls and then Choteau, the freest man I knew until
VOLUME T
WELVE NUMBER T
WO, TWO
THOUSAN
D SIXTEEN
| SUMMER

we poured his ashes into the upper Missouri, his favorite trout water. If we didnt play
any Merle Haggard at the funeral, we sure should have. Kevin settled in Billings,
working and raising kids. I dont see him as much as Id like. Everybodys busier now.
Those New York days came back to me strong this spring, when Haggard died and
Harvesting
Big Snowy Roadkill
his music was everywhere for a few days. Im pretty rooted in Montana now so its odd
Prize Winners Messy

Tess Fahlgren and


KJ Kern
Get Ready to Get
that a song about escaping to this place made me a little wistful about New York, the
Jim Harrisons
Montanas Goodbye Poems friends there and the laughs we had.
Hmong People Master

40 Years Later
Wisdom from a
Still, Im glad I came home when I did, that I built, or fell into, this life where I can
Pollinators in Peril
Doigs White Sulph
ur Springs
work with words and where the wildlife and the open space still matter so much to so
many, where family and friendships span generations, at least for me.
ists
$6.95 Taking Aim at Biolog
Marias River
OM
QUARTERLY.C

Massacre on the
THEMONTANA

The city turned us loose, or maybe it kicked us out. Ill give a nod to Merle for that.
The longer you stand the deeper your roots grow is how Tess Fahlgren describes
things in Counting By Twos, one of the winners of this years Big Snowy Prizes for
BEST MAGAZINE young writers. (See page 32).
IN THE NORTHWEST My roots could have grown in New York, maybe, punched through some pavement
SPJ 2010, 2012, 2013 if Id lingered a couple more years. I liked it well enough. But Haggards song on the
BEST DEPARTMENTS jukebox kept the home fires smoldering, strong enough that we could catch a whiff of
SPJ 2014 the smoke, there in a bar called the Village Idiot, singing about Montana. It was corny
and sentimental and even a little silly, but that song helped push me home.
New gift orders receive a bonus I knew I was close when I crossed the Missouri in my rustbucket Nissan,
issue and greeting card somewhere in South Dakota. The land changed and opened, more grass and less corn.
It was June and I was almost home.
My, the prairie was green.
Big state. Big idea.
SUBSCRIBE NOW Scott McMillion
THEMONTANAQUARTERLY.COM Editor in Chief
P.O. BOX 1900
LIVINGSTON, MT 59047
406 333 2154

4
FEATURES
8 The Free People
Forty years ago, the Hmong fled war-torn Southeast Asia. For many, Missoula is home.
by WILL RIZZO

16 Singing for Sanity


Jason DeShaws own struggles with mental illness have set his artistic direction.
by BRIAN DAMBROSIO

24 Slings and Arrows


Bad aim? Intense debates over wildlife puts Montana biologists in the crosshairs.
by LAURA LUNDQUIST

32 Counting by Twos
What brings us home? What drives us away? The Big Snowy Prize nonfiction winner
ponders her prairie roots.
by TESS FAHLGREN

It looked like our country. We were


very happy, and it helped with being
homesick, but no one knew what the
future would hold for us ...
From The Free People, by Will Rizzo, page 8

The Red Ants Pants Music Festival plays into the night near White Sulphur Springs. Photograph by John Zumpano
DEPART MENTS
40 A R T 62 H I S TO RY
Renowned poet Jim Harrison left us in The White Sulphur Springs of Ivan
March. His poetry sticks with us. Doigs day has moved on, but the spirit
the great writer invoked is still hanging
46 RU R A L R O U T E in there. Ben Nickol wanders through.
Montanas new rules about salvaging
roadkill are clear enough, but the results 70 B O O KS
can be messy. Alan Kesselheim cuts in. InterviewPaul Wylie traded a career
as a lawyer for writing about Montana
54 S C I EN C E history. Kris King chats with the author
Pollinators are dying across the country of Blood on the Marias.
and that threatens our food supply. ReviewsElise Atchison looks at the
Montana scientists are working on truth in deceptions in new books by
answers. Alexis Marie Adams buzzes in Gwen Florio, Beth Hunter McHugh and
for a look. Matt Pavelich.

60 O D D C O R N ER S 74 F I C T I O N
In the median of Interstate 90 near Big Snowy Prize winner
Bozeman, a 110-year-old stone house Funeral Potatoes
abides. Scott McMillion comes knocking. By KJ Kern

IN THIS ISSUE

Nashua p. 32

Missoula p. 8
White Sulphur Springs p. 62

Helena p. 16
Stevensville p. 54
Livingston p. 24
Big Sky p. 46
Chou Moua, who came to Missoula in 1976 with
his wife and two children, was a forward ground
observer for U.S. airstrikes in Laos during the
Vietnam War and his family was among the first
Hmong families to arrive in Missoula.

8
Forty years after
the war in Vietnam,
the settlement of Hmong
in Montana is a
little-known story
that stretches to
a new generation

The Free
People
BY WILL RIZZO

PHOTOGRAPHY BY LIDO VIZZUT TI

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 9
Tsim Ly, center, asks questions about language pronunciation
during a gathering at Opportunity Resources in Missoula.
During the spring, a number of Hmong assemble to learn and
share their heritage, language and traditions.

W
hen Chou Moua Two days earlier hed left the Ban Vinai refugee camp in
Thailand, boarded a Boeing 707 and flown to Los Angeles,
stepped off the plane then Portland, and finally Missoula, arriving with his wife
at Missoulas airport and their two children.
When we left Laos, not much we can do. Just two pairs
in 1976, nothing could of civilian clothes for ourselves, said Moua. It was very
difficult to get on the airplane. Many people wanted to get
prepare him for his new home. The on that airplane.
mountains on the horizon, the Bitterroots At the time, Moua was 30 years old and had commanded
forward air guides for U.S. airstrikes in Laos during the
to the west of the tarmac, looked war. His was one of the first Hmong families to arrive in
something like those in northern Laos Montana.
His brother Cha, or Charlie, had arrived three years
but it was March and the peaks would be earlier to attend Missoulas Hellgate High School, after
under snow for months, halfway around serving in a guerilla unit and training at Fort Knox in
Kentucky.
the planet from the tropical forest, With the help of an American working in Laos, Cha got
limestone spires, and cratered hill- a foreign student visa and enrolled as a high school junior,
almost a decade older than his classmates and 13 years
sides that surrounded the American after hed been drafted as an 11-year-old soldier. He rented
airbase where he had worked during the a one-bedroom house near the train station in Missoula,
where the slamming rail cars kept him up at night, sounding
Vietnam War. like Russian 30mm artillery.

Missoula and the mountains and streams were similar


to Laos, the countryside where we came from.

10
I wanted a better education to help my people, said grandmothers home at the Council Grove Apartments,
Cha Moua. I dont know anything [about Montana] until I subsidized housing off 3rd Street where many Hmong lived
got there. My first impression, everything was new to me, when they first arrived.
exciting. The sketches would become a story cloth, commissioned
Like others to follow, he was drawn by Vang Pao, who by the Missoula Art Museum, and would tell the Hmongs
remained hugely influential after the war. Vang, a former postwar story in 35 square feet of fabric. Its an art form
general in the Royal Lao Army, the United States main ally started in refugee camps as an extension of the Hmongs
during the war, lived on a farm with his extended family traditional and detailed embroidery. It was a way to generate
outside Hamilton. By the early 1980s, about 2,000 Hmong badly needed income in the camps but became a hand-sewn
were living in Montana, soldiers and their families who had visual record for a people without written history, the equiva-
sided with the U.S. against the North Vietnamese Army and lent of the winter counts kept on bison hides by Plains tribes.
communist Pathet Lao. But after struggling to find work and That winter, Yee Henry Moua, Kous father and Chous
the departure of Vang for California, many began to leave. cousin, had driven around the area in a 1981 Toyota Corolla
Forty years later, about 200 Hmong remain. to find places worth including. It would show places impor-
Missoula and the mountains and streams were similar tant to their experience in Montana: the airport where they
to Laos, the countryside where we came from. We thought arrived, citizenship ceremonies, General Vang Paos farm,
wed never see mountains again, said Cha Moua. It looked and the funeral of Jerry Daniels, a Missoula native and CIA
like our country. We were very happy, and it helped with officer who worked in Laos during the war and helped many
being homesick, but no one knew what the future would Hmong resettle in the U.S. It also described their new life:
hold for us. men hunting in the mountains, high-school graduations,
Hmong-owned restaurants, and a shaman performing a
ceremony next to a post office.

F
or a brief time, Montana was the center of the
exodus of the Hmong, an ethnic minority flee-

O
ing a country split by civil strife, and American f the 2 million people and 500,000 Hmong
covert engagement on the sidelines of the Vietnam living in Laos before the war, 40,000 Hmong
War. Although the United States was officially neutral, the died in the fighting. After the Pathet Lao
secret war in Laos was fought alongside Lao royalists took control of the capital city, Vientiane, on
against the Pathet Lao with CIA paramilitaries, contrac- December 2, 1975, more Hmong died in reprisals or
tors such as Air America, special forces teams, and Thai drowned trying to cross the Mekong River to Thailand in
advisors. A main focus was on air strikes on the Ho Chi canoes and handmade rafts. At its peak, Bin Vinai, the
Minh Trail, the North Vietnameses main supply route to the largest of the Thai refugee camps, housed 40,000 people.
south. By 1975, as the communists took more territory, the One hundred thousand Hmong later immigrated to the
Hmong who fought with the U.S. fled to Thailand, waiting United States, some eventually settling in Californias
on an American promise of resettlement. Four decades later, Central Valley and St. Paul, Minnesota.
its a story not well known in Montana. For many the transition to life in America was difficult.
The community has grown and dispersed, worked to Few had any marketable skills after life in Laos as farm-
adapt to a new culture while maintaining its own, and strug- ers and soldiers. There was a language barrier also, though
gled to tell its own story. many spoke a little English, French, and Lao along with
Not a lot of folks know about the Hmong people. They their native language. During the 1980s, Missoula lacked
may know who we are but not the story behind us. Some jobs and many people didnt understand the Hmongs role in
folks in town might know the story, but the rest of Montana the covert war in Laos. Both affordable housing and credit
not so much, said Kou Moua, a Missoula native and art to start businesses were in short supply.
director at the Missoula Independent. If people ask, we will [In Laos] we didnt work for anyone else. We farmed for
tell them. Fifteen or 20 years ago, it was more important, ourselves, corn and rice, and had animals. We never bought
when there were more [Hmong] people in town. Then more from anyone else, very little, said Chou Moua. Back in
people knew who we were and our history. Laos we never rented a house. In the city people did, but the
Kou Moua remembers in 1992, almost 15 years after Hmong lived in the mountains. Here, it was very different.
his parents arrived in Missoula, drawing with white Chou, now semi-retired, worked for a mobile home
pencil on a 5-foot-by-7-foot cloth tacked on the wall of his manufacturer and an upholstery repair service, sold produce

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 11
at the farmers market, and worked for 30 years at Stimson three elk, including a nice 6 x 7 bull just outside the range
Lumber. He now helps with SKC Teriyaki, his wifes cater- of his compound bow.
ing company and food truck. Because of our heritage, we hunt differently, we use the
Most needed to learn English, that was their first prob- animals differently. We take everything, said Yang. The
lem, Moua said. Missoula is a small town, finding a job culture still gets practiced, we still cook all the old dishes,
was hard. They didnt care what job. its a traditional table.
Others worked service jobs, started restaurants, and For many Hmong, hunting, along with picking huckle-
many grew produce for Missoula farmers markets. The berries and morel mushrooms, became an important bridge
gardens allowed parents to work with their children, didnt between life in Laos and life in Montana. What had been
require language skills, and provided food from Southeast part of survival is now a family and community tradition,
Asia they couldnt find in Montana. but with compound bows and modern rifles.
Theyd never worked for other people, mostly soldiers, From the elk Yang and his brothers take each year, the
and housewives, said Lue Yang, who worked with Daniels backstraps are made into Larb, a raw meat dish mixed with
during the war and later in the refugee camps. Laos was a chili peppers, mint, and ground rice. Almost nothing is
century behind the U.S., a third-world country. Then to go to wasted. The lungs are seasoned and roasted, the stomach
the most technically advanced, there was so much to learn. and intestines cleaned, cut, and made into soups. The liver
Before arriving in the U.S., many lived without running and kidneys are sliced and fried. If theyre close enough to
water or electricity in their homes, said Cha Moua, who the trailhead, the 50-pound hide is packed home, the hair
studied political science at the University of Montana. later burned off with a propane torch, and slow cooked until
In 1983, 850 refugees arrived in Missoula, but the tender and dipped into a Hmong pepper sauce.
center of the Hmong community was already shifting else- In the old days, every man had to hunt, said Yang.
where. The following year, Vang Pao relocated to Santa Ana, You couldnt just go to the store. It took skill.
California. Many followed him to the West Coast or moved Before immigrating to Missoula in 1990 at age 7, Yang
to Minnesota or Wisconsin. Of those who remain in
Montana, living throughout Missoula and the Bitterroot
Valley, most are from the Moua and Yang families,
along with a few members of the Vang and Lee clans.
We always thought of ourselves as Hmong, in Laos
and the U.S., said Chou Moua. Its the same thing.

O
utside Superior, Ber Yang takes his hand
off the steering wheel of his pickup and
passes his cell phone across the cab. Its
September, still an hour before dawn, and
the screen lights up the trucks interior.
Images of heavy-antlered elk scroll past on the
phone, animals taken in Idaho and Montana by his
brothers Nou and Lue earlier in the 2015 season. Yang,
32, runs Pure Trophies with his four brothers, a media
company that produces films and YouTube videos on
hunting and fly-fishing. The company is a side project
outside of their regular jobs, and in 2013 it released
Pure, a 90-minute film, a mix of Hmong and local
hunting culture, with Tua Mos Lwj Nyob Montana
(Elk Hunting in Montana) across the opening cred-
its and men speaking Hmong as they hike through the
Rocky Mountains. 406.333.4383
By the end of the morning, hunting to above 6,000 LIVINGSTON, MONTANA
feet in steep fir and larch, Yang will have called in WARMSTONE.COM

12
For many Hmong,
hunting, along
with picking
huckleberries
and morel
mushrooms,
became an
important bridge
Ber Yang navigates the crunchy
between life fall foliage while bowhunting for
elk near Superior.
in Laos and
Montana.

bamboo crossbow for birds and squirrels, and after the


lived outside Sala in Xiang Khouang Province, in a commu-
communists confiscated their modern rifles, pursued deer
nity of a dozen families that had sided with the U.S. There
with dogs and black-powder muskets.
his family grew rice, melons, greens, and eggplant; foraged
In the old country, there was not very much entertain-
in the jungle for berries and wild potatoes, and dug termite
ment. A lot of Hmong lived in the countryside. After the
larvae out of dead trees. They hunted with a slingshot or
harvest, all they did was hunt-
ing and fishing until the civil
war broke out, said Lue Yang,
an uncle of Ber Yang. Then the
Hmongs profession changed.
They became soldiers.
For more than a decade after
the war, Bers family had lived
under communist rule, until the
family and an uncle were able to
walk for three days to the Mekong
River, where they paid to be
smuggled by canoe to Thailand.
They were later arrested by Thai
police and spent three months
in prison and a series of refu-
gee camps. Like many refugees,
they were taught basic English for
everyday situations, like how to
board an airplane, a cruel irony
for people from a country where 2
million tons of bombs fell during
the war, many of them in their
home province.
After an aunt in France was
able to help pay for their trip,
View our hours online at TheGourmetCellar.com Yang arrived in Missoula on
208 & 212 W. Park St. Depot Center Livingston, MT 406.222.5418
| | |

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 13
Susie Miller describes the meaning in a hand-embroidered cloth
given to her by a Hmong student she tutored. The center post ties to
Missoula, who I am, where I belong, and Im home.

Christmas Eve with his parents and six siblings, part of the
last wave of Hmong to arrive in the U.S. as Thailand closed
its refugee camps. They lived in a donated trailer in Travois
Village on the north side of town, where Yang played in the
snow with his brothers and sisters wearing church-donated
clothes.
It was a big shock, wed never seen snow before, or
Christmas lights or received presents, said Ber Yang. We
thought that was normal and didnt know there would be four
seasons. In Laos, theres only hot or rainy.
We were running around barefoot, he said. We didnt
even know you could get sick.
Ber and his siblings went to Hellgate High School with
10 other Hmong kids. Most spent their time outside school
working with their families. Like many Hmong, he went on
to college, graduating from the University of Montana with
a degree in business information systems. He now works as
an IT tech for Blackfoot Telecommunications, and nights for
a dental instrument manufacturer in Missoula. His brother
Committed to building a mine that fits our community Nou, 37, is an engine supervisor on a fire crew out of the
Powell Ranger District in Idaho.
The first wave of Hmong to this country drilled into their
[childrens] heads to get a degree and get a good job, said
Tom Moua, 36, owner of Montana Q Bar-B-Que House in
Frenchtown. Many, seeing the hardship [their parents] went
through, are motivated to get a doctorate or masters degree.
For many first-generation Hmong, war and their life in
Thailands refugee camps remain a defining experience.
Thats how my parents associate with other people, what camp
they were from, said Kou Moua of the Missoula Independent.
Others remain involved in reunions with their old mili-
tary units, like the Lao Special Guerrilla Unit and Forward

14
Ber Yang pauses at the top of a steep cliff and uses his elk call to bugle out
across the valley. Before immigrating to Missoula in 1990 at age seven, Yang
lived outside Sala in Xiang Khouang Province, in a community of a dozen
families that had sided with the U.S. during the war.

Air Guides who worked with American pilots. can barely speak Hmong, which isnt necessarily a good
I was more of a Montana kid, growing up here I pretty thing, he said. The only time they hear it a lot is when
much lived the American lifestyle, the American dream. they are around my parents.
We never had to experience the hardship of my parents, Each spring, a dozen Hmongranging from 18 years
said restaurateur Tom Moua. They never even had a house, old to their mid-30smeet on Sunday mornings to learn
had one built of straw and cooked over fire. Were always their language and important cultural traditions from older
reminded how lucky we are to be here. members of the community. The Hmong religion, a form of
For Hmong who grew up speaking their native language ancestor worship, is interwoven into the language, funerals
at home, that language remains an important connection, and weddings. Traditional instruments such as the qeej, a
particularly for those with young children. flute-like instrument, are played during funerals.
Theyre living a good life, compared to mine. Theyve Now that were older and have kids, and our parents are
got toys, everything they need, said Nou Yang, 39, who is getting older, weve got to fill in for them for our culture,
bilingual. We try to teach them to learn the culture, not said Kou Moua.
lose the language. While Hmong communities in some other placessuch
Traditionally, the Hmong language and history was as Santa Ana, California, Philadelphia or Des Moines,
only spoken, without written form until it was phoneticized Iowahave disappeared, Missoulas has remained. More
and rendered into the Roman alphabet well into the 20th than a half-century after the outbreak of war and migration,
century. You cant find a book about the Hmong culture many have made Montana home.
written in the early 1900s because theres no such thing, Hmong means the free people. No place to call home,
said Kou Moua. were wanderers, said Ber Yang. We just wanted security
Its tough. I speak mostly English to [my children]. They for our families, so we adapted to life here in Montana.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 15
SINGING
for
SANITY
Jason DeShaw makes
a musical journey
of advocacy for people
tortured by mental illness

BY BRIAN DAMBROSIO

PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOMAS LEE

16
J
ason DeShaw twitched, surrounded
by a monotone of white walls. Collar
askew, pale features pinched, brown
hair mussed from his habit of pulling
at it when he was deep in thought, he
was disheveled, irritable and overly restless.
It was August 2010, and it looked,
he would later recall, like the end of the
world. In his mirror, DeShaw watched
himself process the panic. He entered an
almost unconscious state, rapidly process-
ing the tide of information before him and
calculating the best escape route.
Except now there wasnt one.
He was a patient at a Billings psychi-
atric center. Twenty-nine at the time,
DeShaw, a musician on the rise, was on
tour in Saskatchewan when he was crip-
pled by a nervous, frantic energy, and,
without understanding what was happen-
ing to him, he tried to extinguish the
conflagration inside his body and brain by
drinking it into submission.
It was like a freight train inside of me
that was trying to get out, said DeShaw.
I used alcohol to slow down the freight
train and tame the rapid thoughts. There
is a misconception that people with bipolar
disorder somehow like to chase the mania.
That is not true for myself and I know that
is not true for others. True mania is not
peaceful and is not fun. It is very uncom-
fortable, frantic, and intense. It is a rapid
cycling energy. It really is not peaceful. It
is not fun.
The concert promoter notified Jasons
family. Within a day Jason and his clos-
est friend were leading a second car driven
by Jasons parents, cruising more than 400
miles to the psychiatric ward in Billings.
Jason shut his eyes to filter out the summer
sun, while his legs and head buzzed, for
which he had no explanation, no sensible
context. The whole uproar seemed funda-
mentally bizarre to him. He had always been
levelheaded, smart. There was no known
history of mental illness. But he was writh-
ing in pain, his body aching with energy.
The punishment made him want to collapse.
I had my friend stop in Miles City and

18
Jason
DeShaw
gave two
concerts at
the Montana
State
Hospital
in Warm
Springs last
July, one of
which was
in the high-
security
unit. At left,
DeShaws
notes sit on a
music stand
before one of
his shows.

pull off the road to get a bottle of whis- next several weeks. At his sloppiest, he
key, said DeShaw. I slowly nursed the registered a blood alcohol content of .34
bottle and passed out. I thought I would percent, more than four times the limit
die if I didnt slow down the mania. for drunk driving charges. Soon, he had a
DeShaw awoke to a line of questions diagnosis: bipolar I disorder.
from the psychiatric intake nurse. He was His mania was more than an oper-
too tired to be embarrassed, too buzzed ational tic; hed been wired differ-
not to deride. ently since birth. Born in Plentywood,
Do you hear voices in your head? Montana, on April 3, 1981, Jason
she asked. DeShaw never felt like much of an
Yes, I do. outsider. He felt right and never found
Whose? it hard to connect with other kids. His
Johnny Cash. background seemed normal. Raised by
What does he say? two loving parents, Lyle and Bernie, in
I hear the train a comin, its rolling farm country, he was born the second of
round the bend five brothers. (Neither his parents nor
Straight to the psychiatric ward he his siblings have been diagnosed with
went. Accompanied by two friendly male bipolar disorder, though it tends to run
orderlies, DeShaw laughed, cracked in families.) He liked the heavy, greasy
jokes. Its hard to get a man down when victuals of the farmhouse kitchen. He
he is manic, recalled DeShaw. Five days liked country sounds and country smells.
later, the psychosis subsided. The young He liked getting up early in the morn-
man came across as straightforward, ing, to the tune of crowing on the hillside.
affable, navea victim of the event. I His father Lyle, a devout Catholic, spent
could act okay enough to get released, a lot of time behind the scenes helping
said DeShaw. I wasnt committed against people, recalled DeShaw. Dad is the
my will. As soon as he was released, kind of guy whod open doors for others.
DeShaw worked through a deadly cocktail He is a servant of God. There were
of mental illness and alcohol. He would always people telling me what a great
be hospitalized three more times over the man and hard worker he was. People

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 19
thought I automatically had it easy. They thought Id automatically be a good kid.
I tried to prove them wrong a time or two.
Lyle owned an insurance agency specializing in crop coverage and Bernie
stayed at home raising your average brood of healthy, spirited boys. One of Jasons
earliest memories is of the three eldest boys sharing lap space in a family rock-
ing chair, Siamese cat snuggled behind his mothers neck. There are four rockers
there and we still fight over them, said DeShaw.
It was freshman year at Carroll College when DeShaw turned to the guitar
his folks gave him one for Christmasand found the place he wanted to go.
Though a few friends gently ribbed him about this new career path, he rose early
LOOK FOR THE HORSE ON THE ROOF! and worked at least 12 hours a day learning and practicing chords. I drove my
neighbors nuts, said DeShaw. He often got up to check his strings during the
Bozemans Premier night. It was an uphill climb, but he was making his way, performing in Europe
Boutique & and across North America and recording five albums.

Tack Store

H
uman emotions are messy,
Where Equine Gear Meets Fashion unpredictable, and often
inexplicable. DeShaw
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Way to Big Sky spurts of adrenaline to
human nature and blamed his
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withered self-confidence on
bad moods. It amused him as a
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there were other times when
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He drank prodigiously to tone
English, Western & Out on the Town
down the inferno. Long periods
of hopelessness followed.
Then, the frantic episode
in Saskatchewan, the multiple
hospitalizations, the diagno- A notice at Warm Springs in July 2015.
sis. DeShaw returned to music
as a way to come to grips with and
share the details; putting the face and twang of a self-described Montana cowboy
to mental illness could be a measure toward reducing stigma and gaining accep-
tance for the afflicted. He saw the universal language of music as an effective
way to merge mental health awareness and melody, without taking people too far
down, he said. The music keeps them feeling safe and okay and it elevates them.
FOUR CORNERS SADDLERY Montana leads the nation in suicide, he noted, and many victims are mentally ill.
& BOUTIQUE I have an illness that occurs in a different part of the body. The brain is
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20
weak or speaks about them in harsh tones. People probably
bring you flowers when you have a heart attack. I aint ever
had anyone bring me a casserole or a balloon for mental
illness.
DeShaws illness spurred creative rebirth. He started
writing songs that captured some of his struggles, attempt-
ing to frame the issue as universal. His song Crazy Town
expresses the dreamlike moments hes had in his search
for meaning. Ive been called crazy in a world thats not
quite sane.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) noted
DeShaws advocacy work, and in September 2014 he was
honored during the national convention in Washington,
DC. DeShaw was awarded the Lionel Aldridge Champion
Award and praised for exhibiting courage and leadership
as he deals with mental illness. NAMIs Montana chapter
grew particularly impressed after a performance at the state
hospital at Warm Springs.
I didnt know if I could do it, DeShaw said of that
show. I was hit so hard with depression I could barely
walk. I went into the forensic lockdown unit and I sat
down and I spoke from the heart and sang a few tunes. It
impressed NAMI Montana and DC.
Mental illness has made me a better human being,
DeShaw told the audience.
In 2015 DeShaw partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield
for a ten-city Montana tour, Serenity in the Storm. The
tour stopped in five rural communities and five bigger
towns, including Billings. It featured DeShaw speaking,
performing music, and listening empathetically. Jason is
a beacon of light in the dark world of mental illness, said
John Doran, director of public relations at Blue Cross and
Blue Shield of Montana. Mental illness and suicide are all
too real in America, and there is no better message of hope
than from Jason.
It both drains the cup and fills it, said DeShaw. After
one show, I had five people come up to me who lost some-
one to suicide. You cant just passively listen to something
of that nature. You have to commit your eyes, your attention
and your soul. Ive been humbled to have been put on this
journey of advocacy.
DeShaw is part of the mental illness quilt. His patch
of the quilt has integrity. I saw Jason DeShaws presenta-
tion in Texas in the summer of 2015 and it was the most
moving and impressive thing Ive ever witnessed in relation
to helping people understand the essence and importance
of mental disorders, said Dr. Matt Byerly, professor in the
Department of Psychiatry and director of the Schizophrenia
Research Program at UT Southwestern.
In the summer of 2015, DeShaw performed a free

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 21
concert in Turner, Montana, another small town that lost a
teenager to suicide. When the boys mother called Jason to You can hear some of Jasons songs and watch videos at
ask if he would participate in a memorial walk and address www.thecountryway.com.
the community, he unhesitatingly answered yes. There are
less than 100 people in Turner, said DeShaw. But there
were 300 people who walked for 12 hours, from Hogeland Self-hope is his doctrine, his cold truth of everyday. One
to Turner, in 89-degree heat. There was a full gymnasium. evening, DeShaw sits firmly in the saddle of a wrought-iron
I had the chance to speak four words: Its not your fault. To patio chair in the backyard of his Helena home, one of his
see rural Montana talking about these issues and reaching favorite spaces. I just celebrated two years, two years of
out to one another with lovethats progress. Sometimes its sobriety. Seven hundred and thirty-two days. This declara-
just an ounce of hope that saves people. tion is tempered by the reality that inexplicable biochemi-
After DeShaw performed at an eastern Montana high cal changes continue to wreak hell. Just two weeks earlier,
school in December 2015, the school counselor informed him he had been scheduled to take part in a NAMI walk. Before
that he had inspired a number of students to request help. he even rolled out of bed, he was paralyzed with suicidal
He said, Since you were here, Ive seen a flood of feelings. My first thought I had when I woke up was that
students, said DeShaw. He told me that some of the kids I wished I hadnt at all. I didnt feel like living. I had to
had said, If he can talk about his depression, then I can battle those impulseslightning bolts that hit here and
talk about mine. And this was from kids we didnt know thereall day.
were suffering. I just provided the connection that allowed Recalling that morning, DeShaw tensed up physically,
them to realize that they are good enough to be saved and clenching his jaw and narrowing his eyes. He looked down
that their own beauty is enough to fight for. and talked to himself, caught up in the rushing memories.
Indeed, hope is what weaves together the makeup It took every atom of his strength to sit still. Bipolar disor-
of DeShaws existencecollective hope and his own. der is every bit as physical as it is mentalthrobbing bones

Its bigger
than banking. Its families and 4-H and paying for college with 10 years of
livestock entries in the county fair. Its a deep-rooted landscape
where little boys learn to be men. We know how you live because
we live here, too. Its you and together.

firstinterstate.com

22
and the accompanying anxiety so disabling that it feels himself, his parting words minimal but so promising.
like you lost your soul, he said. Honestly, I am just a Montana kid who happens to have a
The worst thing about depression is that it can last one struggle, said DeShaw. And they told me that I wasnt going
day or six months, said DeShaw. The shitty part is not to make it to age 31. But I have them beat by four years.
knowing how long it is going to last. You dont know if winter
is coming or if its just a cold snap.

A
DeShaw still seems, to borrow one of his favorite words, t another meeting, on a charcoal gray spring
cowboy, but there is also something slightly cowed about morning at the General Mercantile, a coffee shop in
him on this day. Maybe its his eyes, or the way his shoul- Helena, Jason was recovering from liver failure that
ders slump when he sits, or how his hands seem to shake as hospitalized him on St. Patricks Day. Though he
he talks. He appears to be making an effort to smile as he looked paler and more on edge than usual, he opted
bundles up under a blanket in the backyard. for the deliberate language of survivors, filling the blank
It is a dangerous time when the pain starts to exceed spaces in his story with affirmations about blessings and
hope, he said. In high school, I had appendicitis. It burst. opportunities and growth. He used the word struggle more
I had gangrene in my peritoneal cavity and they hospital- than once, and twice cryptically alluded to being okay
ized me for days. That intense pain doesnt even compare to knowing that I can go at anytime.
the pain of depression. There is hope, though even some- Its ironic that I have liver failure on St. Patricks Day
times I cant see it. even though I havent enjoyed a Guinness in over two years,
DeShaws itch to sing and speak is as irrepressible as his said DeShaw. It was an over-the-counter medication that
attempts to scratch it. He has a message to deliver directly smoked me. It has not been a fun ride. But blessings can
to ears and heartsnot just across Montana, but (in the come out of the struggle. I once had a friend who told me
coming weeks) California, the Midwest, Texas. Knowing that the gift is in the wound. I am who I am today because
that he requires a solid rest before he embarks, he excuses of suffering.

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WEST
YELLOWSTONE
A town for all seasons
M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 23
Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist
Karen Loveless searches the
horizon for elk while out in the
field in southwest Montana.

24
Slings&Arrows
When it comes to managing game, Montanas wildlife biologists
sometimes feel as though theyre the ones living in the crosshairs
BY L AURA LUNDQUIST

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIK PETERSEN

I
n her six years with Montana Fish, Wildlife slightly, trying to stop the downward trend without
and Parks, Karen Loveless never questioned her affecting hunters too much. Even so, 100 people in
decision to become a biologist. But that changed Gardiner let her know they thought the change went
in late 2015. too far.
Every winter, she would clamber aboard an Each year, she hoped for a rebound, but the bull
airplane or helicopter and spend hours circling over count kept dropping. It wasnt surprising, consider-
the meadows and forests north of Yellowstone National ing what was happening in the district during hunting
Park, counting elk. Back on the ground, shed analyze season. Since 2010, 80 to 90 percent of the elk shot
her numbers, and if anything seemed off, shed hike by hunters have been bulls, and half of those were
the area to ground-proof her counts. mature bulls.
Each year, the number she questioned was her Last fall, Loveless decided the herd couldnt endure
count of bull elkshe found fewer among the throngs such loss, and FWP needed to keep people from kill-
of cows and calves. Because the Northern Yellowstone ing so many mature bulls. She knew the decision
herd has been tracked for decades, she pored through wouldnt be popular.
the data to see if the herd had undergone a similar Her supervisors decided to slash the number of bull
trend before. She saw that prior to 2002 the herd regu- elk permits to 75, reducing the harvest by 95 percent.
larly had 10 bulls for every 100 cows. But by 2015 Mathematical models predicted that this action would
shed counted fewer than three bulls per 100 cows. allow bull numbers to recover in about two years, so
In 2011, she had changed the hunting permits hunters wouldnt lose opportunity for long.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 25
PHOTO BY HUNTER DANTUONO

Meetings to discuss limits on bull elk permits, like this gathering in Livingston, brought angry confrontations. Karen Loveless of FWP said of the
meeting: I just got heckled the entire way through it.

Its difficult. Everyone has different personalities and different


worldviews. So, depending where on the spectrum they sit,
I can have great interactions or not-so-great interactions.

With that in mind, Loveless scheduled meetings in That was a really tough meeting for me, probably the
Livingston and Gardiner to explain the proposal to local toughest Ive ever had. It was a very hostile audience, and
sportsmen. I just got heckled the entire way through it. I could hardly
Hunters in the field told her they had also seen the down- make it through a sentence. People asking questions that
ward trend and agreed that action was needed. Some even werent really questions and expecting me to respond. There
told her she should have taken more drastic steps earlier. So was a lot of angry venting, Loveless said.
she walked into the Livingston meeting expecting at least Hells-a-Roarin Outfitters had put a large ad in the
some support. Gardiner newsletter bashing Loveless for the proposal. The
It wasnt there. People called her later and said theyd been angry phone calls, emails and online comments continued for
too intimidated to show up. two months until the FWP commission in February approved
What she found was a roomful of resentful outfitters who a compromise with less stringent reductions.
seemed to want to discredit not only her data, but her compe- In the aftermath, Mac Minard and Rob Arnaud of the
tence. Complaints about lost income devolved into personal Montana Outfitters and Guides Association said they didnt
attacks on Loveless and disbelief in the data. doubt Loveless count datathey just didnt like the tool
The anger, she said, was palpable. FWP chose. Like a few other private biologists who challenge

26
FWP policies and decisions, Minard said he has studied and do it in a complicated human landscape, a place where
better methods for dealing with the problem. animals might be welcome on one side of a fenceline but not
We have a toolbox full of options. What FWP came up the other.
with is a step in the correct direction to fix it. Im afraid it Now, we have lots of these critters, Thompson said.
wont fix it well enough, Arnaud said. FWPs job includes trying to find a place for all of them and
Welcome to modern wildlife management, where more trying to get access [so hunters can] harvest them to move
people, commercialization and complexity seem to put scien- their numbers down. To strike some kind of balance. Thats
tists in the crosshairs as often as the elk. a whole different ball game, because youve got people with
Former regional wildlife chief Kurt Alt hired Loveless in attitudes on all different sides of those issues. Its a lot more
2010, right before he retired from a 25-year career. He kept challenging.
in touch with her, so he heard about the meeting. Since 1980, Montanas population has grown by a quarter-
She was getting beat up so bad. But I told her, You have million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and
now officially joined the ranks of seasoned wildlife manage- most of that growth is in the western half of the state. Not
ment biologists, Alt said. This one got really personal, but surprisingly, some of the areas most difficult for biologists to
every biologist has gone through these trials and tribulations. manage are those that have seen the most growth, such as the
Loveless is finally able to shrug the incident off, although Bitterroot and Paradise valleys.
it still stings when people bring it up. For example, between 1980 and 2014, the population in
Biologists know to expect emotional reactions to decisions the Bitterroot Valley doubled to more than 41,000. What was
that affect how and where people can hunt, something close to once a valley of larger farms and apple orchards is now an
the hearts of so many Montanans. But some say those reac- irregular checkerboard of 5-acre to 20-acre ranchettes.
tions are becoming more strident and the decisions more diffi- Such an influx of people has brought opinions and habits
cult as the state continues to grow and change. Former FWP that werent part of the 20th-century Montana that old-timers
commissioner Ron Moody says its getting worse. yearn for. Little by little, new residents have upset some of the
Ive said it many times: Managing animals is easy long-held arrangements that biologists worked hard to secure.
managing people is hard, Moody said. Even without newcomers, FWP employees have always
had to deal with an anti-government attitude in some parts of
the state. So biologists like Sonya Andersen, who works the
From Scarcity to Abundance district around Lewistown, have to proceed carefully if they
Missoula wildlife manager Mike Thompson started his need to gain access to private property to capture or moni-
FWP career in the early 1980s when fewer animals roamed tor animals for research. She may meet several times with
the state. His early research focused on bolstering and landowners to try to explain projects that affect them and still
protecting elk populations in the Elkhorn Mountains south come away empty-handed.
of Helena, and he often had to decide whether or how to limit Its difficult. Everyone has different personalities and
licenses so he could preserve numbers. different worldviews. So, depending where on the spectrum
In those days, herds of elk, deer, bighorn sheep and moun- they sit, I can have great interactions or not-so-great inter-
tain goats were meager, as were populations of large carni- actions. Its important to try to see where people are coming
vores. Some species were nonexistent. from. But its still very challenging, Andersen said.
As FWP biologists transplanted and nurtured ungulate However, dealing with people from the political fringe is
populations, the increased availability of prey helped scant easier than working with some of those who have recently
populations of mountain lions expand and laid the ground- bought large Montana properties after making their money
work for the return of grizzly bears and wolves. Other species elsewhere. In some cases, landowners who are rarely around
rebounded also. Bald eagles, listed as endangered until 2007, have replaced long-established families. Instead of continu-
commonly thrill birdwatchers today. Canada geese, ospreys, ing a tradition of allowing access to or through their property,
sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans abound, to the point that a few have fenced off public roads or rivers that run through
residents now associate their calls with the changing seasons. their property, seeking to isolate themselves from the world.
As a result, few states can rival Montana for its abundant Some newcomers, and an increasing number of long-
wildlife, and many people come to Montana because of it, established residents, either lease their property to outfit-
which creates new challenges. ters or outfit hunts themselves. When outfitters can charge as
However, these successes have caused FWP to shift its much as $8,000 per hunter, the money can be hard to resist.
focus; instead of managing scarcity they manage abundance They dont want public hunters shooting or spooking what

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 27
they increasingly see as a commodity: elk. Elk will harbor
in areas that they learn are safe, and the bigger the property,
the bigger the harboring problem. As more land becomes
inaccessible to public hunters during the general hunting
season, fewer animals are killed, creating an over-abun-
dance that biologists must somehow alleviate because, after
the season ends, the elk often move to areas where they are
unwanted.
The thing that was the hardest in my timeas land-
owners have changed, and some of their priorities have
changedis this rise in this private-land outfitting business
that is really strong in Texas and continues to move north.
That to me is the single most complicating factor in our
system, Alt said.
Then again, some landowners dont like hunting, period.
They represent the growing portion of society that is less
accepting of hunting, while the portion that hunts is dwin-
dling. This shift, coupled with an increase in wildlife watch-
ers and photographers, means that FWP can no longer focus
primarily on game species to benefit sportsmen.
Before, we were practically farming. Now were trying
to manage restored ecosystems. On the one hand, its excit-
ing as hell and really gratifying. But on the other hand, its
almost impossible. Its hard to communicate with everyone
involved, and now (with the internet), its an international
audience, Thompson said. We get lots of advice.

Follow the Money


State wildlife agencies tend to defer to hunters and
anglers demands because they need sportsmen to keep
buying licenses and permits. Under whats known as the

28
Fish, Wildlife and Parks increasingly finds itself caught in a tug of war between
sportsmen, whose interests it traditionally has served in the management of
species such as elk, and nonhunting wildlife advocates.

North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, FWP fast how to work with unhappy ranchers and a few equally
depends almost entirely on revenue from license sales, and unhappy volunteers. Few in the agency knew much about
over the decades, sportsmens dollars have been responsible wolves, so Bradley was mostly on her own. Not everything
for Montanas remarkable wildlife restoration. she tried worked, and sometimes she, too, was the target of
But license sales have begun to dip, so FWP recently harsh words. But as ranchers got to know her and saw that
created a working group of sportsmen and wildlife advo- she was trying to reduce wolf depredation of their livestock,
cates to devise ways that new groups could support wildlife the hostility softened. But it wasnt easy for some volunteers
conservation. who questioned trapping and killing wolves that might not
After two years, the diverse members of the Finding have been the culprits in a particular incident.
Common Ground committee have come up with avenues The permanent opening of wolf hunting in 2011 also
of alternative funding, such as conservation stamps, which provided an outlet for some frustration. Bradley can recall
could provide revenue but also give the non-sporting only one truly tense momentwhen a man went so far as to
public a louder voice. It could also increase the number of threaten to hurt someone if wolves killed his cattle. She
nonhunters clamoring for biologists attention. said she didnt take the man seriously but did notify the
Finding common ground wasnt easy. Hunters and wild- wardens.
life advocates arent naturally the easiest of bedfellows and Ive really been pretty lucky. Not only was I a woman
the two sides clash regularly when it comes to wolf manage- coming into an agency at the front wave of this turnover, but
ment, with biologists caught in the middle. Thats partly I was also coming in working for a new program, taking on
because wolves went from basically extinct to abundant in the wolf stuff that not everybody wanted, Bradley said.
Montana in a short span of time. A few years ago, they had Over the past 15 years or so, 25 women have joined the
full federal protections. Today, they can be legally hunted. ranks of FWP biologists. Alt hired Bradley and later Abby
Biologist Carolyn Sime developed the state wolf program Nelson to be wolf specialists, and all told, he hired seven
in 2004 and needed a number of new wolf biologists as women. But that wasnt his goal.
FWP prepared for the eventual delisting of the wolf. The I hired the very best biologists I could find, and they
people who answered the call soon learned they had to deal just happen to be women, Alt said.
with angry public meetings. During her 10 years as a wolf biologist, Bradley was able
Liz Bradley had done her graduate work on wolves at the to watch public meetings go from two-hour shouting matches
University of Montana so she knew that many Montanans to events where public comment was muted, if there was any
loathed wolves. She also knew some people transferred their at all. It taught her to take a long view of wildlife projects.
hatred for an animal to the person working on that animal. Youre not going to have wildlife if people wont toler-
Still, she applied for the position. ate it. You have to find a balance that works for people. Or
Assigned to the region around Dillon, Bradley learned theyll do something illegal that works for them, Bradley

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 29
said. Most of the time, people just vent. There have been a plans and reports. During breaks they field a myriad of
handful of times that people have made it personal. Thats phone calls and emails. They live for the days when they
when I try to walk away. can finally get out in the field.
Its interesting because biologists are more likely to be
introverts. Its ironic because they have such public jobs,
New Era, New Skills Bradley said. But introverts can listen to people.
So much change means that Montanas biologists must have Thompson kept that in mind last year when he had to
a different set of skills than they had 30 years ago. Gone replace three of his biologists. In addition to having sound
are the daysif they ever existedwhen biologists could biological experience, successful applicants had to be will-
quietly and anonymously focus on animals in the field as ing to work in the public trust, Thompson said.
Jane Goodall did with her chimpanzees. But that was the Im looking for people who can communicate, because
image in the back of Loveless mind when she changed thats becoming challenging. So it has to be somebody who
careers in her late 30s to become a biologist. is comfortable talking with people, comfortable listening
I wanted to be the biologist for all the wildlife in an to people, somebody who can hear what somebody says to
area and understand all the levels of it and the interactions them and can process and use it. Thompson said. You
from the soils all the way up to the top carnivores. But the cant make a non-listener into a listener.
thing about that fantasy was that nowhere in there was a In February, biologists and wardens saw their responsi-
human, Loveless said, laughing. bilities increase yet again when, in an effort to reduce elk
District biologists spend more time dealing with people populations, FWP extended the elk season to six months
and dont know the meaning of business hours. They across a majority of the state, through damage hunts and
attend countless meetings with the public, coworkers and shoulder seasons, a controversial step intended, in part,
specialists from other agencies. Days in the office are spent to address the problems created by people harboring elk
overseeing projects and writing proposals, management during the general season. Biologists already give up week-
ends during the five-week regular season to man hunter
check stations. FWP has no money to hire additional
employees, so the additional demand posed by a six-month
season could cause some to question their choice of career.
FWP is pretty much the same size as its always been,
which is part of the problem. The demands have expanded,
so it needs to grow just to keep up. Were using people up.
Theyll work until they havent got anything left to give,
Thompson said.
Newer biologists often work temporary jobs with FWP
before being hired, so theyve glimpsed the good and the
bad. Still, it was eye opening for Andersen to watch the tough
treatment that Loveless got. Shed rather not find herself in a
similar situation, but shes more prepared if she does.
If Karen can make it through something like that, then
I guess I can, Andersen said.
As challenging as it might be, every biologist inter-
viewed said working with people was the most satisfy-
ing part of their job. Perhaps enduring occasional bouts
of misplaced anger and cruel words is part of the price of
holding the coveted position of a Montana biologist.
Montana is to wildlife conservation as Wall Street is
to high finance. We are at the center of the stage where the
stakes are the biggest and the pressures are the hardest,
Moody said. As a biologist, if youre not quite ready for
prime time, youd better damn well get ready because this is
prime time.

30
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Counting
by Twos Photo by Thomas Lee

32
The Big Snowy Prize
Excellence By Young Writers
NONFICTION WINNER: TESS FAHLGREN

T
he summer after I graduated college I was
offered a job as an art teacher at the school
in Nashua, Montana, a town in the northeast-
ern corner of the state. Teaching had never
been a part of my plan, but no one else had
applied for the job. My high school art classes shaped
who I am and I was about to be laid off from the book-
store where Id worked for two years. Hearing that their
program might get cut if I didnt step in, I didnt feel
like I had much of a choice. In August I packed my
car and drove north, to Montanas Hi-line.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 33
Why do we return, and why do we stay? We taste the
joy of a different life and are somehow, once again,
pulled back to this rural, isolated place where the
longer you stand the deeper your roots grow.

Nashua is just east of where I grew up, in Glasgow. While living off canned beans and pizza from the restaurant where
Glasgow is larger than Nashua, neither is large: Nashuas he worked to save enough for the $1,500 season pass. From
population is 300 while Glasgows is about 3,000. The there he bounced from Hawaii to Bozeman and finally to
economy is based on agriculture and the railroad, without Germany. He never expected to be back in Glasgow. When
which neither would exist at all. Both have wide streets and he arrived he started dating another local girl.
empty store fronts, men in cowboy hats and invisible women. She was tall and very thin, with smooth skin, a wide
In Nashua, you are expected to know every single persons band of pink gum above generous teeth, and (at least in
first and last name, occupation, and those of their parents. At memory) a silver cross necklace around her neck. She and
first it felt like memorizing useless information about people my friend went to the same church growing up. But after
solely because they exist, but eventually I realized each graduating, shed gone to a womens college in the South
person is a link in the chain of the economy. You know his and had a serious romantic relationship with a woman.
name because hes the local plumber and hell help you out, They lived together through college, and her family nearly
and hers because shes literally the mayor. disowned her.
Being a young woman on her own in a town like this Perhaps it was the approval of her parents she sought
makes people curious. You could be a student yourself, above anything else. Her first date with my friend was the
Ive heard a thousand times, sometimes jovial, often almost event of him moving in to her house, which was about one
accusatory. Teaching is all about feeling it out. I make every- hundred yards from her parents. They settled into hetero-
thing up as I go along, and I do my best. Its fun to spend my normative domesticity. They both began work on the railroad
days creating, talking about and thinking about art, but my and planned to leave town in a year, then two. Eventually
nights are spent alone. There are other young teachers, but it seemed their goalto escape the bell jar of the Glasgow
something doesnt click between us. By leaving Missoula I communityevaded the both of them.
left art galleries and the friends whose work filled them, bars
with strangers and live music, to be on my own.
Yet, here, singularity is suspicious. Growing up on my
dads farm, I learned even the cows identities were linked
to that of a partner. In the spring and summer, mothers were
paired with calves, designating 75 cow/calf pairs in lieu of
recognizing all 150 animals.
Even after weaning them from their calves, when the cows
once again existed independently, my dad taught me to count
them by twos, skipping odd numbers as their dark bodies
flowed past the truck. It was simple to expect pairs.
Even to those of us who want to be on our own, the need
for companionship in this place sneaks up like a ghost. My
best friend moved back home after years of living everywhere
else. After high school hed moved to Canada to snowboard,

Photo by Thomas Lee

34
Why do we return, and why do we stay? We taste the carries our voices, I can be with a person, a three-year rela-
joy of a different life and are somehow, once again, pulled tionship, that condenses to the metal box that is my phone
back to this rural, isolated place where the longer you and the tinny, unreliable voice, that is my company.
stand the deeper your roots grow. As people predisposed Today at school, one of the kids Matt. Matt?
to being excluded in a sea of conservatism, we are trapped For most of the school year he lived five hours south, in
in the struggle between those roots and alienation from the Billings, until his job moved him even further, to Bozeman.
community. More than the sparse population, more than the endless
She chose to grow those roots, but my friend refused windswept prairie, it is this distance, coupled with conver-
to give in. After three years he left. Eighteen months later sations with locals where it is often obvious that my politi-
she married his replacement, her social media platforms cal beliefs and morals are not shared with anyone else, that
suddenly full of bible verses. I heard they were chaste until contributes to my isolation. During a mock election arranged
the white dress. by the government class, everyone from the eighth grade
through the seniors filed into the gym to hear speeches,
almost all of which were vehemently anti-abortion. One of my

F
our days a week I walk the quarter mile home best students told me, Im not a feminist because some jobs
from school, waving at passing cars, to cook and are better for men, and some are better for women.
eat dinner alone. My house is a teacherage so small After just a few months I remembered why, in high
that locals have referred to it as the hovel, first school, Id written so much poetry.
house on the right after entering town from Highway 2. The My friend and his girlfriends method of bandaging this
location makes my lifemy absence, my presence, my with each other is the most common solution. In high school
visitorspublic, although, despite appearances, I am not I wrapped myself tightly within the same. My boyfriend, a
entirely alone. The rapidly declining driveway puts the hovel skinny redhead with an anger problem, gave me a place to
in a hole with sparse cell service, but as long as reception fit. He needed me and I needed to be needed. But as is so

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M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 35
often the case in towns that size, our relationship was a
damaging one born out of fear and loneliness.
I thought Id learned my lesson, but the longer I stood,
the deeper grew my roots. I looked not for a way to chop
them, as had been the plan, but a way to make them more
comfortable.
The problem with this pressure to pair is the lack of vari-
ety in options.
Every year my parents church holds a Mardi Gras-esque
carnival in the gym of the old Catholic school. I went with
my parents and my sister, her toddler Liam and her baby
in tow. The gym was loud with children. As I chased Liam
back and forth from the baseball-throwing booth to the foot-
We Specialize in Finding Serenity ball-through-a-tire one, I realized the other women chasing
children were girls Id grown up with. But they were chasing
on Montana Rivers their own kids.
My demographic was that of the young mother.
l Full service outfitter and fly shop Keegan, a girl Id been close with through middle school
l Quality gear and into high school, had her two long-eyelashed boys. She
l Professional guides
l Honest advice
was still beautiful, still laughing and friendly, but after our
l Kids and adults fishing schools sing-song How are yous, she swung her attention back to her
toddler. In Missoula, there had been a network of artists and
FLY SHOP & GUIDE SERVICE, 23 E. MAIN, DOWNTOWN BOZEMAN writers with whom I could lean against a bar. In Glasgow,
800-886-9111 406-587-9111 www.bozemanangler.com
I was reduced to blinking in confusion at these supposed
normalcies.
Men in the area made companionship easier because,
* FAVORITE HIKES * seeing me as apparently single, they saw in me the oppor-
tunity to curb their own loneliness. James, the editor for
EMIGRANT PEAK the Glasgow paper, quickly developed a habit of bring-
Round Trip: 6 miles Duration: 6-8 hours ing me gifts. One night, he dropped by with a perfect loaf
USGS Maps: Dailey Lake & Emigrant of Hutterite-baked bread and a fresh bag of beets. Next
Distance from Livingston: 35 miles he dropped off a single candle. A few days after that he
Emigrant is the distinctive peak that stands well out of the main body of the Absaroka
Range, with its summit providing exceptional views of not only the crest of the Absarokas, but brought a bottle of tequila and a tub of sugary margarita
of Lone Peak to the west, and the Tetons to the south. mix that still takes up space in my refrigerator. Yet, as soon
To find the Gold Prize Creek trailhead, travel 1.5 miles up Sixmile Creek to a signed left turn;
the trailhead is a short distance further. Walk past the road closure along the closed road, as Matt drove up for an extended visit, he stopped calling.
which leads through a portion of the 1,200 acres that burned in the Sixmile drainage in July, 99. When Matt left at the beginning of December, James didnt
The Road becomes a trail at a small campsite
and begins to steepen. Stay left, climbing reappear.
steeply through sage and scattered stands of Winter set in. I walked to school before sunrise and back
pine and fir toward a large meadow with good
views of Paradise Valley below. Continue home after dusk.
hiking up along a fenceline at the meadow Its just that I miss you, I guess. Can you hear me? Can
boundary. Beyond the fence, climb through
a stand of fir and whitebark pine to treeline. you hear me?
Continue to follow the obvious ridgeline along
a hit-and-miss trail through a combination

W
of boulders, scree and alpine tundra to the
summit. Remember to tread lightly and leave hen I arrived I only knew one young person
no trace.
in Nashua. A few years older than me, he had
Please stop in for great gear grown up in Nashua and moved back after
or further suggestions on college. He squanders his degree at a job
other hiking destinations.
he hates.
On a Friday night six months into life in Nashua, I
309 W. Park Phone crossed the tracks to meet him. For lack of sidewalks I
Livingston, MT 222-9550

36
crunched through snow, my hands pushed deep into my again. He repeated my answer back to me, shaking his head
pockets. Nashuas main drag was impressive for a town of and squinting.
only 300: Civic Center, B&B Grocery, Vicks Bar. I ducked Behind him, five or six guys gathered around a calendar
into the door under the last neon sign, a bowling alley. with women in lace underwear, two for each month. Theyd
It felt like walking into the 70s, a vision cemented by the seen it before. In fact, they all wanted to be the one to say the
clientele in timeless ranch wear and jeans. Its easy to forget loudest that one picture from each month is repeated on the
what happens in the first minute of entering a place like that next. They studied each carefully. All the women were white,
until its happening: every head, almost all belonging to men all airbrushed. They debated the legitimacy of a breast with
over 40, turned my way and lingered. I watched and waited the dramatic arc of a bowling ball. I walked to the jukebox
for them to dismiss me. Some took longer than others. and Grandpa Glasses followed.
During school the week before Id tried to tune out my Drunkenness glued his eyebrows into a slightly surprised
seventh-graders engaged in a heated debate. She definitely arch. I held onto his arm, thinking that he probably didnt
has a boyfriend, one said. get much human connection. Whether or not he knew it,
Whatever, retorted a girl. You cant know that. here was a skinny boy who needed me. In the simplicity of
Yes, I do! he shouted, shocked that anyone could disbe- pairs I was safe. He stood unsteadily and spoke in looping
lieve him. He swung his attention to me, his dark eyes wide, sentences. Im a drunk, he said. I went too far, too fast.
Dont you? He leaned unsteadily toward me, Like the joke, remember?
Who, me? The feeling that wafted over me thena responsibility to a
Because I was in football and you were there with your broken personwas old and inescapable.
boyfriend and then I got a concussion and he was working in Im going to hug you, I said, and pulled him in close.
the emergency room! I wanted him to know that he was necessary. His eyes were
Caught between combing through the nonsensical mess glazed, his too-big hat and glasses askew, and Im not sure
of non-facts and safeguarding my privacy, I did tamp down anyway if I was trying to convince him or myself.
the rumor that I was dating a doctor, though I didnt let on The men in the bar were stiff, constantly glancing in my
that the guy at the football game wasnt my boyfriend anyway. direction. He said, New faces start fights, and sure enough
What else the folks say, I dont know. a thickly built, handsome blonde about my age started a fight
At the bowling alley I found my friend already loose from with another stranger that emptied the bar to the front side-
a few drinks. Hed prematurely begun to fit the demographic walk. They shoved at each other, then locked in an embrace
of the area. Though not yet 30, he wore a green Scotch cap, that might have seemed sweet, in another context. They fell
the kind all the old ranchers do: flat-brimmed and topped to the ground and the blonde jumped up laughing. He swung
with a pom-pom. He seemed to disappear inside his Carhartt his arms around like a ragdoll, dancing back and forth, his
coat, his thin neck poking up like a turtles from its shell. face light with a wide grin. His cousin, one of my seventh-
Mentally I called him Grandpa Glasses, due to the oversized graders, acts just like him. In the blonde I saw the after to
wire-rimmed glasses he wore. On the bar was a pile of worn my students before, and wished with all my might he gave
pornographic cards that through the clatter of crashing pins a damn about my class.
he explained to be a gambling tool. Ive known women who couldnt be single longer than a
We stood at an awkward obtuse angle, clutching cold week, and in Nashua I understood. When Matt would come
drinks. He set up a joke: My uncle died going into a walk-in to visit for a week, we basked in the understanding that we
closet, and pivoted to my left. werent, for now, alone. And when he eventually left again,
Not sure if I was supposed to say anything, I countered the isolation was a physical absence. I felt it in my shoulders
physically, mirrored his steps and finally asked, How? and the palms of my hands.
He slowly delivered the punchline, each word deliberate. Today when I was walking homedid you just say
He went too far, too fast. I laughed a little huff of air and something? It sounded likemaybe your phone is rubbing
told him he needed to work on his delivery. We gulped at our against your beard? Can you hear me?
beers to save us. At school, where I do my best and it never feels like it is
We migrated to Vicks. A man in his forties, who intro- quite enough, I fight the idea that I am inconsequential. At
duced himself as Pete, walked up to me, stuck out his hand the bar that night with Grandpa Glasses, they looked at me
and asked, in quick succession, my name and what in the not as an asset to their community but as a hazard. A man
world I was thinking when I got my septum pierced. just like all the rest (black jacket, black ball cap) called me
I liked it, so I got it, I said. He asked again, and then over to him. He stood at the head of a clutch of clones and

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 37
told me, My friends and I have a $10 bet on whether or not room and almost heard him whisper, Bet you cant save this
you have a bush, he motioned toward my lower half, down human. Later he pointed a finger gun at his head and shot
there. I shoved him and told him that he and all his friends and I looked him in the eyes and shook my head slowly. No.
were disgusting. My hands were shaking. I went to Grandpa He did it again. He told me with a shrug, Im an alcoholic. I
Glasses, who stood swaying near the jukebox, and asked to like it. No. Let me help.
go outside. I could have gone home, should have gone home, Is this pressure to find a companion a problem only in
but even that dirty attention felt better than being alone. rural communities, and is it a problem at all? At 25 it would
I live here for them and for the future of this near-ghost make perfect sense to marry the man Id been with for over
town. At school, I see sons and daughters, but after dark I three years. He wasnt physically with me, and that absence
have to deal with their fathers. is what drove me to grab for broken humans to fulfill the part
That night I didnt set an alarm and slept through the of me that needed to feel important.
morning. I didnt leave my house until almost dark, when I
drove to a place I used to think of as my own, shared with my

I
high school boyfriend. I intended to walk out on the frozen cant believe youre going to be here tomorrow.
lake, but the snowy bank met slush and in places, puddles Three whole days!
reflected the pastel sky. The sunset wasnt glorious, just a Every time Matt planned to visit, I once
pink tint staining everything. To my left was a concrete slab again couldnt imagine what it would be like
where wed sat, naming the seagulls we fed. Right where I to have him around. What would it feel like to share my
sat on my heels in the snowy sand, wed smoked my first joint space with someone, to reach out and hold another person
beside a small campfire. for this couple of days, maybe a whole week? After school
We couldnt do that anymore, of course. Not only do we one Thursday I walked home knowing hed be there. From
no longer talk but our spot is no longer secret. Signs are up a distance I saw that hed cleared away my rotten pumpkins
outlawing both fires and camping, the things we used to do. and hammered the ice on my front walk. He was sweeping
Leaving the half-frozen lake shore, I drove south to away the shards with a broken-handled broom. Oh, I thought.
park my car at a high point and watch the sunset. The dam It feels like this. Just me but more full.
stretched away to my left. On its opposite side the reservoir Proof of our being in love was found in the things I did
expanded, its far shore barely visible. Before me, the back- and didnt think of. Me, the cynic, who thinks twice about
side of the dam sloped gently to a cluster of industrial build- every action and motive, found my hand holding his while we
ings and lights: the powerhouses. Mismatched twins, they waited for sleep.
are made of gridded concrete. Beyond them, white birds sit I tried to talk myself out of the relationship when our
on small rock islands and pluck fish from the water warmed long-distance was cemented for at least six more months,
from the process of passing through the turbines. Ive never but from every angle it seemed wrong. What would I do, I
understood the process. In the distance, the dark country- thought. Appropriate a broken person into an actual compan-
side was half-white, snowy but melting. A thin orange strip ion so that I dont have to feel the emptiness around me?
marked the horizon, the remains of a meager sunset beneath Returning to rural Montana has stretched thin my percep-
dark sheets of clouds. tions of relationships and the necessity of companionship.
This is the Fort Peck Dam. Rural Montana, where I grew In all directions the prairie rolls away toward only more,
up and felt, from the beginning, misplaced. Those who are dotted with sagebrush and waving cottonwoods. The only
alone find each other. Wed been a pair of misfits. It seemed river is slow and muddy, and in almost every yard a rusted-
as though Id been created for the sole purpose of helping out junker is parked. If theres one thing we have, its space,
him survive. Proof: marks on his wrists. Proof: the nights I more than most of us can handle.
stayed out hours past curfew because he couldnt stop crying
and blowing his nose on his sheets. For a long time after-
ward I was angry at myself for not leaving him, but now that Tess Fahlgren, this years Big Snowy Prize nonfiction
Im back I understand again. In this place you need someone winner, grew up in Glasgow, in a family of six
who makes you feel necessary. children. Now 25, she studied creative writing and art
at the University of Montana. Shes published work
My friend, Grandpa Glasses, who introduced me to his
in literary magazines and in newspapers in Missoula
brother that night over and over, forgetting each time that and Glasgow. After a one-year thing teaching in
hed already done so, seemed to be deliberately challenging Nashua, she is changing her career path. Im going
me. I watched him take a tequila shot alone from across the to try to make my money writing and making art, she said.

38
A RT

The Goodbye Poems


of Jim Harrison
INTRODUCTORY TEXT BY SCOT T M c MILLION

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIK PETERSEN

40
I
ran into Jim Harrison several years
ago at a Livingston meat shop, where
he was purchasing a pork shoulder. It
weighed about 12 pounds, the butcher
said. Jim thought for a moment and
then told the man cut it in two and give half to
my friend Scott.
Then he explained in his gravelly baritone
how the pig was the animal that fueled the
Western movement.
Most people think it was the cow, but it
was really the pig. A pig will follow a wagon
train all day just hoping for a moldy carrot.
We laughed, then both went home to cook
some pork. Later, a character in one of his
novels used the same line. I think Jim was
trying it out on me.
Jim was famous for his novels and novel-
las, his movie scripts, his essays. Among his
friends, he was known for his generosity; he
gave or lent money to all kinds of people, he
wrote blurbs for countless books, he shared his
wisdom and insight, he helped build Montanas
literary reputation and its economy, he made
us laugh, and he made us think. He gave away
large chunks of meat. Through it all he defined
himself first and foremost as a poet. And like
many poets, he often contemplated death, his
own and that of others. He wondered openly
what awaits us.
Jim died on March 26, while working on
a poem in his winter home in Arizona, just
six months after his beloved wife Linda died.
Decades of cigarettes and intense living
hastened him along. The last few years had
been rough on his body, but his mind remained
as sharp as ever. He was 78.
Now, finally, Jim knows what lies on the
other side. The rest of us will just have to
wonder.
From Solstice Litany Big Issues
The sun should be a couple of million miles All these planted flowers
closer today. It wouldnt hurt anything I stare at every day have become
and anyway this cold rainy June is hard part of my brain. Outside the studio door
on me and the nesting birds. twelve poppies, seven peonies.
My own nest is stupidly uncomfortable, the chair The numbers change nearly every day.
of many years. The old windows dont keep Are they doing damage
the weather out, the wet wind whipping keeping me from all the big issues?
my hair. A very old robin drops dead Of course, but the big issues dont need me.
on the lawn, a first for me. Millions The surrounding mountains are a real big
of birds die but we never see itthey like issue. To them my steps are soft as a moths.
privacy in this holy, fatal moment or so There are too many people for me to be a big
I think. We cant tell each other when we die. issue. Im more on the level of a crow.
Others must carry the message to and fro. The sixteen poppies and eight peonies are getting in the way
Hes gone, theyll say. While writing an average poem of the United Nations, existentialism, and masculinity.
destined to disappear among the millions of poems These big issues all fade in the face of beauty.
written now by mortally average poets.

42
Zona
My work piles up,
I falter with disease.
Time rushes toward me
it has no brakes. Still,
the radishes are good this year.
Run them through butter,
add a little salt.

Jim Harrisons poems


are reprinted by permission Carpe Diem
of Copper Canyon Press. Night and day
seize the day, also the night
a handful of water to grasp.
The moon shines off the mountain
snow where grizzlies look for a place
for the winters sleep and birth.
I just ate the years last tomato
in the years fatal whirl.
This is mid-October, apple time.
I picked them for years.
One McIntosh yielded sixty bushels.
It was the birth of love that year.
Sometimes we live without noticing it.
Overtrying makes it harder.
I fell down through the tree grabbing
branches to slow the fall, got the afternoon off.
We drove her aqua Ford convertible into the country
with a sack of red apples. It was a perfect
day with her sun-brown legs and we threw ourselves
into the future together seizing the day.
Fifty years later we hold each other looking
out the windows at birds, making dinner,
a life to live day after day, a life of
dogs and children and the far wide country
out by rivers, rumpled by mountains.
So far the days keep coming.
Seize the day gently as if you loved her.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 43
Barebacked Writer
When I say Im a barebacked writer
people will start talking about horses.
I say I did that too on broad-backed June.
Her flesh hid her painful backbone so that
we could lope in the pasture in comfort.
I mean I write half-naked, shirt off,
after two years of shingles, post-herpetic neuralgia
where the pain is always present but can be
unbearable in a shirt, even soft cotton.
So I keep the heat high enough to go bareback
through my prose and poetry when its snowing
outside. What is the effect except the poetry
and prose are also barebacked? Shorn of
ornament with adjectives cast in a snowbank.
Someday again Ill wear a shirt when I write
if the gods will it. For now Im barebacked
trotting through the universe like everyone else.

Tethered
Blacky, half Catahoula wild hog dog
and half blue heeler cow dog
has been tethered for years.
What kind of life is this?
When loose he runs into the surrounding mountains
for days on end eating what he kills.
What a choice: tethered or run away.
His girlfriend Lola, tethered across the yard,
died last week and he seems mystified.
There are rare times when
hes asked to help herd cattle in the mountains.
He becomes angry and bites the tails of calves.
His mother Lisa tore off the horn of a big bull. Tough girl.
The bull wouldnt go in the corral but swung and flung
her. They were head-to-head but she won
and carried her horn trophy around for days.
So the choice is to run into the mountains
or hang around for dinner like ordinary humans.
Some poets would run for it while most locked themselves
in universities and stayed home for dinner.
Lisa got exiled to a big ranch in Mexico.
The rancher said, Shes too much dog.

44
RU R A L ROU T E

MOOSE
46
CAPER
T
his is Montana, so when my son
Sawyer showed up one March
afternoon asking if he could
borrow the venerable Honda
van to pick up a roadkill moose
south of Big Sky, we rummaged around for
the blue tarp, a couple of buck knives and a
saw, some boots. We didnt ask for details.
Make sure you use the damn tarp, I
think I said.
He drove off, heading down 191 toward
West Yellowstone in the van stenciled with
black swallow outlines, 335,000 miles on
the odometer and more stories in its rusty
frame than most four-generation family
histories.
His sister, Ruby, had called an hour
earlier. She was on her way back from vaga-
bonding down near Jackson Hole with her
friend Austin. They had spent the weekend
skiing the avalanche-fraught bowls off of
Teton Pass, sleeping in their Subaru wagon,
making cowboy coffee on a backpacking stove
in the frigid dawns at 8,500 feet. An hour
from home they drove past a cow moose lying
on the side of the highway, a recent casualty
in the vehicular genocide humans attempt to
wage against wildlife.
Austin looked over at Ruby, an hour from
hot showers. She rolled her eyes, shrugged.
They pulled a U-turn, went back for a look,
found a spot with cell service, called for
backup.
Since late November 2013, it has been
legal to pick up dead animals along Montana
roads. More often than not, it doesnt work
With Montanas new rules out. Timing isnt usually ideal. Picking up a
dead critter, especially something as daunt-
governing roadkill, things ing as a moose, is sort of like having a baby
or a colonoscopy: never a great time. Usually
can get a little out of hand the animal has been there too long or is too
gruesome, or youre in a hurry, or its 30
below zero and midnight, or its just too much
trouble. Even when conditions are good, it
BY AL AN KESSELHEIM
requires a certain zeal to commit. It doesnt
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS LEE hurt to be 20 years old and prone to roman-
tic notions, not to mention the lure of a few
hundred pounds of free food.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 47
That said, since the fall of 2013, there have been
2,786 salvage reports, including 26 antelope, 507 elk, 86
moose, 500 mule deer and 1,667 white-tailed deer. In the
first three months of 2016 alone, Montana Fish, Wildlife
and Parks has filed 246 salvage reports. Mind you, those
numbers dont include the many carcasses picked up
along Montana highways by folks who never bother report-
ing, nor do they address the thousands of miscellaneous
roadkill that are unsalvageable or other species.
The preponderance of roadkill incidents are concen-
trated west of the Continental Divide, with some of the
biggest concentrations along the two-lane roads around
Sawyer Kesselheim approaches the moose
Kalispell. Winding highways, thick forests, and the vaga-
killed on the roadway south of Big Sky.
ries of habitat combine to make areas like northwestern The salvaging and disposal of the animal
Montana particularly deadly for wildlife. proved to be an adventure.

W
PHOTO COURTESY OF ALAN KESSELHEIM

hen Sawyer pulls up to the scene, it is


still light, but the day is going. A local
shows up and says the moose was hit
around mid-morning. Sawyer is the most
expert of the crew, having field-dressed a total of one mule
deer at this point in his hunting career. There is a great
deal more ambition and energy beside the road than expe-
rience and skill.
The weight of an adult moose is monstrous. One hind-
quarter can outweigh an antelope. Wrestling with that kind
of stiffening dead mass is like trying to heave a small car
out of a ditch. They start quartering the beast, hacking
through the hide, sawing through joints, accidentally clob-
bering themselves with hooves the size of bricks, getting
bloody. Blunt, primal, elemental work. Work that, except
for a few modern tools, hasnt changed from a million years
ago. Under the skin, the moose is still warm.
The rule is that either you have to drag whatever you
dont claim from the roadkill 200 yards off of the road
or you have to take everything with youhead, guts,
hoovesall of it. Sawyer had checked the regs before leav-
ing town. Ten feet off the pavement the snow is 3 feet deep.
There is no way were dragging anything 200 yards,
Sawyer says, early on in the process. Well have to take
it all.
In the gloaming, as they finish one of the hindquar-
ters, they cut into the body cavity. Through the opening
they find the unexpected: two tiny hooves. Curious, they
enlarge the incision. It takes them a minute to recognize
the fetus, to comprehend it, but they pull out a fully-
formed calf from the mother. It lays there on the gravel. It

48
Roadkill: Its whats for dinner
Here are the rules:
l You have 24 hours after picking up an animal to obtain a
salvage permit from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife
and Parks. Permits are available at fwp.mt.gov.
l Only elk, moose, antelope and deer are eligible for salvage.

l No body parts or viscera can be left at the site.

l Meat can be used for personal consumption only. It is not to be


donated or used for bait.
l If you take a carcass to a meat processor, youll need to hand in
your permit, just as you would a game tag.
l If you salvage game from a roadkill and fail to get a permit, you
can be cited and fined.

is perfecttiny hooves, eyes, an exact miniature, purple-


gray on the ground. It is so complete, so intact, so close to
real, that it might have walked up to them and laid down.
Ruby covers her mouth in horror. They all stop there,
in the waning day. The brute labor of hacking apart an
animal is overwhelmed by this enormity of awareness.
In the pause full of recognition each of them thinks of
the mother moving all winter through the brittle forests,
harboring life inside, browsing in the willows, feeling her
baby move and grow through the austere months. How
she endured the endless starlit nights, curled in the snow,
how she accepted her work. They think of the bull in rut,
the gargantuan act of animal sex last fall, before the first
snows, in the flaming time of year. They think of all of it,
the maze of trails, the packs of wolves, the owls in snags,
the river crossings, the vigilance of life, the patience, the
turning and teeming planet full of mundane majesty.
And the violent, abrupt end to it all.
Jesus Christ, look at that, Austin says.
Ruby cries a little.
We cant just leave it, she says. We need to bury it,
do something.
They carry the still, hairless body, so brilliant and
limp, down to the edge of the Gallatin River. They find
a hollow under a tree, cover the corpse as best they can,
linger over it in silence, and walk back.
Back to the labor. It grows dark. It takes longer than
it should. The job of hoisting every last bit of this animal
into the back of a minivan is Herculean. They are all

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 49
Mapping Montanas Roadkill Salvage Locations
NOVEMBER 1, 2013 TO MARCH 31, 2016 JANUARY-MARCH, 2016

l Antelope (26 locations) l Antelope (4 locations)


l Elk (506 locations) l Elk (61 locations)
l Moose (86 locations) l Moose (8 locations)
l Mule deer (501 locations) l Mule deer (39 locations)
l White-tailed deer (1,667 locations) l White-tailed deer (134 locations)

SOURCE: MONTANA FISH, WILDLIFE & PARKS

Roadkill is more common in western Montana.

three young, all three strong, all three athletes in their own special hunts, and now roadkill, the butchering seems to
right, but it takes them and a passing helpful motorist to go on pretty much year-round. So there is nothing unusual
get the main trunk of the body up and into the van. The about a bevy of college kids milling around the driveway
rear springs on the aging car bottom out. The wheels splay covered in blood in the middle of the night in a residential
under the load. Blood and gore and shit everywhere. Yes, district half a mile from the university, a few blocks from
the tarp is spread out, but its like trying to contain an oil public schools, surrounded by ranks of single-family homes.
spill with plastic bags and a few volunteers; no match. By now fatigue has set in. The price of their impulsive
Our vehicle will never truly recover from this pollution. spontaneity is coming due. There are chores to accom-
No amount of airing, rinsing, special soaps formulated plish, some pretty straightforward, others not so much.
to break down animal proteins, lavender and sage scrub- They call in the roommates for some fresh energy. Before
bings, will completely undo the underlying stench of dead long the moose quarters hang from rafters in the garage.
moose. Months later, on a hot day, the marrow-deep whiff The other salvageable meatbackstrap, a few ribsare
of death will persist. bagged and stored. What remains is the main section of
The van creaks and complains all the way back to the body, too damaged by the impact to keep, along with
Bozeman. Sawyer beetles through the dark vise of canyon. the miscellaneoushead, lower legs, and all the massive,
Austin and Ruby follow. Around 10 p.m. they end up at slippery, unmanageable viscera.
the house Sawyer shares with two college roommates. Someone has the idea to load the moose onto an old
Spontaneous neighborhood abattoirs sprout up routinely door that has been left by a previous renter in the garage
around here. Deer hang in garages, gut piles pock the and then use that as the litter to hoist the body across the
alleys, blood stains the driveways. During hunting season bed of one of the roommates pickup trucks. All goes well
our dog is always dragging home shin bones, hip sock- until it comes time to lift the load, when the cheap door
ets, bloody hunks of fur. What with bow season, cow tags, cracks in half under the weight. Next they find a couple of

50
By now there are four cop cruisers arrayed, headlights illuminating
the scene, everyone enjoying the distraction on a slow night. Sawyer
imagines the snide banter going on as he grovels in the muck.

two-by-four studs lying around, which they lever under the wobbling load in place. The truck creeps through dark
broken door, and manage to wrestle the sloppy mass onto residential blocks of homes, and into the empty parking
the back of the truck bed. lot behind the school where the blue dumpster waits.
Now what? It was surprising how easily it went in, says Ruby.
We knew we couldnt drive very far, the way it was We just tipped the door up and in it slid. God, what a
rigged, says Sawyer. relief!
It occurred to him that there was a big dumpster in Mind you, the dumpster is now streaked with blood
the nearby elementary school parking lot just a couple of and bile, which will make the next school-day drop off
blocks away. What about using that? scene notable. No matter, this is Montana, right? People
Remember, this is 20-year-old thinking, and it is now will understand. They load up the wood and climb back
very late at night after an exhausting afternoon. Everyone aboard for the ride home, which is precisely the moment a
wants very badly to be done, to take a shower, to lie down. police cruiser making its late-night rounds turns into the
Sober judgment and common sense is not knocking at the lot and stabs the crime scene with its headlights.
front door of anyones cerebral cortex. Shit! everyone says, at roughly the same moment.
A couple of them climb in the back to hold the A spotlight pins them down. A woman cop, hand on

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her holster, emerges and approaches warilythe blood-
smeared youth, the gruesome dumpster, a movie scene right
out of Fargo.
Whats going on, guys? she asks from a safe remove.
Nothing to do but tell the truth here. There really is no
wiggle room for fabrication. To their credit, thats what they
do. They tell her the story, hope for understanding.
She shakes her head. No way, she says. That moose has
to come out of there.
It may have slid right in, but it is not sliding right out.
Sawyer and Austin draw short straws, clamber inside the
dumpster full of moose gore, and also full of normal elemen-
tary school refusechocolate milk cartons, pudding cups,
peanut butter sandwiches. The viscous mixture they stand in
Outttter# 281 comes halfway to their knees. It doesnt take long to realize
that there is no way to heave the moose back out. Even when
they get underneath the body and strain, they barely move it.
We have to cut it up, Sawyer announces.
Full Service Fly Shop & Guide Service They start handing out organs. The heart, bigger than their
heads. The lungs, liver, intestinesall dripping and slippery
www.troutfitters.com and incredible. The crew wrestles everything into black bags.
Sawyer remembers moments of amazement, despite the condi-
tions, at the size and weird beauty of moose engineering.
The stomach barely fit in one of those big garbage bags,

timeless style Ruby remembers. It was so unbelievably huge.


By now there are four cop cruisers arrayed, headlights
enduring quality illuminating the scene, everyone enjoying the distraction on a
slow night. Sawyer imagines the snide banter going on as he
grovels in the muck.
I was thinking they were probably scripting the police
report and all having a big yuck, he says.
Sawyer and Austin keep hacking and levering hunks of
moose over the lip. Eventually the body cavity is empty. They
thread ropes underneath. Sawyer and Austin crouch under
the carcass, blood and god-knows-what else dripping down on
them. Everyone heaves and the emptied body of this assaulted
animal, in her prime only hours before, going about her busi-
ness, about to give birth, thumps unceremoniously onto the
ground. Sawyer and Austin roll themselves out of the pit and
back on solid footing. They have turned into aliens from the
planet Gore, covered in muck from head to toe.
teakwood outdoor leisure furniture The lady cop approaches again, shines her light up and

SHADOW
exclusively at... down, appraising. Ill be checking with the landfill tomorrow
to make sure that moose is disposed of, or Ill be back with a
citation. She pauses. I hope you all learned your lesson.
Right then, Sawyer remembers, I had this weird, power-
HEARTH & HOME INC. ful urge to walk over and give her a big sloppy hug, just to
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SCIENCE

the
BUZZ
about
pollinators
BY ALEXIS MARIE ADAMS

PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOMAS LEE

54
O
n a warm fall day outside of Stevensville in western Montana, Jacob
Wustners apiary is buzzing with clouds of honey bees. Its also rustling like
corn leaves in the windwith the sound of hundreds of thousands of bees
hard at work within the hives, building and cleaning wax cells, guarding
their colonies and turning nectar into honey. A second-generation Montana
beekeeper, Wustner sells his honey at the Clark Fork Farmers Market in Missoula
and at farm stands in the Bitterroot Valley. His annual harvestabout 1,000 to
2,000 poundsis a drop in the proverbial bucket of Montanas honey production.
Consistently one of the nations top honey producers, Montana ranked second in
the country in 2014 when the states bees churned out 14 million pounds of honey,
valued at about $29 million, according to Cam Lay, state entomologist for the
Montana Department of Agriculture. But at a wholesale price of $1.50 per pound
as of the writing of this storyprices vary significantly from year to yearhoney
doesnt generate the lions share of the profits for most commercial beekeepers.
They earn that by providing what are called pollination services, shipping their
colonies to Californias Central Valley for the almond bloom in February and then
to the apple and cherry orchards of Oregon and Washington. This year, beekeep-
ers earned approximately $180 to $200 per hive to pollinate almonds. If you can
put 400 hives on a flatbed truck and haul them to California, youre going to earn
a pretty good income, says Lay.

Ecology professor Laura Burkle hunts for insects pollinating flowers on an early spring day in
front of Mount Ellis, east of Bozeman, as part of her scientific research.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 55
From left, Justin Runyon, Laura Burkle and Will Glenny study the effects of global warming on the scent of flowers and the insects that
pollinate the flowers. At far right, each plant being studied is measured.

Though apiarists use the European honey bee, which of a flowers stamen, where sacs contain pollen.
arrived in North America with early colonists in the Standing with Wustner in what appears to be and
17th century, pollination neither begins nor ends there. sounds like a perfectly healthy and productive apiary, it is
Approximately 200,000 other animal species around the difficult to imagine that honey bees and other pollinators
world are pollinators, including more than 20,000 differ- around the world are in trouble. From April 2014 to April
ent species of wild bees, 3,999 of them here in North 2015, beekeepers in the United States lost more than 42
America. Other pollinators include butterflies, humming- percent of their honey bee colonies, after a 34.2 percent
birds, geckos, midges, lemurs, beetles and some species of loss the previous year. Wild pollinators are declining too.
bats. Here in Montana, Annas hummingbirds and black- In late February of this year, an international group of
chinned hummingbirds pollinate honeysuckle, scarlet researchers affiliated with the United Nations released
paintbrush and columbine. Orchard mason bees pollinate the first global assessment of pollinators. They found that
fruit trees and berry bushes. Flower beetles feed on the more than 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species,
pollen of sunflowers and yarrow. The Great Basin bumble particularly bees and butterflies, and some 16 percent of
bee and the mountain bumble bee pollinate shooting vertebrate pollinators, such as birds and bats, are being
stars and silky lupine as well as tomatoes, eggplants and driven toward extinction. In a 2013 paper in Science,
peppers using a behavior called buzz pollination: grasping researchers described a 50 percent decline in bumble
a flower in her jaws, the bee vibrates her wings to release bee species in an Illinois forest. In March, federal wild-
pollen packed tightly in the anther, the filament at the end life biologists said they were considering placing the

56
We dont have a great sense of which pollinator species
are here today. Nor do we have adequate historical data to
compare current populations to. As a result, we have no real
sense of decline, but we can make general guesses.

western bumble bee on the endangered species list.


Pollinators are known as keystone speciesones
that have a disproportionately large effect on other species
in a community. Their fate is inextricably linked to the
fate of countless other plants and animals scattered over
vast, ostensibly disconnected landscapes. In other words,
their fate is linked to ours. The decline of pollinators
means a lot more than a shortage of honey; it threatens
the very food crops we depend on for our sustenance.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bees,
birds, bats and other creatures pollinate one out of every
three bites of food we consume in the United States.
Whats more, compared to self-pollinated and wind-
pollinated crops (think rice and wheat), pollinator-
dependent foods (such as nuts, berries, and citrus) provide
a disproportionate share of vitamins and minerals. About
90 percent of the globes wild plants also depend on
pollinators for survival. Without them, the plants cant
reproduce. According to another 2013 study in the journal
Science, wild pollinators are twice as effective as
domesticated honey bees in producing seeds and fruit on
crops including almonds, coffee, oilseed rape, tomatoes
and strawberries. So the decline of wild pollinators may
pose an even more alarming threat to crop yields than the
loss of honey bees. that are now common in North America, specifically to
Like other domesticated animal species, honey bees two facets of industrial agriculture: monoculturevast
are managed and, to a degree, their losses can be too. fields devoted to a single crop, which deprives pollina-
Beekeepers routinely add sugar or corn syrup to compen- tors of a varied diet and leaves them malnourished and
sate for the lack of wild forage. They also split their surviv- weakenedand widespread and intensive pesticide use,
ing colonies in the spring, making two hives from one. This particularly a controversial group of insecticides known
practice reduces honey production, but it keeps colony as neonicotinoids. Studies have suggested neonicotinoids
numbers high enough to meet pollination demands. Wild can impair bees navigational skills, foraging efficiency
pollinators arent so lucky. and memories and slow their rates of reproduction. Use of
these chemicals has increased significantly over the last
decade across the United States and globally. Applications

H
ere in Montana, the threats to these creatures of clothianidin, a neonicotinoid, on corn in Iowa alone
intertwine and mirror the causes of pollina- almost doubled between 2011 and 2013. Yet the European
tor decline elsewhere. Researchers point to Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in the EU concluded in
habitat destruction, climate change, parasites 2012 that neonicotinoids posed an unacceptable danger
and the intensive, industrial-scale agricultural systems to bees; this resulted in a continent-wide ban on three

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 57
neonics in 2013. In April, Ortho, the garden-care company pollinator health is habitat. Theres good evidence for
owned by Scotts Miracle-Gro, announced that it will stop the benefits of CRP (Conservation Reserve Program)
using neonicotinoids in three products for roses, trees, lands, she says. The more of these we have, the health-
and shrubs by next year and phase out the chemicals ier bees are.
use by 2021 in eight of its pesticide products, in hopes of Lay agrees, We used to leave the edges of fields to
saving declining pollinator populations. One of the lead- grow weeds and wildflowers, he says. Now we plow and
ing manufacturers of neonicotinoids, Bayer CropScience, plant everything to get more production. This means theres
a subsidiary of German chemical-pharmaceutical giant little left to feed the bees.
Bayer, continues to sell products containing neonics for In May of last year, the Obama Administration issued
agricultural, home garden and landscaping use, such as its a National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees
2-In-1 Systemic Rose & Flower Care, which has an active and Other Pollinators. One of the strategys goals was to
pesticide ingredient of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid. The increase understanding of wild pollinators by training more
EPA is currently reviewing the neonic class of pesticides to researchers to identify them and by devoting resources
assess its risk to pollinators. to develop better genetic and species-classification tools.
Working from her lab at Montana State University The strategy also calls for the creation of 7 million acres
in Bozeman, ecologist Dr. Laura Burkle directs several of corridors of pollinator-friendly habitat. In October of
research projects that focus on wild pollinators. The proj- 2015, the Department of Agriculture announced a grant
ects range from looking at how pollinators help landscapes to provide more than $4 million to farmers, ranchers and
recover after wildfire to investigating how different compo- other landowners in six statesincluding Montanato
nents of climate change, such as drought, temperature and plant food for bees.
carbon dioxide levels, may influence the plant traits, like
scent, that attract pollinators. But Montana suffers
from a lack of information about wild pollinators.
We dont have a great sense of which polli-
nator species are here today, Burkle says. Nor
do we have adequate historical data to compare
current populations to. As a result, we have no real
sense of decline, but we can make general guesses.
For example, today the Golden Triangle [of north

TASTE THIS
central Montana] is full of wheat. Before the region
was ever plowed under, it was full of wildflowers
and its likely it was full of wild pollinators then,

PLACE.
too. Today, its not.
Another MSU researcher, Dr. Michelle
Flenniken, focuses on honey bees and the viruses,
bacteria, fungi and mites that infect them. The
annual losses of honey bee colonies are alarming,
she says. And theyre unsustainable. Imagine
being a livestock producer and losing 33 percent
of your cows every year. Research in my lab is 100% local. 100% grass fed. all natural. humanely raised.
focused on the big epidemiological questions
behind honey bee health. Its a complex puzzle
and its easy for people to blame climate change or better for you.
better for montana.
agricultural chemicals, for example, but we have
to obtain data on the role of these and other factors
on colony health before implicating any one of
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58
U
sing organic and what he calls beyond organic regional beekeepers. It produces some of the best honey
hive management practices, 32-year-old Wustner in the world, he says. Its light in color and because it
is trying to reverse the honey bees demise, has a low moisture content, it doesnt granulate easily. And
beginning with his own bees. He avoids pesti- then theres its flavor, flowery and delicious.
cides and antibiotics, instead selectively breeding his colo- Wustner, too, has suffered colony losses70 percent
nies with feral bees to propagate a smaller, hardier bee that of his hives between last fall and this springbut this
is resistant to pests and diseases. To further bolster their didnt come as a surprise to him. I expect high losses
strength, he feeds his bees honey and pollen rather than the because Im doing treatment-free beekeeping and selec-
sugar water commonly used by commercial beekeepers, and tively breeding from the survivors. I stopped treating most
he surrounds them with a mix of florarather than just one of my colonies in 2013. Every year since has been differ-
cropensuring that they get a varied diet. ent. Although Ive had successes, Ive also had failures.
Bees are designed to eat food thats rich with the wild Coming from a commercial background and transition-
bacteria, yeast and fungi their immune systems depend ing into organic management, the learning curve has been
on, he tells me. Sugar doesnt contain these substances. steep. My mentors didnt teach me how to manage bees this
And bees are a little bit like humans. If they eat too much way. Im learning it from scratch and much of it is trial and
sugar, and not enough whole foods, they get sick. error. I expect it to get better, but Im not to the point where
Wustners bees browse the fields and mountain foothills I can say I have disease-resistant bees yet. Breeding for
within a mile or two of his hives. Their fodder is diverse, disease resistance isnt as easy and it takes time.
but they primarily feed on spotted knapweed. Designated But, he says, holding a frame teeming with honey
a noxious weed and considered a scourge by most here bees up toward the sun, bees feed the world. So, its
in Montana, knapweed is a boon to Wustner and other worth it.

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P.O. Box 1031 | Livingston, MT 59047
8 Miles south of livingston, Montana
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M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 59
ODD COR NERS

Even as change came in the form of Interstate 90, a stone house in the median near Livingston was built to say, a former owner wrote.

Between the Lanes Still, the new highway scooped away 83 acres of the
several hundred the Taylors owned there, and most of it
was irrigated hay ground, the loss of which made ranching
unsustainable.
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPH BY SCOT T McMILLION We knew it spelled the end of the ranch as a viable,
self-supporting unit, Larry wrote. We were heartsick,
but had no recourse but to sell to them.

I
nfrastructure surrounds most of us: roads and rail- So, as the pavement crept westward, the Taylors left the
ways, bridges and powerlines. All that stuff we rarely home where theyd raised their daughters and built a new
think about, unless it fails. house nearby, in 1973. The interstate opened in 1975.
Some of us are more surrounded by others. Thats Nancy Curtis moved in a decade later, first as a renter
been the case for a succession of residents of an elegant, and then as an owner.
double-gabled stone house that stands squarely between the I loved that house, Curtis said of the place she called
lanes of busy Interstate 90, a few miles west of Livingston. home for 12 years. Though the noisy interstate passes
The stone house has been there for 110 years, strad- within a pistol shot, the house and yard remained pretty
dled by I-90 for 41 of them quiet, she said, because of the abundant trees and the
Thats pretty unusual, said John Axline, the histo- hills surrounding it.
rian for the Montana Department of Transportation. Other And there might even be a former owners ghost on the
than a slaughterhouse near Butte, he said he didnt know property, Curtis said. Thats why she never liked to go in
of any other structures in Montanas medians. the barn alone and got a big Labrador dog that she always
Florence Taylor had lived in the house for at least a sent in first. And she announced her presence at the door:
dozen years when highway planners started putting stakes Mrs. Potter, were coming in.
in the ground in the late 1960s. She said she and her late The dog also brought peace of mind when people with
husband Larry didnt have much choice about where the broken vehicles beat on her door at night, which happened
road would go. Still, highway engineers never pushed the fairly often.
concept of bulldozing or moving the house, which has two- All those times, I was happy to have a big black dog,
foot thick stone walls and a foundation 10 feet deep. she said.
The house was built to stay, Larry Taylor wrote in Still, she felt the house embraced her.
a history of his ranch, a volume that documented the last I always felt the house liked having me there, she said.
Park County death of a white man at the hands of Indians, Others have lived there since she left, and the property
ancient buffalo trails, numerous Indian artifacts and even recently sold. And now the old house has new neighbors.
a duel between ranch hands fighting with pitchforks. Eight years ago, the owners of another parcel, just to the
Were the Taylors treated fairly by the government? east but also in the median, put up a ranch style home.
Sort of, Florence Taylor said. I suppose they could Its no longer the only house in the middle, Curtis
have just condemned the private property. said of her former home.

60
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H I S T ORY

After
Ivan
A visit to Meagher
County now that a
famous son is gone

BY BEN NICKOL

PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOMAS LEE


T
heres a great deal about soused so much as absorbing news and compan-
White Sulphur Springs that ionship, both of which were in short supply on the
hasnt changed in the 70 ranches where he spent the workweek. Some nights,
years since Ivan Doig was a Ivan would sleep in the truck, curled beneath his
boy there. The population, for fathers mackinaw jacket while Charlie drained one
instance. After some high water last beer.
years in the 1970s and 80s, when the towns popu- There arent nine anymore, but arriving in town
lation ticked over 1,300, there are now, according to this March morning, I spot, along the windblown
Census estimates, only 965 souls living in the city, Main Street, at least five establishments where a
which is about 30 more faces than wouldve been visiting journalist might obtain a beer, along with
seen on the streets in 1950, when Mr. Doig was 11. one or two businesses that might or might not be
There remain a bounty of drinking establish- bars. Its difficult to say; I suppose Id just have to
ments on White Sulphurs main drag. In This House ask for a drink and see what happened. Im also
of Sky (1978), the acclaimed memoir that brought pleased to see that several of the bars are the same
White Sulphur Springs to life for so many thousands ones that Doig describes in his bookthe Mint, the
of readers, and launched the career of a writer the Stockman, the Lane (which in Doigs time was the
Chicago Sun-Times once described as the premier Melody Lane). Down to the signs nailed above the
writer of the American West, Doig walks the reader doors, this, in 2016, appears to be very much the
through a procession of these country saloons, same White Sulphur Springs that so many readers,
endowing each with a unique character and mood. with aching hearts, have discovered in Doigs pages.
In Doigs time, there were nine watering holes in I even spot, at the curb in front of the Stockman bar,
town. On Saturday nights he would accompany his a Chevrolet pickup thats old enough to have been
father from one to the next, Charlie Doig not getting the one Ivan slept in.

Old meeting new is a common theme in White Sulphur Springs. New enterprises begin amid reminders of the past.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 63
Whenever I got sleepy in one of the other saloons, I would go out to
our pickup, clutch the gearshift up away from the edge of the seat, and
curl myself down, the steering wheel over me like a hollowed moon

O
f course, there are important differences between
the White Sulphur Springs of the 1940s and the
White Sulphur of now. For one thing, the town
described in This House of Sky existed in part to support
a robust sheep industry. For much of his life, Charlie Doig
worked on those wool operations, whether as a camp tender
or foreman. One of the ranches, known as the Camas Ranch,
ran as many as 6,000 ewes when Charlie Doig worked there.

Lambing at the Camas stretched as


one long steady emergency, like a war
alert which never quite ignites into
battle but keeps on demanding scurry
and more scurry.

A
s of 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture
inventoried no more than 4,900 head of sheep in
all of Meagher County. Over the course of my time
in and around White Sulphur Springs, I see not one fleecy
beast. There are plenty of black cattle freckled across the
snowy benchlands, and plenty of lean antelope fleeing
through the fields. But no sheep.
Also, sadly, theres no longer any Ivan. On April 9,
2015, after 16 volumes of fiction and nonfiction, and after
75 years of life, Doig passed away in Seattle from compli- Timber, for a short while, was big business in White Sulphur
Springs. Today, it takes a good deal of looking to come across the
cations of multiple myeloma. But even before his death, pile of logs outside Quita Myrstols home on the eastern edge of
Doig was never really a fixture in the town where he had White Sulphur Springs. Myrstol says she and her husband, Tyler,
spent his formative years. According to his widow, Carol took over the family timber business in 2001, and employ up to a
dozen people.
Doig, after the passing of his father and grandmother in
White Sulphur in the 1970s, Ivan simply felt that there
had been too much family death in the Smith River his surprise at returning to his hometown in the early
Valley for him to go back there. Instead he was drawn to 1960s and encountering the blue plume of smoke from
the Rocky Mountain Front, in and around Dupuyer, where the sawmills scrap burners. In just the few years since
he spent his later childhood, enjoyed some comparatively hed moved away, the town had swapped itself from being
stable and happy years and set several of his later novels. a livestock town to a logging town. This itself was a short-
Yet even before Doig distanced himself from White lived transformation. In the 1980s, the mill was shuttered,
Sulphur Springs, the town and Meagher County were in and the town once more swapped itself, this time from a
flux. Towards the end of This House of Sky, Doig describes logging town into well, the residents werent sure what.

64
Sarah Calhoun and her 10-year-old border collie, Nellie, relax on the couch in the small apartment at the back of the Red Ants Pants
headquarters in White Sulphur Springs.

In fact, even today, White Sulphur Springs isnt certain what quest for stability and solvency has inspired a similarly
will replace the lumber economy that half a century ago diverse range of enterprises. The best known of them,
replaced their wool economy. As happened so many times perhaps, is Sarah Calhouns Red Ants Pants, a company
to the Doigs when Ivan was young, the town itself has been that designs and manufactures sturdy apparel for women
thrust into improvising, by one means or another, some kind working hard in the outdoors. Red Ants Pants also spon-
of livelihood. For Charlie Doig, this meant hopping from one sors an annual music festival in White Sulphur Springs,
ranch to another, combing up and down the Smith River which in recent years has drawn acts such as Merle
Valley. It meant, one year, acquiring the lease on a caf and Haggard, Emmylou Harris and Charley Pride. The town
launching himself, with no prior experience, into the restau- has also produced musical talent of its own, most notably
rant business, only to abandon that endeavor a few seasons Taylor Gordon, the son of a slave who went on to inter-
later and rededicate himself to ranching. national fame as a singer of spirituals. On occasion, hed
For todays residents of White Sulphur Springs, the perform in his home town.

Every so often he would perform at the high school auditorium,


singing the spirituals he had heard from his mother as she worked
at her wash tubs. His tenor voice could ripple like muscle, hold
like a hawser across the notes: Swiiing low, sweet chaaaariot

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 65
I
ts a Saturday, but Calhoun and several employees are
hard at work. Theyre gearing up for the announce-
ment of the music festivals 2016 lineup, and also for
a community Easter event that theyre hosting the next
morning. Calhoun leads me into the buildings rear office,
where every horizontal surface has been given over to
overflowing bowls of Easter candy. The office has a decid-
edly domestic character, with sofas, a kitchen, a sleeping
loft. While trying to get Red Ants Pants off the ground
a decade ago, Calhoun lived in the back of the building
while working in the front and seeing to whatever repairs
the building required. Her company very much evokes the
resourcefulness so ubiquitous in This House of Sky: cobble
together what assets are available, and make as good a go
of it as you can, for as long as you can.

if the summer could be passed


without catastrophe roaring in from the
mountains or grabbing up out of the
earth, this would at last be a year when
we had made good money from the
sheep and could afford some new start.

P
erhaps its no accident that the industrious spirit
of Ivans father and grandmother is evident in
Calhouns work. Indeed, as she explains to me, it
was after reading This House of Sky that she decided to
begin a life and a business in Meagher County. With no
small amount of pride, she recounts for me a letter that
Mr. Doig wrote her in which he commends her for helping
to make his hometown perk.
In White Sulphur Springs, Calhoun isnt alone in her
affection for Doig. I meet several individuals who, when
I tell them about this article, nod solemnly and respond
with some version of: Thats one hell of a book. Calhoun
says the book has resonance here because of its refusal
to romanticize Montana life. The Big Sky Country expe-
rience, after alland particularly the Meagher County the settlers were trying a slab of lofty
experienceis not all fly fishing and skiing and trophy
hunting. As Sarah puts it: Look, this is a hard place to country which often would be too cold
live. And she believes that the books acknowledgment and dry for their crops, too open to a
of that arduousnessand its respect for ithas in turn
earned Doig the respect of the town. killing winter for their cattle and sheep.

66
Old and new blend at the 2 Basset Brewery in downtown White
Sulphur Springs, where Chris and Barry Hedrich are making a
go of things. The Hedrichs say they did much of the remodeling
necessary for their new brewery themselves, including the
installation of the old-looking tin ceiling.

At left: The train depot in Ringling, a few miles south of White


Sulphur Springs, is a relic from the past. Ivan Doig lived in Ringling
with his grandmother during the 1940s, when train tracks and
trains actually ran through the town.

it, it represents a striking out, an economic rolling of the


dicesomeones giving it a go.
Soon, Im sipping an IPA and visiting with Barry
Hedrich, who founded the 2 Basset along with his wife,
Chris. Two long dogs commence to sniffing my shoes, and
I must be something of a fool because the first question I
pose to Barry is: So what inspired the name 2 Basset?
Walking around town that morning, Ive noticed in
several windows the signs offering support for the Black
Butte Copper Project, a new mine that could begin opera-
tions north of town in the next few years. In Helena, where
I live, common bumper stickers read: NO SMITH RIVER
MINE! and SAVE OUR SMITH. Is this mine, in Barrys
opinion, a good thing?
Hedrich seems concerned with what consequences

A
s Ive strolled back and forth down White the mine might have, both good and bad. And while he
Sulphurs main drag, Ive kept my eye on the 2 certainly doesnt deny the risk of the project, he says its
Basset Brewery, partly because Im growing thirsty, an opportunity to harvest metals that we need in a moni-
but also because the appearance of a new brewery here is tored and regulated environment, as opposed to import-
an expression of so much of what I find interesting about the ing those metals from foreign mines where operations are
town. Like Red Ants Pants and Charlie Doigs caf before less controlled. If the mine and its jobs can provide an

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 67
economic boost to White Sulphur Springs, all the better. Its a fair perspective, certainly. And I can tell that Hedrich
would be open to other perspectives, should they be offered, but he grows impatient with opponents of the mine who come
from out of town and talk about preserving their Smith River. Hedrich has lived in Meagher County his whole life; if
the Smith River belongs to these strangers, then its certainly news to him.
Theyre hospitable people at the 2 Basset. Theyd like me to stay for another beer, and possibly for dinner, but two
drinks is plenty when youre driving remote Montana highways. Traveling back to Helena, Ill pass the aptly named Battle
Creek, where Charlie Doig and his second wife endured a bitter winter before going their separate directions. That also
was the winter that Ivans dog fell through the ice of Battle Creek, and drowned.

The grayness stretching all around us baffled my eyes. Where I knew


hills had to be no hills showed. The sagebrush too had vanished, from a
countryside forested with its clumps. One gray sheet over and under and
around, the snow and overcast had fused land and sky together.

B
efore leaving the valley, though, I swing through Ringling, where Ivan lived for a time with his grandmother,
Bessie Ringer. As Doig describes it, even in the 1940s Ringling was only the imprint of what had been a town,
like the yellowed outline on grass after a tent has been taken down. I stand for a time before the towns ghostly
train depot, to the east and west of which runs a right-of-way that no longer holds any rails: its just a shelf of grass.

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68
Swallows swoop in and out of
the structure, tending nests in the
rafters. Im wondering if Ringling
is what happens to a place when
all the sheep and mills disap-
pear, and no Red Ants Pants, no
2 Basset, and no mine (possibly)
rise in their stead. Maybe a town
Battle
just fades away like this? But even
Creek
as I stand there, I notice that there flows
are several homes in Ringling with through
groomed lawns and with smoke pasture
land
rising from chimneys. And just southwest
down the hill from where I stand, of White
across from the small post office, Sulphur
Springs.
theres what looks to be a conve- Ivan Doig
nience store or grocery. Or maybe spent a
an auto garage. Whatever it is, its difficult
winter as a
got new ice bins out front and a
child living
fresh coat of paint. Whatever it is, near the
someones giving it a go. creek.

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M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 69
BOOKS

PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL R. WYLIE

History Runs Red


AN INTERVIEW WITH PAUL R. W YLIE BY KRIS KING

M
ost of us are aware that adversity, violence seven years meticulously researching the historic dynam-
and missteps were hallmarks of settlers ics, incidents, and personalities that led to this little-
moving into Montana, the traditional territory known chapter of Montanas history for his book Blood on
of numerous indigenous tribes including the the Marias: The Baker Massacre.
Blackfeet. But fewer are aware of one of the worst culmi- On a subzero January dawn in 1870, U.S. Calvary
nations of these hallmarks: the 1870 Baker Massacre of troops attacked a defenseless Blackfeet camp sickened by
more than 200 innocent Blackfeet near the Marias River. smallpox while most of the men were out hunting. And it
Bozemans Paul R. Wylie, a former attorney, spent wasnt even the camp they were looking for. Scouts told

70
the reportedly drunk commander, Major Eugene Baker BLOOD ON THE MARIAS
(the namesake of the massacre), that it was the wrong
camp. He disregarded the information, threatened the The Baker Massacre
By Paul R. Wylie | University of Oklahoma Press, hardcover,
scouts, and launched the attack; soldiers firing at dawn
336 pages, $29.95
into lodges full of sleeping people. The doomed Piegan
camps chief, Heavy Runner, was shot while holding up
a document declaring the bands friendliness to whites. players, sites, events and
The elders, women, youth and infants were slaughtered complex economic and
mercilessly. First-hand reports include not just rifle fire; sociological dynamics
prisoners were hacked to death with axes and infants were that laid the groundwork
slung by their heels and heads bashed on rocks. The for the Baker Massacre.
camp was burned, horses seized, and the survivorssick, Only a few months after
wounded and stripped of their belongingswere turned publication, this defini-
out into the 30-degrees-below-zero winter wilderness. tive historical account
Amazingly, some survived to tell the tale, and became the will soon go into a second
ancestors of contemporary Blackfeet. printing and is destined
The right camp downriver had been tipped off and to be a classic of Western
its members escaped. That camp was led by Mountain history.
Chief and had been targeted for punishment by the U.S. Paul Wylie grew up in
military because some renegade members of that band, White Sulphur Springs,
led by a man named Owl Child, had killed Malcolm earned a degree in chem-
Clarke, a prominent white rancher with a criminal past ical engineering from Montana State University, and was a
who was married to Owl Childs sister. The two men had rocket engineer and patent examiner before earning a law
had a series of personal conflicts, culminating in Clarkes degree. After retiring from practice as a corporate, tech-
murder. nical and financial attorney, he has dedicated his time to
Reports from Montana media and military officials independent research. His first book was The Irish General:
glorified the slaughter. I remember the day when we Thomas Francis Meagher. Wylie and his wife Arlene live in
slaughtered the Piegans, and how it occurred to me as I Bozeman.
sat down on the banks of the Marias & watched the stream
of their blood, which ran down on the surface of the frozen Montana Quarterly: Is there anything youd like readers
river over half a mile, that the work we were doing would to know going into Blood on the Marias?
be rewarded, as it has been, Lieutenant Gus Doane Paul Wylie: The massacre itself was hideous, and it is
recalled later. While accounts of the massacre inflamed described in some detail, so readers should be prepared for
some, particularly in the East, official reports misrepre- that.
sented the shameful details and problematic reports were
likely destroyed. MQ: How did you make the transition from attorney to
A significant government policy did result from the author?
Baker Massacre tragedy: The U.S. War Departments PW: After a lengthy career in the law, I felt I wanted
desire to take over the Bureau of Indian Affairs was to get into another field of serious work, so I gradually
thwarted and the Department of the Interior retained replaced most of the law books in my office (which I still
jurisdiction. That our government could concoct a legal have) with history books and transitioned into researching
and moral justification for the near obliteration of an and writing.
entire clan, in response to the behavior of a few rogues
(and not even the camp they were looking for, but simply MQ: What did you learn from writing your first book,
the first one they found) is a disturbing Montana legacy. The Irish General: Thomas Francis Meagher?
Blood on the Marias: The Baker Massacre includes PW: The Irish General was my first experience with the
46 photos, illustrations and maps, an index, and over 60 book publishing process, which was much more challeng-
pages of source notes. Wylie exhaustively details the many ing and required more work from the author than I had

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 71
expected. Along the way, I was helped by many people, MQ: Do you see James Welchs Fools Crow as comple-
among them Ivan Doig, a grade school classmate from mentary reading to Blood on the Marias?
White Sulphur Springs, who gave me some good advice. PW: Yes. It is a famous work and should be read.

MQ: How much do you think regional newspapers MQ: Did you have any compunction as a white man in
sensationalism and fearmongering contributed to aggression Montana, the cultural descendant of seizers, telling this
against Native Americans? tragic Blackfeet story?
PW: I cite probably inaccurate newspaper accounts in PW: I try to research and write objectively and without
the book, including the accusations in the Montana Post in bias, so I did not question my ability to get into the causes
1867, that Mountain Chief was responsible for killing John and details of this terrible event and develop a factual
Bozeman, a belief apparently held by no one today. This may record from primary sources.
have started early the notoriety of Mountain Chiefs band.
MQ: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
MQ: How much do you think the placement of post-Civil PW: I can really only speak about writing historical non-
War military men in positions of power in Montana, where fiction, and for that I would say pick a subject that really
they were ill-prepared and ill-suited, contributed to the interests you, and the new facts and insights you discover
escalation of the conflicts? will be motivating and drive the work to completion. Decide
PW: The placement of career military officers in on a style that fits both you and the subject matter and start
Montana who had served in the Civil War that left over writing as soon as you can, adding to it when you can.
600,000 soldiers dead produced a military solution that You can do revisions, editing and embellishments later.
resulted in the death of Heavy Runners band. Whatever you do, dont give up!

MQ: Has there been


any discussion of restitu-
tion to the survivors for the
massacre?
The Western Tradition: Style and Comfort
PW: I have heard noth- Boots Built to Outlast
ing, but then the time frame the Elements ...
for my research really ended
in the 1870s. Someone else
l Kenetrek
should be able to pick up
the story from that point
l Wesco
and bring it forward, and l Hathorn Hi-line
I hope they do. It will be l And, of course,
fascinating. Carters Own Western
Boots
MQ: What was your expe-
rience participating in the Western Fashion
Blackfeet memorial cere- for the Times ...
mony of the massacre at the
Marias site?
l Atwood Hats
PW: I felt honored to
be invited to speak at the
l Smartwool Socks
commemoration and be able l Churchill Gloves
to express my own sorrow for l Unique Jewelry
the massacre. I treasure the
positive comments I received
on the book. 234 E. Main Street (406) 585-8607
Bozeman cartersboots.com

72
BOOK R EV I EWS B Y E L I S E AT C H I S O N

Examining the Art of Deception


F
iction is the lie through which we tell the The suspense lies not only
truth, Albert Camus said. Lies in real life in figuring out the who and
might wreak havoc and ruin lives, but lies on the what, but also the why
the page can form necessary stories that reveal truths why are these young men
about who we are as human beings. Three new books and women returning from
by Missoula-area authors Gwen Florio, Beth Hunter Afghanistan so shattered?
McHugh and Matt Pavelich deftly use the art of decep- The story begins when
tion to help us understand the messy complexities of Lola sets out on a vacation to
the human condition. Thats what fiction is for, Tim Yellowstone with her three-
OBrien has said. Its for getting at the truth when the legged dog Bub and her five-
truth isnt sufficient for the truth. year-old daughter Margaret,
an intrepid sidekick who is
often one step ahead of Lola.
DISGRACED As a favor to a friend, Lola stops at the Casper, Wyoming,
airport to pick up Palomino Pal Jones, a soldier return-
By Gwen Florio | Midnight Ink, softcover,
ing from Afghanistan. We are immediately thrown into
288 pages, $14.99
chaos when another soldier shoots himself at the airport.
Palomino Jones is a mess, carving enigmatic slashes
Lola Wicks is back and better than ever in Gwen in her arm and subsisting on nothing but canned ravi-
Florios third novel, Disgraced. This book has all the oli and bourbon. Her surly silence and lack of hygiene
qualities of a good mystery novel: Interesting protago- repel Lola. But she quickly realizes that Pal is deeply
nist? Check. Compelling storyline? Check. Vivid writ- troubled by her time in Afghanistan, her spirit weigh-
ing? Check. Florio honed her writing skills during ing heavier than all of her body parts combined.
her 30-year career as a journal- When Lola learns that of the six young soldiers from
ist reporting on everything from Pals small town of Thirty, one died in Afghanistan, one
the Columbine shootings and the committed suicide, and most of the others are spiraling
Missoula date rape trials to the out of control, she thinks, Such a small group. Such big
conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq trouble. Such a good story. ... What the hell happened
and Somalia. Those experiences to those folks over there? ... Shed never seen a single
lend depth and authenticity to her community hit so hard in such a short time. A news-
fiction. hound hot on the scent of a story, she is back on the
Lola is a gutsy, lusty, decid- chase, slipping into the old well-oiled moves.
Gwen Florio edly undomesticated woman But when she starts investigating she is given multi-
who is more at home in a news- ple, conflicting stories. As the lies pile up, she is told
room than she was anywhere else. She is an obsessive that People have been through enough, and it would
reporter who is incapable of letting a good story slip be best for everyone if she would just drop the story.
through her fingers, a trait that leads her into all sorts Lola doesnt buy it. Isnt the truth always better? she
of trouble. Theres plenty of action and suspense in the says. Its messy, but so is war.
form of wild car chases, spine-tingling violence, and an Disgraced takes on some of the most pressing issues
unconsummated sex scene that nearly burns the paper of our time: the triple scourges of war, racism and
its written on. But this is also a psychological mystery sexism. How do we face such seemingly insurmountable
that delves deep into the interior ravages of war and problems? Not through silence and lies, Lola insists.
PTSD, entrenched prejudice against Native Americans, Cowboy up, sissy. Seek the truth. Speak up. And read
and the high costs of being a woman in the military. this book.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 73
THE ACTOR neighbors. I feared what
Franny could so easily
By Beth Hunter McHugh | Riverbend Publishing, hardcover,
discern; it seemed that the
232 pages, $22.95
neighborhood could hold
nothing secret for long. If
Its easy to see why The Actor by Beth Hunter Franny could take a simple
McHugh won Riverbend Publishings 2015 Meadowlark stroll and learn about affairs
Award. McHugh has written a quiet, powerful coming- and strange visitors and sex
of-age novel about growing up in a very nice house in dark cars, how evident
built on a foundation of secrets and lies. The book were our own secrets?
explores the fragile and fluid sanctity of home, the McHugh has sculpted a
damaging pressures to conform to societys norms, and wise and moving debut novel
the difficulties of navigating the minefields of adoles- about the journey from youth-
cence among the prying eyes and perpetual gossip of ful innocence and the comforting illusion of permanence
small-town Montana in the 1960s. to the acceptance of change and the expanding hori-
The family secret is revealed early in the book. zons of young adulthood. We walked and the sun of
Gracie and her younger sister Franny live with their that country spread reams of light in every direction; we
mother Nora, a poet and law professor, and their father walked feeling blessed simply for knowing a wider space
David, an actor and drama teacher. On the surface than any we had known before. This is a big-hearted
their lives are perfect: loving and artistic parents,
bohemian cocktail parties, and the innocent faith
that things will always stay the same. But every-
thing changes when a young acting student named
Ivan comes to live with them. It soon becomes
apparent that Ivan and David are in love, and
they move to New York, shattering the familys
stability. The remainder of the book fleshes out
that inevitable acts fallout on Gracie, Franny and
their mother.
McHugh tells this story of one family going
through cataclysmic changes with great subtlety
and precision. When Gracie witnesses a fight
between her mother and father over Ivan, she sees
her normally composed mother throw a dish across
the room. Gracie goes to sleep that night thinking
about my mothers smashed gravy boat, the dust
from the wreckage still stuck in crevices on the
kitchen floor where cleaning could not reach. The
china dust would remain there forever; it would get
caught on the soles of our feet and would be carried
with us all, wherever we walked in the world.
Gracies younger sister Franny is one of the
most engaging characters in the book. She has
a childish sophistication reminiscent of Carson
McCullers young female protagonists. Franny
is an insomniac who wanders the streets of their
neighborhood at night in her nightgown and
plastic curlers, returning with gossip about the

74
Pavelich is a master at conjuring a powerful
and compelling narrators voice.

story about love and loss and resiliencethe small character and the imagina-
exploding moments that tear down and build up our tive details of this fictional
hearts every daythe stuff that life is made of. Who dream world that capture our
were we to assume we were the only ones who had ever attention. I was a fine speci-
known sadness, Gracie says. Everyone else is moving men of a promising race that
on. So must we. should have done very well on
this planet, says our none-
too-humble hominid. Our
SURVIVORS SAID names and all our words were
as bird song, fruity bursts of
By Matt Pavelich | Drumlummon Institute, softcover,
328 pages, $16.95
melody, of pure emotion. ...
With a language incapable of
capturing the past or paint-
Matt Pavelich is a very effective liar. Survivors Said ing a future we lived in a succession of perfectly ripe
collects four decades worth of his highly imaginative, moments. ... We sang under the hides throughout most
incredibly inventive stories, an eclectic mix that pulls of each endless winter, sustaining harmonies like the
the reader in and holds us from the first line to the last. northern lights.
The scope of this collection is sweeping. Pavelich In one of my favorite stories, Empty Lot, an over-
takes us into the worlds of a now-extinct Ice Age homi- confident young boy lives his life with very little fear
nid and a suicidal mental patient, a bored bank robber and a whole lot of chutzpah. The boy befriends a fearful,
and a flippant teenage violin player, an AWOL gover- unpopular kid named Randy Creamer, and he decides
nor in the Montana Territory and a group of Blackfeet to teach Randy about the ways of the worldstarting
slow elk hunters, a lonely with how to hop a train. When Randy whines that hes
enlisted man visiting a brothel worried about getting his leg cut off, the narrator says,
and an aging, once-famous musi- It was as if this kid had never seen a decent western.
cian whose life is hijacked by an If you fall, you roll between the wheels. You lay flat on
increasingly demonic gray kitten. the tracks and the train goes over you. ... The situation
These charactersyoung and old, wants no further study. You jump. This dangerously
male and female, contemporary overconfident young boy is every parents nightmare,
and historicalare all survi- but every readers delight.
vors. As one character says, One In Punta Coyote, a Nebraska woman drags her
Matt Pavelich unadventurous husband to the backroads of Mexico
survives and survives, and every
survival exacts its price. My God, looking for excitement, but she finds more than she
I am hard to extinguish. bargained for. The beauty of the Baja peninsula takes
Pavelich is a master at conjuring a powerful and on an ominous tone when they find themselves staying
compelling narrators voice. These are characters with in an old prison compound owned by the violent and
attitude, characters that keep us enthralled through mysterious Senor Maldonado. Wont this be a story,
their sheer hubris and swagger. though? her husband says. Kind of colorful.
In My Distant Youth, the protagonist is a four- Survivors Said is a wild carnival ride well worth the
thumbed Pleistocene hominid (Homo somethingelsus) price of admission. These engaging stories are full of
living right at the moment when the Lake Missoula humor and pathos: we laugh at the characters follies;
ice dam broke, sending a catastrophic rush of water to we fear for them; we cheer them on. All stories should
the Pacific Ocean. It is the narrative force of this odd be this entertaining.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 75
The Big Snowy Prize
Excellence By Young Writers
FICTION WINNER: KJ KERN

Funeral
Potatoe s
A
nna Plaster was found dead in her bathroom. She
was 81, so nothing to lose your mind over. Heres
a photo of her best friends: also my grandparents.

Grandma and Grandpa

76
Them two, much older than pictured, pulled slow and said: Last time we went out to lunch she
up to Annas house on a Saturday. I was there told me shed live to be a hundred and I said dream
with them. Annas CRV was in the carport. Most on. But I do feel bad about it now. Now where will I
Saturdays, like almost every one until that one for go on Saturdays?
50 years, Anna and my grandma would go to lunch.
The last few years theyd go in that CRV, and my

O
grandma would complain about the pissy smell n funeral day, after sitting through the cere-
of it and Annas slow driving and her short list of mony in the church, after driving out to the
acceptable restaurants. Anna would drive and my cemetery and helping a bunch of old dudes
grandma would bitch at her and theyd wind up haul the casket to the drop zone, after driving back
at Country Harvest or Perkins or China Garden. to the church for postgame lunch, I saw probably the
Annas favorite: China Garden. least expected basketball hoop Ive ever seen. It just
We went in through the kitchen. Grandpa led hung there, over the carpeted floor:
me over to a side room that
had a wall-to-wall four-foot
pile of randomnessFrosted
Flake boxes and googly-eyed
dolls and loose stretches
of colorful fabric. Not even
room for a footpath, just a
What the hell?
tall wave of shit. He shook
his head and we got to work.
Grandpa sat at the table and
went through all the kitchen
envelopes. Grandma kind
of floated around, halfway
going through things. I went
room by room, jamming
trash into bags and stuff into
boxes. Put the bags in the
back alley and the boxes in
the bed of Grandpas truck.
The bedroom was thick with
booksmostly Readers Digest compilations and I dished up, took a little of all three varieties
LDS material. As instructed, I thumbed through of funeral potatoes so as not to offend any of the
every one of them to make sure there wasnt any church ladies responsible for the spread. Got a slice
cash hidden between the pages. Got sprayed in of ham on a roll and a couple colors of the Jell-O
the face with dust each time. All I found was some salad and sat down with my grandparents, wearing
bookmarks. Grandma followed me into the bath- my grandpas suit and feeling dumb about it. The
room, where Anna had been found dead on the arms werent long enough. A few peoplechurch or
floor with the sink running. I opened her wash- relatives I dont knowwere struggling with a DVD
ing machine and it was loaded with badly soiled player on a wheelie cart. Grandma said, in a voice
clothes. Grandma said: What would be really sad she thought was low: Id be glad to tell those people
would be to lay here for three days rotting in your off with this Mickey Mouse hillbilly shit. One of my
own shit. That would be terrible. uncles, an airline pilot, went over and got it sorted
Yeah, I said and started throwing mildewed wash out. He walked back to his table expecting a heros
cloths into a trash bag and set aside the unopened welcome, like you have to graduate flight school
cases of Quilted Northern to be put in the truck and to work a DVD player. So the slideshow of Anna
taken home. pictures played over some sad/uplifting music. I
Grandma sat down on the couch, looked around was in some of the flicks as a young kid. I dont

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 77
remember interacting with her a whole lot. She was If they tell me I have cancer Ill say bring on the
around, though. Usually sunk into a couch and not marijuana and smoke til I die. I think itd be great.
saying much. I know she liked me because I dont Id sit and smoke and eat my Ho Hos in my mari-
mess with alcohol. She was way into that. Said she juana daze.
was proud of me that I respected myself enough to I think you should do that even if you dont get
make good choices. I was like, Thanks. cancer, I said.
I could see Grandma eyeballing Annas brother
and his wife. Being familyby blood rather than
decades of riding for each otherthey got into
town after the news broke and started running shit.
Their plan was to flatten the house and sell the lot.
Grandma didnt like that: Thats where she lived.
She cared about all of this.
Grandma, its just stuff, its not her, I said.
Well yes I know that, she told me. But all the
same its not right.

Y
ou know where I almost peed? Grandma said,
rocking back in her recliner. Down at the
mortuary in the cigarette butt thing.
I laughed, said: Yeah, weird day.
When we die were dead get over it, Grandma
said. Theres no going to the spirit world and
become whole again. She looked across the room,
over at the far end of the couch. Said: That will
always be Annas spot, wont it? Now I know her
clothes were all full of shit.
Jesus, Judy, Grandpa said from the kitchen.
What? Thats why the water was left running.
She shit herself to death.
Well wait and see what the autopsy shows,
Grandpa said.
Autopsy? Theres not gon be one. Youd think
theyd want to know if it was something could be
passed down. But theyre cheap lets face it thats
why theyre rich.
Evidently, Grandpa said.
You know I always was glad when somebody
died, because Sherri would bring that Texas sheet
cake. Theyre like no brownie you ever had.
What happened to the sheet cake? I asked.
Well Sherri died, too. Everyone is dying, Leo,

T
its just you and me left. Weve got to be next. his is how A nnas house looked when I
Im ready! he said. Be a hell of a lot less work. pulled up to shovel the walk. Wouldnt
If I die before next Christmas people are going have to bother with the driveway. The
to think Im crazy for how I packed those decora- CRV sold and there wouldnt be anybody coming
tions away. through. I pulled on these neon gloves that Id
If I die before next Thursday I wont have to got at Wal-Mart in the work section and grabbed
haul out to Victor for another load of wood. the fiberglass shovel out of my back seat. Not a

78
wide lot so there wasnt a ton of sidewalk to deal she wouldve been able. Her back was jacked up
with. Youd think her neighbors on either side and she walked all hunched over. Grandma would
could each tack a half of hers onto their own and always complain about this when they ate out at
call it good, if they knew she was even dead. I got places where you had to carry your own tray. Shed
to shoveling and wondered if this was something say how she couldnt believe Annas food didnt
shed been doing on her own. Didnt seem like wind up dumped on the floor. A lot of what was on
the sidewalk had frozen hard and wasnt coming
up as I pushed along. I got to attacking it with the
shovel blade, slamming against the edge of the
iced-over parts. I could feel the impact through
the gloves, in my palms. I couldve trusted the
neighbors not to slip, just left it and itd all melt
away. But the work of it felt good. Satisfying when
Id break through and the ice would bust off in
sheets.

I
walked out to the kitchen with designs
of filling up my water bottle. Heard
Grandpa go, Oh! Saw Grandma half-
way out the backdoor, trying to turn away from me
to hide the cigarette she was working on. I kept my
head down, filled the bottle, got out of there.
Course I knew she was back smoking. Didnt
care. The world had been trying to kill her for
decades. If snagging one of Grandpas Marlboros
and thinking she was real smooth in her secret
smoking of it felt good to her in any kind of way,
Annas place. then, yeah. But she didnt want me to know. So I let
her think that I didnt.
No Anna. When I came back out to the living room
Grandma was in her chair and adjusting the brace
shed had to wear since her last hand surgery. Well I
dont know that looks like shit, she said, twisting her
arm so she could inspect the Velcro. The sad thing
is Im so used to pain and surgeries it just rolls right
off me. Six more weeks with this on. And if I quit
wearing it I doubt that quacky hand guy would even
notice, with his belt up around his belly. Leo could
you believe how he wears his pants?
He has a certain shape to him.
He must be shit-all stupid. Dont have to take
the brace off to see these fingers are still crooked.
Course I knew she was Maybe I should quit bitching about it. Should I?
None of us know what you go through, Grandpa
back smoking. Didnt care. said.
Who?
The world had been trying You.
I dont go through anything Im a lazy piece of
to kill her for decades. ugly shit.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 79
Every Saturday I used
Fish tank
to go out. Imagine? Now
whens the last time I left
the house other than for a
doctors appointment or to
get my teeth adjusted?

both made it through the soup fine but were just


kind of picking at the egg roll theyd split. Grandma
turned her head toward Grandpa, said: You look
like death warmed over. Youre too thin.
Used to be I was too fat, he said, and pulled
some egg roll cabbage out of his mustache.
Eat. Or are you trying to get your girlish figure
back?
I cant get anything back.
Well youve got no butt, so fill it up.
Foods good anyway, I said.
It is that, Grandma said. I guess thats why we
came here. Do I look ok? This hair is like a wet dish
rag.
We told her she looked good but she wasnt
trying to hear it.
Grandma said: I look in the mirror and am good

O
n a Saturday, we all three went to the China looking. I look in pictures and I look like shit, like
Garden. a dead dog. And then take off my bra and my boobs
They sat us at a table more meant for hang past my belly button.
two with a third chair pulled up on the side. When Judy.
the waiter came to ask for drink orders and how we The only reason Id want to get breast cancer is
were doing Grandma said: Crowded. Grandpa did so both of my boobs could get cut off. Could you
an uncomfortable laugh, said: Its a small table. The pass me that? I wish theyd put the noodles on top
waiter offered to move us but they said no because instead of bottom. They get soggy on the bottom.
we were already here. Next time Ill ask for them on top. But then I might
We didnt have to crack a menu. Grandma talked get some spit in there, too.
about how much Anna liked the wonton soup. When Like that idiot brother of yours asks for the
time came Grandpa ordered for us, family style. We cheese under the pizza sauce. Ill bet hes eaten all
knew Id be doing the bulk of the eating, and that sorts of things. That rude man.
thered be too much. Its over-big portions at the Dont be badmouthing my family.
China Garden, and my grandparents werent up to Well, its alright.
much eating those days past splitting a two-pack of Every Saturday I used to go out. Imagine? Now
Ho Hos or some plain tortilla chips poured into a whens the last time I left the house other than for
plastic bowl of pink or blue. a doctors appointment or to get my teeth adjusted?
Wonton soup came, then the egg rolls, then the Oh how Anna used to look forward to it. And Id
sweet-and-sour pork and the almond chicken. They cancel on her because she drove slow and had the

80
walk of a hunchback. Thats a regret I have.
Doesnt matter, I said. You were good friends
The Murray Hotel
for a long time. Even Cowboys Like
It was a long time, she said and forked at an
egg roll. Big, Fluffy Pillows

G
randpa wasnt in the house and his truck
was in the driveway. That meant hed
be in the garage or outside working on
something, and times like that Id go out and see
if I could help. I found him in the back field,
crouched down over a spot of dirt hed cleared the
snow off of. He had a grip of white cloth in his
hand and I asked him what he was doing.
Annas temple clothes, he said.
Oh. That she had on?
Always had them on, he said. He laid them
down in the dirt, piled up some newspaper and
sticks around. Took a lighter to it. It didnt catch
right away but eventually got to burning. Got to be
a little pile of ash. He put his fingers through the
snow and pushed off to stand upright. Said: I dont
know if this is how the church would want it but I
think weve done right by her.
Yeah.
We came back inside through the garage and
Grandma asked what wed been doing out there.
Like you asked, Grandpa said.

M
aking dinner, Grandma dumped a
cooked pot of carrots and broccoli
down the sink because her post-surgery
wrist was too weak to carry it. Grandpa got out of
his chair and rushed over in a panic. I wouldve
helped if theyd have let me but they wouldnt let
me. My grandparents, they were still alive.

HUNTER DANTUONO/LIVINGSTON ENTERPRISE


KJ Kern, 25, this years Big Snowy
Prize fiction winner, grew up spending
his summers in Montana and the
school year in Phoenix. He earned an
I wake up in a lot of hotels,
undergraduate degree at Arizona State,
where his writing won a Swarthout
so Im fiercely loyal
Award, and is now in his first year at
the University of Montana, pursuing a graduate degree in
to the ones I love.
creative writing. Hes also a teaching assistant there. ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CHEF AND BEST-SELLING AUTHOR,
He plays a lot of basketball and occasionally performs rap WHO LISTS THE MURRAY AMONG HIS 10 FAVORITES
music. I played at the VFW, which was interesting, he
said. 201 West Park Street, Downtown Livingston
(406) 222-1350 | MURRAYHOTEL.COM

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 81
CONTRIBUTORS

Alexis Marie Adams Kris King grew up in Erik Petersen has been
lives with her family near Montana and loves it anew photographing life in
Montanas Beartooth with every season change. Montana for more than
Mountains and on the Shes been writing articles a decade. He lives in the
southern Peloponnese for a quarter century and Shields Valley with his
Peninsula in Greece. Her has interviewed authors for wife and sons. Petersens
writing has appeared Montana Quarterly since its website can be found at
in the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, inception. Its her favorite writing gig ever. www.erikpetersenphoto.com.
AFAR and The Art of Eating, among other
publications.

Montana Quarterly Senior Will Rizzo is a freelance


Photographer Thomas Lees writer and former Montana
Elise Atchison lives in latest book is Montana: resident now living in
a cabin on the edge of Real Place, Real People, upstate New York. His
the Absaroka-Beartooth with Al Kesselheim. He work has also appeared
wilderness. Her work has accepts commissions for in Smithsonian, Outside,
appeared in South Dakota speaking engagements Mens Journal and Skiing.
Review, Jackson Hole and commercial, editorial and fine art imagery
Review, Cutthroat Journal, at www.ThomasLeePhoto.com and www.
on Reflections West Radio and elsewhere. ThomasLeeTrueWest.com.
Her website is at www.eliseatchison.com. Lido Vizzuttian editorial,
documentary, and
commercial photographer
Laura Lundquist is a former lives with his wife in his
Brian DAmbrosio lives newspaper reporter who hometown of Missoula. A
and writes in Helena. lives in Missoula and founding member of the
Hes the author of Warrior freelances for a number of Flathead Beacons award-
in the Ring, a biography Montana and conservation winning editorial team in Kalispell, his work
of boxer Marvin Camel. publications. Her frequently appears nationally.
His next book Rasta in environmental news site is
the Ring (McFarland www.montanaotg.com.
Press, 2016), documents the offbeat life of
Rastafarian boxer Livingstone Bramble. John Zumpano is a
freelance event, portrait
Scott McMillion is the editor and fine art photographer
of the Montana Quarterly. in Livingston. His work
Jim Harrison, the author His journalism and essays includes parades, rodeos,
of 40 books of poetry, appear in magazines around powwows and landscapes
fiction and essays, was a the country and an updated of the Northern Rockies.
Guggenheim fellow and a edition of his award-winning See more of his work at JZphotoArt.com.
member of the American book, Mark of the Grizzly
Academy of Arts and (Lyons Press), came out in 2011. He lives in
Letters. Prior to his death in
March, he lived in Paradise Valley, Montana,
Livingston with his wife Jennifer and a cat
named Norman.
Submissions
The Montana Quarterly covers issues
and Patagonia, Arizona.
and people from all over the state.
Most stories and photographs are done
on assignment, so its best to study
Ben Nickol lives in Helena
past issues of the magazine and its
Alan Kesselheim has and teaches at Helena
departments before submitting ideas.
written for the Montana College. Hes the author
Query first for nonfiction stories. For
Quarterly from its start of the books Where the
fiction, submit your entire manuscript.
and counts it among the Wind Can Find It (2015) and
Features and fiction can run up to 3,500
most valuable outlets Adherence (2016), and his
words. Columns are 2,000 words or less.
in his 30-year freelance work has been honored by
We pay promptly upon publication
career. He has written 11 the Arkansas Arts Council and Best American
Send pitches or manuscripts to
books, most recently Montana: Real Place, Sports Writing, among other organizations. For
editor@themontanaquarterly.com.
Real People, with photographer Thomas Lee. more, visit www.bennickol.com.

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