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2010, 2012, 2013

Pacific Northwest
SPJ winner for
General Excellence


The shifting minescapes Deep, deeper, deepest:
of Butte, America Caving in the Bob Marshall

Colstrip, dead center Getting a healthy glow:

in the debate over coal In a mine, sucking up radon


I-90s lonely roadside graves Hibernators, all tucked in

Fit for a (prom) queen in Conrad Fiction by Dillon Tabish
Glacier Fed Oil on linen, 24 x 26 inches

Clyde Aspevig
This painting will be included in Clydes show
opening June 2016 at the Brinton Museum
in Big Horn, Wyoming.

Clyde Aspevigs Studio

PO Box 1886
Bozeman, Montana 59771
VO L U M E X I I , N U M B E R 1 | S P R I N G 2 0 16

editor in chief
senior editors
associate editor
sales manager
business manager
senior photographer
editor emeritus
design director

CORRESPONDENTS: Elise Atchison, Bill Bilverstone,

Ted Brewer, Malcolm Brooks, Virginia A. Bryan,
Dan Burkhart, Tony Bynum, John Byorth, Tim Cahill,
William Campbell, Glen Chamberlain, John Clayton,
Michele Corriel, David Crisp, Rick DeMarinis,
Lynn Donaldson, Susan Ewing, Charles Finn,
Charlotte M. Freeman, Pete Fromm, Jim Gransbery,
Jennifer Graf Groneberg, Tom Groneberg, Chad Harder,
Diane Hargreaves, Tom Harpole, Jamie Harrison,
Jim Harrison, Jeremie Hollman, Jeff Hull, Brian Hurlbut,
Allen Morris Jones, Ed Kemmick, Kris King,
William Kittredge, Joe Kolman, Butch Larcombe,
Ben Long, Jeremy Lurgio, Daniel Person, Erik Petersen,
David Quammen, Myers Reece, Will Rizzo,

Get Ready
Annick Smith, Amy Stix, Natalie Storey,
Marshall Swearingen, Gordon and Cathie Sullivan,
Maryanne Vollers, John Warner, Joe Wilkins,
Todd Wilkinson, Callan Wink, Paul Zarzyski,

for spRinG
John Zumpano

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Winner Magazine Departments, 2014
Winner Leisure and Lifestyles, 2015

ON THE COVER: A Montana family explores

Neat Coulee during a September trip through the
Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.
Photograph by Tony Bynum

SUBMISSIONS: Send queries or manuscripts up to

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Real winter got here in November, about the time we learned that a new wolf pack
in the neighborhood had pushed the elk out of our honey hole. But we kept trying,
my grandson and I. One more day of frozen eyeglasses and icicles in my beard, we
decided, and wed try someplace else.
The next morning we spotted two sets of elk tracks, hot ones, the first wed seen
in a while. We crept up the ridge, where I really thought wed find elk grazing in the
meadow. But all we got was track soup. And a story. Smooth and fresh as a clean
sheet, the snow told a tale. The elk had come through before dawn, walking north in
no particular hurry. Then they bolted south, fast. The snow told us why.
The elk had stumbled into five wolves, sleeping in the sparse sage. We saw their
icy beds, places where they had dug at the frozen ground, tussled and played, peed on
the shrubbery. The wolves hadnt chased the elk but turned east instead. Maybe theyd
been caught napping and saw the futility of pursuit or maybe they just werent hungry
but the elk werent sticking around to find out. As a hunt, it was frustrating, but it was
a damned interesting morning. My grandson is a good hunter and I expect hell kill
a lot more elk as the years unfold. Hell make memories that will or wont fade, but I
think that mornings story will stick. I know it will for me.
The next day we tried a different spot, not far as the bird flies but with a lot
of human boundaries in between, roads and fences and such. We found a couple
hundred elk, but they were on the wrong side of the barbed wire so we started hiking
away from them. We found fresh tracks and beds, which was exciting, then a scrape
tree, where a buck or bull had displayed his lusty intentions, mangling a scruffy
lodgepole with his antlers, leaving his scent in the bark and probably getting some
pine sap between his ears. And there, just above the scrape, we saw bear scratches,
claw marks ripping the wood. Predator and prey marking the same spot.
Twenty-first century Montana is a predator-dense environment. Black bears and
grizzlies, wolves and coyotes, lions and bobcats, all of them trying to make a living.
And human hunters outnumber everything else. All these species want wild meat but
ours is not a physical need. Its important, but we wont starve without it.
And despite all the teeth and bullets, prey abounds in Montana. Its now possible
BEST MAGAZINE to hunt elk someplace in Montana from August through February. Twenty years after
IN THE NORTHWEST reintroduction, lots of people still resent and fear wolves while others have grown to
SPJ 2010, 2012, 2013 accept them as part of the modern landscape. Thats where I find myself. They have as
BEST DEPARTMENTS much right to elk meat as I do.
SPJ 2014 Plus, they wrote out that story in the snow. They gave it to my grandson. And
they gave it to me. It will last a lot longer than an elk steak and if we hadnt all been
New gift orders receive a bonus hunting the same ground that day, how could we have learned to read it?
issue and greeting card

Scott McMillion
Big state. Big idea. Editor in Chief

P.O. BOX 1900
406 333 2154

8 Lost Landscape
A century of mining, then decades of cleanup, reshaped the texture of Butte.

16 The Montana Face of Climate Change

Colstrip waits and frets as international politics and distant economics decide its fate.

24 The Radon Cure

Stop us if youve heard this one: a guy with health problems walks into a mine ...

32 Plumbing the Depths

Explorers endure cold, muck and darkness in Montanas caves.


Bob Marshall Havre p. 60

Wilderness p. 32 Conrad p. 46

Missoula p. 74

Boulder p. 24
Butte p. 8
Greycliff p. 60
Livingston p. 40 Colstrip p. 16

Cultivated fields follow the contour of the land on a farm near Geraldine. Photograph by Todd Klassy
40 A R T 66 O D D C O R N ER S
The new hospital in Livingston is Every day on Interstate 90, thousands of
investing in the idea that artwork can aid drivers pass a Bozeman Trail grave.
healing. Scott McMillion brushes up. Scott McMillion uncovers the details.

46 RU R A L R O U T E 68 B O O KS
Women and girls drive all day long to InterviewRobert Staffanson has been
little Conrad just to get a dress from called the most interesting man in
Bonnie Poser. Alan Kesselheim sews it up. Montana. Kris King looks into his many
54 S C I EN C E ReviewsElise Atchison extols the short
Montanas hibernators are a varied story in collections by Callan Wink, Glen
bunch facing an array of challenges. Lisa Chamberlain and Rick Bass.
Densmore Ballard enters the den.

60 H I S TO RY 74 F I C T I O N
Mill Town
In Prohibition Days, folks in Havre By Dillon Tabish
would go to great lengths for a drink. Illustrated by Connie Dillon
Michael J. Ober tips a glass.

We subordinate entire mountains of rock

to human intention, converting them into
buildings, bridges, and railroads, along
with all manner of vehicles and machines,
appliances and gadgets ...
From Lost Landscape, by Edwin Dobb, page 8
Yankee Doodle Tailings Pond in Butte, Montana, 1986.

Decades of
mining and
a billion dollars
worth of cleanup
have created
massive ground
shifts in Butte



Kelley Mine and the pre-reclamation remains of the Irish neighborhood of Dublin Gulch, photographed in 1987.

asters of fire.
Thats how shamans were regarded in prehistoric times. But so were
smiths, the largely forgotten but similarly ordained individuals who, employing heat in
a novel way, converted rock into metal and metal into objects both useful and decora-
tive. According to the Yakut, a once-nomadic people who have lived for thousands of
years in the region now known as Siberia, Smiths and shamans come from the same
nest. Both have been initiated into the occult arts. Both travel through the spirit world. Both possess
magical powers. Behold and beware, from raw stone comes a bowl, a mask, a blade. Incredible as it may
seem today, there was a time when such transformations were as miraculous as turning water into wine.

The shift to open-pit mining, which started in the mid-1950s, altered the
currency Butte was forced to pay to stay in business and keep the U.S.
supplied with base metals. No longer was the cost measured chiefly in terms
of harm to human beings but instead in terms of damage to land and water.

All photographs in this

article are from the series
The Richest Hill on Earth
(1985-1987) in Wilderness to
Wasteland by David T. Hanson
(Taverner Press, 2016).

Jump to the 21st century, well into the age of disenchant-

ment. What was once extraordinary has become routine. The
new masters of fire are international mining companies hell-bent
on extracting and smelting mineral ore on a scale and at a rate
sufficient to satisfy the ever-growing appetites of a global urban-
industrial civilization. We subordinate entire mountains of rock
to human intention, converting them into buildings, bridges, and
railroads, along with all manner of vehicles and machines, appli-
ances and gadgets, including our so-called smart devices, made
possible by a newly exploited class of minerals called rare earths.
Every year we go to greater extremes, both technologically and A waste pile on the edge of Corktown, another Irish enclave, pictured in
1985. The waste has since been removed, and the land has been covered
geographically, to acquire tin, lead, iron, and nickel; copper, in new soil and seeded.
silver, and molybdenum. Earth first, as a provocative pro-extrac-
tion bumper sticker says, well mine the other planets later.
But simply because an activity is commonplace doesnt mean Buttethe island of industrial frenzy that journalist Joseph
it is wholly or even mostly under our control. Nor does it mean Kinsey Howard called the black heart of Montana. And it was
the consequences are always and everywhere beneficial. As Buttes fallen status that brought landscape photographer David
the smiths knew well, wresting ores from the earth and subject- T. Hanson to town in the mid-1980s. The heroic period of copper
ing them to fire is a risky endeavor, and very likely an affront miningwhen Butte contributed mightily to the electrification
to the gods. Consider whats at stake. What took nature millions of the country, which benefitted everyonehad recently ended.
of years to forge we would dare re-forge in a matter of days. Underground mining: Gone. The Anaconda Copper Mining
Creation, the world as it is, doesnt suit us. We can do better. Company, one of the most powerful corporations in the world:
And we can do it faster. Gone. The once-formidable and often radical Western Federation
The proper term for this attitude is hubris. And one of its of Miners, which was founded in Butte: Gone. Also missing was
contemporary signatures is the sacrifice zone, a speculative term much of the original part of town, including several ethnic neigh-
first used to designate areas permanently devastated by nuclear borhoods, plus Columbia Gardens, an immense amusement park
attack, but which seems like a good match for altered landscapes and playground, all of which had been destroyed to make way for
where the damage caused by large-scale industrysteel mills, the Berkeley and East Continental pits.
chemical plants, oil refineries, minesis grave and enduring. Apart from their considerable aesthetic quality, the photos
One of Americas premier sacrifice zones is located in Hanson took 30 years ago are fascinating because they reveal

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 11
what Butte looked liked during the early years of the environ-
mental era, a major turning point in the towns evolution. Much
has changed since then. Mounds of mine waste have been
hauled away. Contaminated areas have been capped with clean
soil and re-vegetated. Former railroad beds have been converted
into public trails. Even long-idled mine yards have been refur-
bished and put to civic useone as a senior citizen center,
another as an outdoor concert site, yet another as a cathedral-
like museum of extractive industry.
Taken together, then, Hansons images document the land-
scape that predated remediation and reclamationin other
words, the most recent stage of disruption, of human interven-
tion, in a place that for a hundred years underwent continual
disruption, much of it devastating. For isnt this more of the
same? In the eyes of the gods, is trying to restore Eden any less
arrogant than destroying it? Our purposes may change but not
our perennial discontent, nor the cultural crucible in which we
try to remake the world in our image, no matter how fractured or
contradictory or provisional it may be.

f all the ways we disrupt natural environments,
one of the most aggressive is mining, an activity
that entails not only disfiguring the land but plun-
dering its mineral-laced depths. Underlying the
Butte mining district is a now-flooded network of
staggering scope and complexitysome 10,000 miles of shafts
and tunnels. Miners at the Mountain Con, on North Main Street,
drilled and blasted to a mile beneath the surface, the same level
as the Pacific Ocean but 700 miles inland, in the middle of the
Rocky Mountains. They were among the thousands of men who
labored around the clock in the mines, constituting an eccen-
tric brotherhood, in exile from the sun, from women, from the
coming and going of seasons; a brotherhood that existed for
only one purposeto remove as much ore as possible as fast
as possible. And that enterprise was as dangerous as it was
destructive. From the late 1800s through the mid-1900s, an
average of one man died underground every week. Thousands
more were injured, permanently maimed, or sent to early graves
by silicosis. Improve upon things as they are? Maybe. But not
without paying a price.
The shift to open-pit mining, which started in the mid-1950s,
altered the currency Butte was forced to pay to stay in business
and keep the U.S. supplied with base metals. No longer was the
cost measured chiefly in terms of harm to human beings but
instead in terms of damage to land and water. The ore contained
less copper, so more of itmuch more of ithad to be extracted
and milled. Instead of penetrating the earth, the Anaconda
Company now turned the earth inside out, exposing the violent
processes that had been hidden from view. And the additional

Mountain Con Mine,
Centerville, 1985. This
area has been restored.
The mine yard is now a
park, with grass and picnic
tables, and is part of a
trail network that
spans the Hill.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 13
rock those processes produced had to go somewhere. The EPA rescued Butte, an irony that a surprising number
Because the original town and business district were located of Butticians have yet to realize or acknowledge. Established in
atop the ore bodyon the northern slope of Summit Valley, 1980, the Superfund program provided mechanisms for clean-
an area locals call The Hillmine yards and mine waste had ing up the countrys most dangerous industrial landscapes,
always intermingled with neighborhoods. Like smelling the odor places that had been abandoned by their original corporate
of sulfur and hearing the blast of shift whistles, a classic experi- owners, many of which no longer existed. The great American
ence on The Hill was looking out a kitchen window and seeing vanishing act. In the case of Butte, however, the owner, ARCO,
head framesthe black, derrick-like structures that lowered men was very much present and flourishing. Whats more, under
into the mines and lifted ore out of themtowering over nearby the Superfund law, the company was responsible for redressing
houses. Where one worked was inseparable from where one lived, the whole environmental shittaree, including the Butte mining
a fact that was once a defining feature of vernacular architecture district, the degraded stream banks and contaminated water of
in most American industrial towns. But the amount of material the upper Clark Fork River, the metals-laden sediment behind
that came out of the Berkeley Pit was so great (about 700 million Milltown Dam, and much else, almost all of which was caused
tons over the life of the mine) that a new kind of wastescape by the previous owner, Anaconda. ARCO did everything it could
was createdplains and plateaus of lifeless yellow overburden to avoid its inherited liability, including enlisting high-octane
and, to accommodate the water-and-rock-dust slurry flowing day lobbyists to persuade Congress to change the law, but to no avail.
and night from a nearby mill, an immense impoundment called So far, ARCO has spent about a billion dollars on remediation
the Yankee Doodle Tailings Pond. The most distinctiveas and reclamation in the upper watershed, and more work remains.
well as most fatefulcharacteristic of this ravaged area, which

also includes the Berkeley and East Continental pits, is that it
embraces the old part of the town along its eastern and northern he results have been dramatic. Besides the fields
borders. The industrial shadow of black-hearted Butte. of bunchgrass, walking paths and picnic areas, and
Hubristic as it may have been, addressing the highly toxic spruced-up mine yards, Silver Bow Creek, once an
and visually distressing legacy of mining became necessary industrial sewer, now so closely resembles a healthy,
to Buttes survival after the Berkeley Pit closed in 1982 and free-flowing stream that cutthroat trout have made it
Anacondas successor, the oil giant ARCO, shut down all opera- their home. All manner of debris, from dilapidated buildings to
tions. A few years later, the smaller, younger East Continental abandoned equipment to slag piles, have been removed.
Pit reopened, but the mine, along with the mill, employs only In the eyes of some natives, however, the transformation,
about 320 non-union workers. The Mining City could no longer while necessary, is as much an occasion for grief as it is conso-
rely on its namesake industry to drive the economy. But it would lation. That may strike the River-Runs-Through-It enthusiast as
be difficult to attract new businesses and young professionals madness but its an attitude borne of a singularly Montanan way
with families to the weary, wrecked place depicted in many of of life; indeed, from an economic standpoint, a way of life that
Hansons photos. Was it possible to overcome that handicap, to until the late 20th century was more representative of the state
escape the grip of the past? than any other. What the last best place did best was exploit
At a time when Butte had every reason to despair, it came up its abundant natural resources, of which mining was the most
with a gesture that was extravagant, to say the least, as well as a extreme and lucrative form.
wee bit crazy. On the East Ridge, the section of the Continental We forget this at our peril, just as forgetting any formative
Divide forming the eastern boundary of Summit Valley, a group stage of development is perilous. And reclamation can be a
of unemployed but highly skilled men who had spent most of kind of forgetfulness, of self-induced amnesia. In other words,
their adult lives working for Anaconda erected a nine-story- well-intentioned environmental remedies can also exact a toll.
high Madonna-like statue. Gazing down at the town and mining Against this backdrop, Hansons photos assume a mourn-
district from 3,500 feet up, Our Lady of the Rockies held her ful cast. As forbidding as some of the subject matter may be,
arms outstretched, palms open and turned upward. She seemed the images nonetheless depict yet another of Buttes many lost
to be both blessing Butte and imploring the heavens for mercy. landscapes. Almost as bad as erasing remnants of the past are
She looked around, as former ironworker John T. Shea puts attempts to prettify them. A contentious examplefriends and
it, and said, This town needs help. And, incredibly, help former neighbors in Butte will disagree with thisare the red
arrived, though in a form that at first looked more like a curse lights that now adorn several of the surviving head frames. The
than a cure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency desig- impulse is understandable, even laudable, but those iconic
nated Butte a Superfund sitethe equivalent, in bureaucratic structures are the industrial equivalent of grave markers.
terms, of a national sacrifice zone. Turning them into gaudy all-season Christmas trees violates

Lexington Mine, in Walkerville,
a Cornish neighborhood, 1987.
The surviving head frames
memorialize the work miners
did underground.

the distinctive character of one of the most distinctive places in environmental consequences. Hanson echoes that sentiment in
the world. eloquent terms. The Butte mining district and other disturbed
But thats not the only way in which, borrowing from sites he has photographed across the country are, as he writes,
Faulkner, the past isnt past. While Butte continues to evolve both arena and metaphor for the most constructive and most
through not only reclamation but historic preservation and, destructive aspects of the American spirit.
most important, economic development, especially such vision- Butte is unusual in that, for all the qualities the arena
ary efforts as the three splendid festivals the community hosts and metaphor share with a historical battlefieldthink of
every yeara large portion of the physical legacy of indus- Gettysburgit is still alive. Mining continues. The East Pit
trialized mining will never be erased: the Berkeley and East grows larger every day and the earthen berm of the Yankee
Continental pits, along with much of the intervening and Doodle Tailings Pond rises ever higher. From much of the valley
surrounding expanses of sterile waste rock. (In principle, the floor, where the newer part of town is located, the ridge behind
tailings pond can be capped and planted. It remains to be seen the tailings pond is no longer visible. The dominant feature of
whether that will happen.) This is partly because mammoth pit the landscape is the industrial shadow.
mines are permanent disfigurements; the cost of restoring them That shadow is Buttes burden. But it may also be the towns
to their original condition would dwarf the value of the metals salvation, protecting it from those long on wealth and privilege
they yield. but short on imagination, the seasonal second-homers and itin-
But its also because the community considers much of the erant recreationalists who owe allegiance to no particular place
desolate region on its border sacred ground. This is especially or time. For Butte is a town where one cannot escape the conse-
true of the Granite Mountain Speculator Mine Memorial, on quences of our urban-industrial way of life, where the sacrificial
Buttes northeastern edge, and which overlooks a wastescape nature of civilization is laid bare, memory manifest as geogra-
that, to the discerning eye, reveals the dilemma of large-scale, phy, for all time. Behold and beware. No matter how economi-
industrialized copper miningon the one hand, the ambi- cally and culturally robust the community becomesand do not
tion and, yes, even nobility of the work, as well as the contribu- underestimate its capacity for reinventionButte will never be a
tion it made to the country; on the other, the hellish social and place for the faint of heart.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 15
The Montana Face
of Climate Change
n a blustery December evening, Gene and his grown son Bryan are wrenching on hand-built hot rods in their
machine shop on the edge of Colstrip. Theres bright light, good grease smells, a football game on the TV. They tell
me to come on in.
When Gene ran for town council a few years back, he recalls, he was asked to sum up what makes this town of
2,300 residents unique. His answer cut to the basics: We have a coal plant in our front yard, and a coal mine in our back yard.
And like most people around here, he likes it that way.
For 30 years, Gene wrenched on miles of pipe and hundreds of valves as a mechanic in the power plant. With his
paychecks, he built this machine shop and his log home across the street, socked away money for retirement and for his
hot rod hobby. Colstrip was a good town for raising his two boys. Bryan got a job at the mine soon after high school,
and now he, too, is a plant mechanic.
All this is on shaky ground, Gene tells me. Colstrip may have survived past layoffs and lawsuits, but now theres
a bigger threat. In bumper-stickerese, its the War on Coal. It kicked into gear a couple years before his
retirement in 2013, he says, And its escalated since.
Seen another way, its the first real stab at halting runaway climate change. Colstrip is home to
the second-largest coal-fired power plant west of the Mississippi, by far the biggest source of
climate-altering carbon dioxide in Montana. Policies to ratchet back carbon emissions
are putting Colstrip in the crosshairs.
So theres uncertaintyabout whether well dodge the worst of global
warming, about Colstrips future. The two are entwined.
For Gene and others here, it boils down to a basic concern. If
the plant closes, he says, This place would dry up faster
than a dandelion sprayed with Roundup.

International politics and distant
economics will determine
the fate of one of the states
wealthiest communities.
In Colstrip, they wait.



Many in Colstrip are sensitive

to the perception people may
have from the towns strip mine
and power plant. Theyre afraid
visitors on a cold day will see
plumes of steam over the power
plant and think it is all pollution.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 17
ike any Montana town, Colstrip has seen its ups and
downs. In 1924 it was not much more than a mining
camp, established to provide coal for the Northern Pacific
Railway. By the 1950s it had become a solid little town.
Then the locomotives switched to diesel, and the bottom fell out.
Montana Power Company, the states monopoly utility, bought the
whole outfit in 1959, seeing potential for coal-fired electricity. Then, in
the early 70s, the company unveiled plans for the huge Colstrip plant.
Bob Whitehead came here from Miami, one of hundreds of work-
ers who flocked to Colstrip to construct the plants first two units.
(Each unit has its own smokestack and other components.) He met his
future wife, Mary Ann, amid the hundreds of trailers crammed onto a
flat near the construction site. Shed come from Washington with her
parents to work the boom.
As all booms do, this one ended. Construction of the much
larger units 3 and 4 was stalled amid lawsuits: the nearby Northern
Cheyenne tribe had secured the strictest air quality standards in the
country, while others fought the giant power lines needed to bring the
power to West Coast markets. The Whiteheads left.
By the early 1980s Montana Power prevailed, and the Whiteheads
returned for the second construction boom. Colstrips population
swelled to three times what it is today.
Another boom came and went. But Bob landed a job as a plant
mechanic in 1985, Mary Ann as a plant laborer two years later. They
stuck around for the good jobs, Bob says, but also because Colstrip
was able to offer things that other small towns cant.
Like other company towns, Montana Power lured workers to this
remote corner of southeast Montana by offering amenities. They
chocked the neighborhoods with parks and playgrounds, pitched in
for a recreation center. They were trying to build a model commu-
nity, says Rick Harbin, who oversees Colstrips parks and recreation
Colstrip hit another bump after Montanas legislature deregulated
electric utilities in 1997. Montana Power sold Colstrip and most of its
other power plants to Pennsylvania Power and Light and the power line
infrastructure to NorthWestern Energy, then collapsed. In the shuffle,
Bob and dozens of other workers were laid off, although most got their
jobs back.
Montana Powers unraveling pushed Colstrip to incorporate as a
town. Because of the power plant, it inherited a property tax base
comparable to Montanas largest cities. (In 2014 it ranked fifth in the
state, ahead of Helena.) The new city government also plowed money
into amenities.
Today, Harbin manages 32 parks and other facilities, includ-
ing the improved, 32,000-square-foot recreation center, which has
a weight room and water slide. Bike paths zip through tunnels under

Ninety tons at a time, one of the draglines at Colstrips Rosebud Mine removes
overburden dirt to uncover a coal seam. Coal is the main economic force
behind Colstrip.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 19
the highway. Hiking trails ring a reservoir that has produced
state-record catfish. The Whiteheads are fond of the commu-
nity shooting range and the golf course, one of the nicest and
most challenging in Montana, Bob says. Its all basically free
for Colstrip residents, because the plant owners pay around 90
percent of the property taxes.
Add in the small-town feel and low crime, plus the upscale
high school, built with $1.7 million in state coal severance tax
money, and you can see why the Whiteheads like it here.
Bob retired in 2013, part of a major turnover of the plants
aging workforce. Some of them are leaving, says Jim Atchison,
who heads the nonprofit Southeastern Montana Development
Corporation. But its amazing how many of them are staying here,
because of the quality of life.
But the quality of life is tied to the property taxes, which are
tied to the plant. Thats one of the main reasons the Whiteheads,
like Gene Wier, are worried. Theyve ridden the ups and downs.
But this time, Bob says, Its more serious.

o understand Colstrips vulnerability, follow the In addition to having free membership at a local nine-hole golf course and
a park for every 100 people in Colstrip, residents can freely use the well-
coal and the electricity. Start just west of town at the equipped recreation center, where Tammy Robinson teaches a fitness
Rosebud Mine, 39 square miles of mostly private class. Im nervous about where Colstrip is headed, Robinson says.
land where a 23-foot coal seam is being rooted from
beneath 180-odd feet of prairie.
Pull in behind one of the 240-ton coal trucks, its tires taller strung all the way to Puget Sound and beyond.
than you are, as it rumbles down a 100-foot-wide gravel road. Many would add: follow the carbon dioxide out of the stacks
See the workers dropping explosives down hundreds of precisely unlike other pollutants such as mercury or sulfur dioxide, which
drilled holes, preparing a blast that will crumble another strip of are at least partially scrubbed from the boilers exhaust, it flows
earth and rattle houses in town. freely. Or follow the slurried coal ash to settling ponds that have
Climb aboard one of the house-sized draglines, the cranes been contaminating groundwater for years.
that do the heaviest of the earthmoving. Feel it pivot and drop its The money flows in reverse. The six utilities who own shares
truck-sized bucket into the seam, grabbing tons of earth to pile in the plant (see sidebar) paid the City of Colstrip and Rosebud
aside. County more than $13 million in 2014 just to be here, in the form
The 240-ton truck heads down onto the coal, is filled by big of property taxes. The mine paid nearly $9 million in county
yellow loaders, rumbles back up the hill to a conveyor belt, dumps taxes. Thats the money for the parks, the schools and other
its load. The conveyor speeds the coal the four miles to the power services.
plant, towering over Colstrips far edge. The utilities also pay 360-odd workersmechanics, elec-
Follow the coal up more conveyors into the plant, watch it be tricians, office workers, laborers, and operators, many working
ground to fine powder and shot with 700-degree air into the giant 12-hour shifts, day and nightsalaries in the range of $60,000 to
boilers. Peer inside at the roaring fireball, each instant vaporizing $80,000 to run the plant. The plant burns about 10 million tons
nearly 200 gallons of Yellowstone River water coursing through of coal per year, sourced entirely from the Rosebud Mine, which
the boilers tubes, a closed-loop system that reuses the water. Feel generates tens of millions of dollars in state taxes and federal
the thrum of the pressurized steam spinning RV-sized turbines royalties and pays its 380 workers an average $81,000.
that turn the generators at 60 revolutions per second. Thats why Colstrips median household income is close to
The power3 million horsepower at full bore, enough to do double the state average of $46,800; its poverty level is half of
the bidding of about 1.5 million homesis in the wires now, the states 15.3 percent. The town has its rougher edges, and the
draped on the metal scaffolding marching west out of town. Follow houses are modest, but there are shiny trucks and campers in the
the wires branching into MontanaNorthWestern Energy sources driveways.
about a quarter of its electricity from here. Or follow the big wires, The money ripples across the region and beyond, explains

Atchison. When the plant is overhauled during a couple of months
each spring, hundreds of boilermakers and pipefitters overload
Colstrip and fill up motels in Forsyth and Miles City. The need for
parts and contractors fuels business in Billings. Spending cash
ends up in Billings, Miles City or Sheridan, Wyoming, because
Colstrip has only one grocery store, one hardware store and a
handful of other small shops, restaurants and bars.
The power lines pull dollars from utility customers across the
Northwest and funnel the cash to this corner of eastern Montana.
But the prosperity is easily cut off.
Were a one-horse town, says Atchison. Thats one of our

hen I meet Rex Rogers at the union hall behind
the Town Pump, he tells me how he followed
his brother-in-law to Colstrip in 1980, after big
automotive layoffs struck his native Michigan.
He landed a job as a security guard, then as a plant laborer, then
doing a variety of operations and maintenance work. Now hes
the manager of the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Rex Rogers manages the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
in Colstrip. Colstrip is a company town, one that mines coal and then
Workers, the union that represents most of the plant workers. burns it to make electricity. Efforts to curb the production of fossil-fueled
Colstrip is a big union town. Between the mine and the plant, electricity threaten the livelihoods of Rogers and his fellow workers.
most of the workers are represented by two major unions. With
those jobs now on the line, the unions are major players in nego-
tiations, and Rogers is in the middle of it all. In the near term, the bigger threat is from Washington state,
Hes cautious about explaining the threats to the plant, which uses the greatest share of Colstrips electricity. Thats where
because, as he puts it, There are a lot of moving pieces. One the pieces are in particular motion.
gets the sense that there are unseen layers of politics. But he In 2014, Washingtons governor, Jay Inslee, issued an execu-
sketches out the basic pieces on the union hall whiteboard. tive order on climate change. The order includes a goal to reduce
In the long run, the biggest threat is the Clean Power Plan, and eliminate over time the use of coal-fired electricity in
the Obama administrations chief domestic policy on climate Washington, including from plants located outside that state.
change. Enacted in August 2015, the plan requires each state to Meanwhile, Talen Energy, a spin-off that Pennsylvania Power
reduce carbon emissions from fossil-fueled power plants by 2030. and Light created in part to handle its Colstrip assets after it failed
Montana must cut its emissions by 47 percent. to sell them along with its Montana dams in 2014, has shown
Montana has joined other states in suing to overturn the plan, numerous signs of wanting out. Its complicated, but Talen isnt
which has been temporarily halted by the U.S. Supreme Court, like the other, publicly regulated Colstrip utilities. Talen is a free-
though the long-term outcome remains in doubt. Theres some market seller of electricity, and the business of selling coal-gener-
flexibilityMontana can purchase emissions credits from other ated electrons has been undercut by new power plants tapping the
states, for instance. But if the plan stands, few are arguing that glut of natural gas unleashed by fracking technologythe kind of
compliance wont cut into Colstrip. power plants that, along with renewable energy and energy effi-
NorthWestern Energy commissioned a report that paints a ciency, are filling the shoes of many coal plants that have recently
gloomy picture of the plans impacts: shuttering of the Colstrip shut down around the country.
plant, more than 7,000 jobs gone within the decade, more than Finally, in January, Puget Sound Energy, likely seeing Colstrip
$500 million in lost personal income. Aspiring governor Greg as a long-term liability and also seeing an opening created by
Gianforte has drummed up bigger fears, saying total costs might Inslees order and Talens wavering, backed legislation that maps
exceed $1 billion. Rogers thinks these are exaggerations. But out the decommissioning of units 1 and 2. (As of press time,
some of his optimism is shaky too, like his confidence in carbon that bill was on track to pass, as was another, Oregon bill that
sequestration, the concept of capturing carbon dioxide and storing would require that states utilities to divest from coal by 2030 and
it underground. Its an expensive technology still in its infancy. increase their share of renewable energy to 50 percent by 2040

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 21
The Murray Hotel a move that would put heavy pressure on Portland General
Electric and PacifiCorp to also get out of Colstrip.)
Even Cowboys Like The upshot: those in the know wouldnt be surprised if those
Big, Fluffy Pillows units were shut down in five years. And while that would go
a ways toward satisfying the Clean Power Plan, it wouldnt be
All this comes back to Gene Wier, who knows what a layoff
feels like. In 1982 he lost his job at a California steel mill to
tougher clean air regulations, the Reagan recession and a
wave of cheap Japanese steel. He found his Colstrip job through
a federal program, set up in 1962 and still active today, that
assists workers impacted by foreign imports. The program even
paid for his moving expenses.
Now his son Bryan, with kids of his own, is facing the same
thing I did, Gene says. But the issue here isnt foreign imports,
and theres no similar program to help laid-off power plant
workers or coal miners. He doesnt have a safety net.

ontana history sets a calloused precedent
on such matters. You dont have to look far to
find the busted mining town, the busted timber
town, the busted ag town. Colstrip has boomed
and busted, multiple times. Life goes on, you could say. And if
you view climate change as the calamity that it is, the fate of a
small town thats had a good ride on the company dime might
seem small by comparison.
But try telling that to the Wiers or the Whiteheads. You
cant help but root for a 21st-century ending in which they dont
get the door closed on them.
Heres one possible ending, the dream of the Montana
Environmental Information Centers Anne Hedges and
others: the Colstrip plant is phased out over time, but that
opens up capacity on the transmission lines for scores of wind
turbines and solar farms, tended by retrained workers. But,
It takes the community being interested in doing that for
it to happen, Hedges says. And thats frustrating, because
Rogers and others are skeptical, at the least. Its hard for any
proposal to compare to the plant/mine moneymaker. But the
ideas are there. And as the pressure notches up, they may
spring to life.
I wake up in a lot of hotels, My final day in Colstrip, I meet old-timer Bill MacFarlane,
who worked 30 years at the mine, helping to build two of the
so Im fiercely loyal massive draglines. It wasnt for the money, he says. My
family loved it here.
to the ones I love. He takes me down to the old building that served as Colstrips
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CHEF AND BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, schoolhouse in the railroad days. Now its a community space,
art gallery and museum, with photos of the old town and the
construction booms. It will soon have another chapter to record.
201 West Park Street, Downtown Livingston MacFarlane seems to view Colstrips future with the
(406) 222-1350 | MURRAYHOTEL.COM

Where the Power Goes
A look at how much coal-fired electricity is produced in Colstrip and the companies that
consume it:
Unit 1 Unit 2 Unit 3 Unit 4
Total output (in megawatts) 307 307 740 740

Companies Total share

Puget Sound Energy 50% 50% 25% 25% 677 (32%)
Talen Energy 50% 50% 30% 529 (25%)
Portland General Electric 20% 20% 296 (14%)
NorthWestern Energy 30% 222 (11%)
Avista 15% 15% 222 (11%)
PacifiCorp 10% 10% 148 (7%)

SOURCE: Puget Sound Energy

practicality of an engineer, the way one might approach the chal- If he were 30 years younger, he says, hed take this challenge
lenge of getting coal out of the ground. Hes no greenie, but he on. We need to be thinking about alternatives, and working
wonders why all the big solar arrays are being built in western with other people on that, he says.
Montana, instead of out here, where its sunnier. The future is staring at us.






M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 23
This guy,
losing weight
and suffering
from a range
of debilitating
walks into a few
abandoned mines
and breathes
deeply of a
radioactive gas,
all in the name
of health. Could
it actually help?

Do you glow? asked a friend from Washington D.C.
Why not shamanism? suggested another academic pal. Or you could try snake-handling ...
Sezar is now totally convinced youre a troll, said a third wag, referring to his 5-year-old
sons response to seeing his Uncle Tommy seated in a graffiti-covered cave.
These were just a fraction of the teasing and concerned comments made after I told people I
had spent a weekend in Montanas Elkhorn Mountains, sucking in radon gas in some old mines
for neurological relief.
But most expressed shock and dismay.
We had a radon detector installed in our basement and there was a reason why was a
common response.
Madam Curie discovered radium and she died of a combination of cancers and radiation
poisoning, in spite of her TWO Nobel Prizes.
But it was too late.
While I had not taken the full, recommended treatment of 30-odd hours of radon exposure
over a 10-day period in the mines, I had already willingly subjected myself to some eight hours
of inhalation, and planned on going back for more.
Just curiosity? Or desperation?


M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 25
The theory behind the Montana Radon Health Mines is that
a little poison is good for yousort of like jumpstarting a
dysfunctional immune system with a cattle prod.

Montanas radon mines are clustered in the Elkhorn

Mountains near the town of Boulder.

first heard of the mines through purest fluke. The Journalist-Always-Looking-For-A-Good Story, and also because
daughter of a friend of a friendlets call her Sally in this instance I was no longer a mere voyeur, but an interested
has been a neurological mess ever since an 18-wheeler seeker of neurological therapy of any kind: Once-Immortal-Me
crushed her car some years ago. Conventional treatment also had nerve-related ailments, and those problems were having
didnt help much. a profound impact on my mobility and thus on my outlook on life.
Then she started going to one of the radon mines in the Medically speaking, they call it neuropathy, a big word that I
general area around Boulder, Montanaa little town of some prefer to define as frozen feet, with a good amount of vertigo-
1,200 citizens shouldering a nifty river of the same name. wobble whenever I close my eyes. Others call it drop-foot.
According to her father, she found such renewed stamina Whatever you want to call it, it is not a lot of fun walking around
and dexterity that she began painting detailed drawings at the looking like you are drunk when you are not.
bottom of her mineshaft, and swore that it was due to inhaling My low point came in early 2015. Promising friends and
the curative radon gas. family to have the chronic dizziness checked out by profession-
I was highly intrigued, both as your Johnny-Come-Usual- als, I subjected myself to a battery of tests in Istanbul, when

and where I was diagnosed not only with Parkinsons Disease
(preliminary) but also with suspected permanent nerve damage
due to a lifetime of heavy drinking. The doctors put me on a diet
of what I called Devil Pills that provided no apparent improve-
ment in my neurological condition, but certainly wreaked havoc
with my innards. In three months, I dropped from a very fit 180
pounds to a scrawny 150 pounds.
Quite frankly, I thought I was dying.
Returning to Montana in May, and looking for an alternative
diagnosis, I subjected myself to yet another round of radiological
zappings that led to a finding of sublucated vertebrae in my
spine and a recommendation for invasive surgery. Then I under-
went yet another round of radiological blastings to triple-check
everything, and on the eighth day of tests, my doctors suddenly
declared me clean of everything aside from a Vitamin-B
A sign points the way to Earth Angel mine, just outside Basin, a town that
deficiency. started as a mining camp in the 19th century.
This was good news, I guess: at least I could rid myself of all
the expensive, anti-Parkinsons dopes that warned of side effects in human conditions. These range from Alzheimers, Parkinsons
such as binge-shopping, frantic sex-seeking, chronic gambling and diabetes to depression, PTSD and wound-healing accelera-
and an urge to suicide. tionthe last three suggesting that the Dose-Response Society
But my feet were still frozen and the close-your-eyes-to- is honing in on groups such as military veterans returning from
wash-your-face vertigo didnt go awayand thats when I started Afghanistan and Iraq.
to clutch at unorthodox medical straws, like slurping down a But previous issues of Dose-Response have featured other
little radon. active and passive stress-triggers, including the Boulder
River radon spas. In a very elaborate paper published in 2007,

Dr. Barbara Erikson of California State University/Fullerton
he theory behind the Montana Radon Health Mines detailed her four years of anthropological research in the
is that a little poison is good for yousort of like Montana mines. While Dr. Erikson was clearly concerned about
jumpstarting a dysfunctional immune system with a the medical viability of doing a little poison, her main focus
cattle prod. was asking her multiple interlocutors why they were going down
The study of this concept is called hormesis, a into irradiated mines to seek cures for all manner of maladies.
term only coined about 70 years ago, although the idea has been By tracking repeat customers and then comparing the
the often-controversial focus of scientists and physicians for passive self-therapy in the Boulder/Basin area (where most
centuries. The dose makes the poison, said the 16th-century clients appear to be elderly folks who camp in their RVs) with
Swiss physician Paracelsus, the so-called grandfather of much wider research in decidedly upscale radon spas in Europe
modern pharmacology. (where radon treatment has been normal for centuries), Dr.
Today, the exploration of hormesis in all its multiple forms Erikson was able to establish that there was a vast, word-of-
is the mission of the Massachusetts-based International Dose- mouth community of believers who swore by radon mines as the
Response Society. cure they had long sought but never received from mainstream
Founded in 2005, it has its own peer-reviewed journal, Dose- medicine.
Response, dedicated to the publication of original findings It prompted the question: could so many people be so wrong?
on the occurrence of dose-response relationships, especially

biphasic (e.g., hormetic) dose responses across a broad range of
biological disciplines. ... y first radon health mine was Earth Angel,
The society has focused on highly technical research in the just outside the small, one-bar burg of Basin,
past, but its 2016 conferences call for papers seems to focus on a former mining town where most buildings on
real-world alternative medicine, and thus less on experiments on Main Street have been boarded up, and which
mice and more about the use of stressors (exercise, intermit- appears to boast more rusting cars and trucks
tent fasting, heat and cold, etc.) that trigger adaptive responses than the official population of 250 souls.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 27
I settled into the damp, chilly rock cellar for my next hour
of radon inhalation with my sense of claustrophobia and
nuclear trepidation gone, or rapidly receding.

Setting up my rough camp at a bucolic, water-babbling bend and by the third day the damn mutt was as frisky as a puppy,
along Basin Creek above the town, I sallied forth to the trailer- and jumping in and out of my friends RV on its own.
office of Earth Angel. A woman there identified herself as owner The friend started taking the cure the next year, and soon
Tina Steele. When I explained the reason for my pilgrimage and swore by it.
asked whether a little radon might not be just the thing for my He called to tell me he could drive five or six hours at a
frozen feet and vertigo, she could only chuckle. stretch without having to stop and limber up due to back pain,
My dad used to have a three-legged dog that went in the said Bill, shaking his head. What the heck! I said, and started
mine, looking for a cure and to regrow the fourth, she said with coming myself every year. That was 14 years ago.
a laugh. It didnt workbut it seems to be good for everything Might there just be something to this, for me? I wondered.
else! Well, said Bill glancing at a convenient wall clock clamped
I was to hear a lot of cured-my-dog stories over the next 72 to the rough-rock walls. My hour is upand so is yours!
hours in three different mines, inhaling radon. While it is not a strict policy, the Earth Angel Radon Mine
management suggests that medicinal pilgrims only do an hour of
radon therapy at a time.

he dank, narrow, rough-rock main tunnel filled me An hour or three later, I was back at Earth Angelbut this
with trepidation that might be better expressed as time dressed in fleece and with a cap and with a book I actu-
claustrophobia until I came across a second shaft ally wanted to read: a biography of Sir Richard Francis Burton
off to the left, where I saw a slightly broader opening entitled The Devil Drives.
offering lawn chairs. There sat a couple who seemed I settled into the damp, chilly rock cellar for my next hour of
to be in their late 70s, bundled up against the damp and chill radon inhalation with my sense of claustrophobia and nuclear
(the average temperature in all the mines hovers around 60 trepidation gone, or rapidly receding.
degrees) and quietly reading magazines. And if this radon-inhalation stuff actually works?
They were nearly done with their session and had no time
(or interest) to chat. But I was soon joined by Bill, a garrulous

80-year-old gentleman from Florida. He said that he had no he next morning, I pushed on to explore another mine
health complaints to cure but was at the Earth Angel for his I had heard about. This one required a little more
annual tune-up before drifting around the American West to effort to find.
visit various girlfriends, most of them considerably younger than The brochure of the Sunshine Health Mine warns
he was. would-be drop-by visitors NOT to use a GPS system
Maybe thats because Ive been coming here for 14 years, to try and find the spa while traveling on Highway 69 to Boulder
said Bill with a lascivious wink, and then explained how he had because it will mislead you.
stumbled into his annual inoculation-against-everything radon Indeed, Sunshines relative obscurity is one of its primary
bath program. charms: you really have to know what you are looking for, then
It was (of course) all the result of a dog. follow signs to get there.
In 2000 or 2001, Bill found himself at a gathering of RV Set up almost like a radon-based dude ranch, Sunshine is
enthusiasts in the Merry Widow Health Mine campground a series of bucolic yet modern cabins nestled along an alpine
near Basin. There, he met an old friend who was in such pain meadow framed by forest, and just far enough above and beyond
from arthritis that he had to dismount from his RV for a stretch the I-15 Butte-Helena highway that there is no road noise at all.
every two hours or so. The friend had an old dog that seemed to Inside the mineshaft, I found a triad of Canadians playing domi-
suffer from arthritis, too, and had to be carried in and out of the noes; some type of dog occasionally changed laps. Checked into
camper. the Sunshine for their annual radon fix, the Canadian clients
I had no interest in going in the mine for any damn radon could only cough at detractors of Sunshines medicinal charms.
gas therapy, Bill explained. But then someone took the dog in Animals are not subject to a placebo effect, said Diane

Etchings and graffiti from past visitors are common sights at the radon
mines. Some of the leavings are testimonials to the mines curative
powers, while others just record the comings and goings.

Summers, aged 62, an office manager from Alberta, Canada,

who had been coming to Sunshine for the past five years to
address her burning-foot syndrome.
Her husband still scoffs and stays at home, but her younger
sister Eileen Johnston does not. Declaring herself to be in the
Sunshine Mine for reasons of solidarity with her older sister,
Eileen related the real miracle concerning her arthritic chow
dog, Memphis.
He is a different animal after hanging out with us sisters in
the mines, said Eileen, patting the dogs head.
What about me? asked her spouse, Pete Johnston, aged 76.
A life-long construction worker, he suffers from rheumatoid
arthritis, or in his case, what he describes as crooked-finger
Ive cut my pill intake in half, said Pete, slapping down
another domino in the Sunshine Mine tunnel with straight-digit
Sunshine Mine owner Dennis Lee then showed up to regale
us with his own stories and testimonies of happy radon clients,
ranging from the Boulder Woman who was blind in one eye
due to multiple sclerosis but who got her sight back (As close
to a miracle as anything I have ever seen, said Dennis) to the
Arizona Woman who arrived with arthritic claw-hands but
left with deft fingers (She comes back every year) and then the
guy who came because arthritis had reduced him to a veritable
cripplebut who now climbs mountains.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 29
Well, I said at last. I guess my hour is upgotta get outta here!
The three Canadians and Dennis Lee looked at each other for a moment, and
then back at me.
Youve been to Earth Angel, havent you? said Pete.
They probably told you to stick your feet in that frigid mine water, now didnt
they? asked Eileen.
Didnt do a damn thing for my fire-feet, exclaimed older sister Diane.
It is the gas, not the water, Dennis declared for all present. We do two-hour
terms of inhalation here at Sunshine, because it has always been like thatbut for
more real information, you have to go and see Pat.

i, I am a mine inspector, looking for Pat, I said, strutting into
the Free Enterprise Health Mine administration office up above
Boulder, Montana.
Im Pat, said the graying, crop-cut, handsome lady sitting
behind the desk, looking at me with a cool-to-cold eye. As for
mine inspectors, weve never had one of them in here before.
I quickly recalibrated and told Patricia Lewis, granddaughter of mine engineer
Wade Lewis, who had opened the Free Enterprise Mine to dig for uranium in 1949,
that I was not a mine inspector in any other sense than that I was touring the
regions radon mines for my own health reasons, and this claim was not a joke.
Come on down, said Pat, leading me into the elevator that would lower me
some 85 feet deeper into the hard-rock uranium mineshaft. You got a problem with
Not any longer, I said. Not after Earth Angel and Sunshine.
So said Pat. You may have been to the others, but I have to tell you that
in addition our being the first radon mine in these parts, not only do we have Wi-Fi
down here, but we also have surveillance cameras watching your every move.
Cameras? To prevent people from scrawling graffiti? Just like the rough-hewn
rock walls and the supporting beams of all the other radon shafts I had sat in, down
here in the Free Enterprise Mine gallery every possible vertical and horizontal space
was crammed with margins-of-modern-medicine testimony, carved or crayoned with
the names and memories of radon health mine believers from Canada to Norway to
Korea, often with multiple claims of cure: arthritis was big, but so were eczema and
other skin diseases. And everyone whose signature was recorded or stained on the
walls of the mine was absolute in their devotion: You Have Saved Me .
Pat Lewis was already back in the elevator, and I was down in the uranium
mineshaft carved out of living rock for my last blast of radon therapy. Now inured to
the casual a-little-poison-might-cure-you process, I sat back in the radon-permeated
glow: hour number seven or eight of what should have been 30 or even 60 over a
10-day stay.
I knew the numbers, and knew that I was not going to make them. I was the guy
falling somewhere between a voyeur taking a journalistic squint and giggle at the
absurdities of human health-hope endeavors and a pilgrim looking for a miraculous,
last-minute, Lazarus-like cure to my very real-world frozen feet.
At a certain point during my meditations, I got to my feet and moved around the
underground chamber, noting the names of visitors before mefolks from Montana;
lots of Canadians; a few from Korea, Norway, Germany, and maybe even a Serb.
Then, with a jolt, I found her:

There, among the magic-marker scrawls was an unsigned, Yellowstone river Trail
multi-color, entwined double-snake apothecary symbol drawn Trip distance: 12 MILES DURATION: 6-9 HOURS
not on the raw rock face like most, but on the supporting MAP: trails illustrated - mammoth
beams of the shaft. Distance from Livingston: 66 miles
It was Sallys workthe gal whose car had been crushed This Yellowstone National Park hike makes for a great early or late season venture. Having
two vehicles is ideal as the start of this hike is at the Blacktail Deer Creek trailhead and the fin-
by a truck and had suffered much more severe neurological ish is at the trailhead parking area adjacent to the Eagle Creek Campground along the Jardine
stuff than over-drinking me could ever imagine. Road, making a shuttle necessary.
From the trailhead, the hike gradually descends alongside Blacktail Deer Creek for 3.5 miles
I sat and stared at her hand-drawn, double-snake image for into the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone. Upon reaching the Yellowstone River, a suspension
maybe an hour, reflecting on my lifes multiple good fortunes foot-bridge spans the river giving you passage to the
Yellowstone River Trail. From here, the trail parallels
and young Sallys very bad luck. I had survived a lot of self- the Yellowstone. Knowles Falls, and the canyon that
imposed weird stuff in strange places, while she had just been funnels the river below Knowles, are particularly
impressive. Unlike the river, the trail follows a more
driving down a Montana highway when she got smashed by an pleasant and gentle course through the canyon. To-
out-of-control truck that left her an invalid. ward the end of the canyon, watch for bighorn sheep
as they frequent this area. After crossing Bear Creek,
Finally, I got in the elevator and raised myself from the the trail ascends up to the Jardine road and trailhead.
radon-soaked mineshaft to the earths surface, 85 feet above The flora and landscape of this hike vary so dramati-
cally from start to finish, the excitement of whats next
and about 30 degrees warmer than down below. will keep you going for the entire distance. Remem-
Hi, Pat Lewis said, a smirk cool as coal. I had you on ber to tread lightly and leave no trace.
video, and you did not seem to misbehave. Please stop in for great gear
Tell me about the snake pictures, I asked, referring to or further suggestions on
Sallys weirdly beautiful drawings way downstairs. other hiking destinations.
Oh, her, said Pat, and explained what I already knew.
309 W. Park Phone

Livingston, MT 222-9550
drove away from the Free Enterprise Mine and the
Boulder River radon mine country, deeply confused.
Had I found a miraculous cure to my neuropathic
frozen feet, or merely a feel-good psycho/physiological
placebo, based on the determined dreams of a young Armstrong
Spring Creek
woman named Sally who was using the idea of the radon
mines to heal herself?
Beyond passively sucking in radon in the Elk River/
Boulder Basin area mines, I have subsequently learned that The OHair Ranch
there are other, active things that all of us neurologically-
plagued folks must do: Think It Through. That concept is a world class spring creek located
called neuroplasticity, or training the brain to fix neurons just 50 miles north of yellowstone Park
in Paradise valley.
that have gone awry.
And doing so in a radon mine in western Montana is not a Join us for some of the best fly fishing
bad place to force the mind into hard overdrive. Montana has to offer!
It seemed to work for me, anyway.
reservations required
Now eight months later, in early 2016, I am back up to a
reasonable fighting weight of 170 pounds or so. I am no longer
a skeleton of myself and do (almost) daily vigor walks on
broken ground at 15 minutes a mile or faster, and I am semi-
religious about my (minimum) 40 push-ups a day.
What did any of this have to with getting zapped by radon
at the Boulder mines?
I dunno.
But I am feeling a lot better today than I was in May.
Thanks, Pat, Dennis and Tina. 8 Miles south of livingston, Montana
Ill be back. Call Judy at (406) 222-2979
eMail: Judy@huntChiMneyroCk.CoM
M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 31
Montanas cavers
(dont call them
spelunkers) endure
cold, muck and

the Depths
darkness as they
explore the wonder
of our hidden places



The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.
Joseph Campbell

ontanas soaring mountains, sparkling rivers,
clear skies and vast valleys make the state a
beacon for those who seek vistas and vastness.
But James Cummins knows Montana has a
deeper, darker side. He plumbs it.
Sometimes caving is cold, muddy and exhausting, Cummins
said. And, Sometimes its like walking around in a museum of
natural wonders.
But he never knows until he gets there, so, for him, the thrill
comes in seeing whats around the next bend. To satisfy that
curiosity, he spends hours and days delving into the underpin-
nings of Montanas rumpled landscape. Above: The view from the mouth of Tears the Turtle Cave, at 1,629 feet
With more than 50 caves over 200 feet deep, Montana is a the deepest limestone cave in the United States. Just getting to the cave
mecca for cavers like Cummins, a member of the Northern Rocky requires a 22-mile hike in to the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness
Mountain Grotto of the National Speleological Society. And the Area. Then the hard work begins.

states caves run the gamut. Lewis and Clark Caverns, a Montana Opposite page: Jason Ballensky squeezes through a tight, muddy passage
State Park, is well lit and accessible to anyone who can walk, in the Tickle Me Turtle Cave in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area.
while Lost Creek Siphon near Big Timber requires rappelling
down vertical pits through underground cascades with names
such as Hurricane Falls. Bighorn Cave (at 16 miles, Montanas The greatest concentration of Montana caves is in the states
longest) and the ice caves in the Pryor Mountains have gates remotest regionthe rugged limestone mountains of the Bob
built over the entrance, requiring cavers to contact the US Forest Marshall Wilderness Area. There, Cummins, Hans Bodenhamer,
Service or the Bureau of Land Management to obtain a key, Jason Ballensky, Ian Chechet and other members of the Grotto
which limits use by those without experience and proper gear. have been pushing the limits of cave exploration and have
But with at least 350 caves in Montana, theres plenty of explor- recently found the deepest known limestone cave in the country.
ing for adventurous cavers. Cavingonly greenhorns call it spelunkingis a strange

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 33
sport with highly dedicated participants.
As Chechet told me, As cavers, were not
going to be Red Bull-sponsored, but we
still get a huge thrill from being on the
edge of new exploration. Caving is often
difficult, dark, and dirty, and it involves a
certain amount of suffering. Cavers speak
of keyhole passages, pits, sinks, rope
drops, bridging sequences and squeezes.
Vertical passages require rappelling down
a static (non-stretch) rope followed by
strenuous climbs back up the same ropes
using clamps known as jumars. Caving
is not a spectator sport, except maybe on
YouTube, and can be dangerous.
Its certainly not hard to get in trouble
in a cave. Two men had to be rescued from
Montanas Ophir Cave in August 2014
when they couldnt ascend their ropes
from the bottom of the cave. In June 2009
a man died when he fell 50 feet into the
same cave while taking photographs.
But once you get a taste of it, caving
will haunt you: the roar of underground
rivers; the impenetrable blackness if you
dare to turn off your lights; the struggle
against mounting panic as you squeeze
through a tight passage; the camaraderie
of teamwork in an unforgiving environ-
ment; the vast relief when you emerge
from the cave mouth, squinting and grin-
ning in the sunlight.
For the truly hardcore, caving means
treading where no human has gone before.
New discovery is the holy grail of caving,
and Montana, with its immense reefs of
ancient limestone, is a hotbed of it.

ost caves form in
limestone, sedimentary
rock composed of the
compressed shells of
ancient marine life. The
thick limestone reefs in the Bob Marshall
Wilderness and in Glacier Park were
formed during the Cambrian era more
than three hundred million years ago and
are riddled with caves. The Silvertip cave
system alone extends for fifteen miles

Above: Some of Montanas big caves require multiple rappels. Hans Bodenhamer tackles one of
them in the Tickle Me Turtle cave.

Left: Jason Ballensky installs climbing bolts, critical safety devices, in Double Date Cave.

beneath the Continental Divide, and it is an Earth Science teacher at Bigfork

includes Blood Cave, named for its iron- High School and leader of the Bigfork
tinted flowstone. High School Cave Club. He introduces
Colliding continents and massive students to the mysteries of the under-
mountain-building events formed the ground and involves them directly in
bizarre Lewis Overthrust, an immense mapping and conserving Montana caves.
slab of limestone that slid over the top of Most recently, the club made a mapping
younger rock layers, putting older rock trip to the Little Ice Cave in the Pryor
above younger rock. Mountains in south-central Montana.
Limestone is readily dissolved by My own introduction to caving was
water, and that process forms carbonic in the Mill Creek Crystal Cave in the
acid, which then dissolves more stone. Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness back in
This produces calcium bicarbonate, which the 1980s. Its a fantastic cave with a very
decorates caves with iconic features such friendly, wide-open passage at the cave
as stalactites, stalagmites, columns and mouth, but it quickly gets real.
flowstone, known collectively as speleo- Neophyte cavers all, the five of us
thems. Gypsum can also produce delicate, had no safety gear and some had only
beautiful crystals in caves. one source of light. From the airy cave
Hans Bodenhamer started explor- mouth wed walked, crawled, shimmied,
ing the limestone labyrinth of the Bob and groveled into ever-tighter passages,
Marshall Wilderness decades ago. Hes including one we dubbed the Hell Hole,
been in at least 1,500 caves around the unsure if we could even find our way out.
country, a quarter of them unknown To our amazement we spotted daylight
before his visit. Nowadays Bodenhamer after a couple of hours underground and

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 35
Cavers are protective about cave locations, and for good reason. Many
caves, including Lewis and Clark Caverns, have been vandalized by
people breaking off mineral formations, lighting fires in the caves,
dumping trash, stealing fossils and artifacts, and leaving graffiti.
emerged through a waterfall into the entrance sinkhole, having situations, Ballensky says. There are no emergency exits. Caving
unwittingly completed a loop. continually requires you to keep calm and make smart choices.
Cummins and Bodenhamer have spent seven years mapping Some of my scariest memories of caving were the times I was
Crystal Cave to a length of nearly 2 miles, and there is more yet to unable to keep fear and exhaustion from affecting my decisions.
map and explore. Mapping a cave like this is best done in winter Ballensky names Lick Creek Cave in the Little Belt Mountains
when less water runs through it. This requires a 6-mile approach as a great place for beginning cavers. You have to negotiate some
on skis or snowshoes just to reach the entrance. My summer trips down climbs using a rope on wet, slick surfaces. Youll need a
into the cave sound like picnics in comparison. helmet and three sources of light. The cave is 38 degrees, so you
According to Cummins, to reach the most inaccessible part of will also need some warm clothes that you dont mind getting
Crystal Cave requires a 300-foot crawl. This may be the most muddy. Lick Creek Cave holds Montanas largest cave room, big
remote place Ive been, because a rescue from beyond the crawl enough to park a 747.
would be almost impossible, he said. Caves in Montana are often colder than caves elsewhere,
Jason Ballensky has been caving for 17 years in the Bob which usually maintain a steady temperature in the 50s. Like
Marshall, discovering and mapping miles of new cave passages. Lick Creek, most caves in the Bob Marshall are in the upper 30s,
Caving often requires you to keep pushing even in the worst of with plenty of mud and water. Tears of the Turtle, the Cave that
Summer Forgot and others hold permanent
ice at their entrances.
Colder caves of course require thicker
One of Montanas most remote, wild clothing and take more of a toll on cavers,
and surprising new places to experience who struggle to stay warm. Essential
equipment and clothing includes climbing
harnesses, helmets, headlamps and extra
light sources, expedition-weight, single-
piece long underwear, neoprene and rubber
gloves, neoprene socks, insulated rubber
boots, a heavy-duty fleece top, fleece bala-
clava and an oversuit of the material that
is used to make body bags. Some cavers
even wear wet or dry suits under coveralls.
All this gear is heavy, so cavers in the Bob
Marshall hire horse packers to haul their
loads to base camp.
But the lure of the depths is worth the

BUFFALO CAMP work and suffering. For Ballensky and

Cummins, Tears of the Turtle is the deep-
est cave they have explored. We found the
Campground cave in 2006, but it took us eight years to
l $10 per night l Trailer and tent sites find the current bottom, says Ballensky.
($15 with electricity) l Interpretive trail There were numerous hidden passages,
l Open year-round l Geocaching activities tricky route finding, sticky mud and very
l Toilets, water, fire rings, picnic l Exceptional birding and 600-plus
tables, shade pavilions
tight keyholes. And Ballensky thinks the
bison roaming area
cave might be even deeper yet. This summer
Map, directions and full list of amenities at americanprairie.org

the explorers plan to pack in inflatable
snowshoes to navigate the quicksand that
Shawn Thomas and James Hunter
has blocked further descent in the cave.
navigate a passage in Double Date Cave,
one of the many wet, muddy caverns in Difficult as it is, getting to the bottom
the limestone reefs of the Bob Marshall is only half the job.
Wilderness. When you are at the bottom of the
cave, you know that a great deal of effort
is required to exit, said Ballensky. Itll
take at least five hours squeezing uphill
through tight, muddy passages that are
continually sucking the warmth out of
you. Youll also have to climb ropes using
gear that is slimed with mud. After you
exit, youve got the 2-mile hike to return to
camp, during which you traverse a steep,
loose, ankle-twisting slope in the dark.
Camp itself is 22 miles from the trail-
head. Even once back at the trailhead,
you still have 70 miles of gravel road to
bounce along before reaching civilization.
Climbing in and out of a cave such as
Tears of the Turtle takes about 16 hours.
Most cavers try to avoid sleeping under-
ground because of all the extra gear they
would need and the additional impact they
would have on the cave.
In 2014 a team including Ballensky
and Cummins pushed Tears of the Turtle
Cave to 1,629 feet deep, surpassing the
nearby Virgil the Turtles Greathouse Cave
(1,586 feet), making Tears the deepest
limestone cave in the United States (a lava
tube in Hawaii is deeper). Both are part
of the Swiss-cheese limestone constituting
Turtlehead Mountain in the remote back-
country of the Bob Marshall.
Tears of the Turtle requires 44 rope
drops (rappels) after the 22-mile hike to
the entrance. Much more difficult to navi-
gate than Virgils, Tears requires cavers
to push through tight keyhole passages
and bridge above quicksand, applying
pressure from hands, feet and back to two
cave walls at the same time.
Cummins, the Bigfork High School
Cave Club, and other cavers seek not
only to explore Montana caves and
push beyond known depths, but also to
map the complex underground. Using
compasses, measuring tapes and GIS

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 37
More on Caving
Caves of Montana: www.cavesofmontana.org
Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto: www.nrmg.org
Bigfork High School Cave Club:

technology, these deep-earth cartographers create detailed

maps in 3D, showing the twists and turns of the labyrinths they
In the summer of 2015, a team of 14 cavers re-mapped parts
of the remote Silvertip Cave system in the Bob Marshall, chart-
ing 3.8 miles of cave. A rigging crew went first, replacing bolts
and hanging ropes for the mapping crew that followed.
The maps are made partly to satisfy the curiosity of cavers,
and also to share with the U.S. Forest Service via a cooperative-
use agreement with the statewide Grotto. However, these maps
Caving is not without its perils for both enthusiasts and their equipment.
are rarely made public to prevent overuse and vandalism of Tears of the Turtle Cave took its toll on this caving suit.
caves and to avoid accidents involving inexperienced cavers.

their noses to look for evidence of the deadly fungus.
espite the harsh conditions and lack of light, life If WNS reaches the Northern Rockies or the Black Hills of
exists in caves. Amphipods (small crustaceans such South Dakota, it is likely that all wild caves on federal and state
as sand fleas) and isopods (think wood lice) have land in Montana will be declared closed, Cummins told me.
evolved in the cold and darkness. Wood rats build This would spell trouble for cavers and probably for the caves
huge middens in caves, some of them thousands themselves. Caves on public land in the eastern U.S. have been
of years old; and bears, mountain lions, and wolverinespicture declared closed, and entering them is illegal. This has kept law-
meeting Gulo gulo in a tight cave passageall make use of caves. abiding, responsible cavers from visiting them. The trouble is
Montana caves host hibernating and roosting colonies of little that the agencies arent patrolling the entrances and vandalism
brown bats, big brown bats, long-eared myotis, and Townsends and illegal entry goes unreported.
big-eared bats. Cavers are protective about cave locations, and for good
Bats across North America are in extreme danger from reason. Many caves, including Lewis and Clark Caverns, have
White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungal infection that kills been vandalized by people breaking off mineral formations,
entire colonies of hibernating bats. As of 2012, WNS had killed lighting fires in the caves, dumping trash, stealing fossils and
at least 5.7 million North American bats since the disease was artifacts, and leaving graffiti. Caves are extremely fragile envi-
discovered in 2006. Three species of bats found in Montana are ronments that form over millions of years. Only in recent years
currently affected in other places by WNS, and the disease is has the outside world intruded. The mineral formations in caves
slowly spreading toward the state. Its been found in Wisconsin are particularly sensitive to disturbance.
and Iowa and has no known cure. Still, caving opens up new worlds and wonders. As you
In the eastern and central US, most wild caves are closed ramble about Montana, think of what may lie beneath your feet.
to the public, because cavers are suspected of spreading WNS And if you do go caving, try to leave little trace of your pres-
through their visits. If and when it takes hold in Montana, WNS ence. As with any outdoor experience, tell someone where you
may end recreational caving in the state. are going and when you will be back. And start out with experi-
Concerned both with the fate of bats and the future of their enced cavers before venturing in on your own.
sport, cavers are trying to get ahead of the curve and do their One thing is certain. Montanas cave systems still hold many
part to protect Montana bat populations. James Cummins helps secrets. Under the Big Sky, new frontiers await, but to find them,
survey bat populations, in part by capturing bats and swabbing you may have look deeper than ever.


Visitors to Livingston HealthCares new facility

enjoy some treats while surrounded by Russell
Chatham oil paintings during the hospitals
grand opening last October.

Is there a link between beauty
on the canvas and well-being?
Livingstons new hospital is
investing heavily in that idea


usic has charms to soothe
a savage breast, William
Congreve wrote more than
300 years ago.
Though many twist the quote and say savage
beast, his point remains. Music can do a lot more
than make your feet move. It can calm. Maybe
even heal.
But what about the visual arts?
While nobody is claiming that an oil painting
can fix a hernia or that photography can install a
heart stent, a growing body of science shows that
art can help the healing process. It makes people
feel better. Thats one reason why the new hospi-
tal in Livingston has made a major investment in
impressive artwork.
It was an early priority for us to create an
environment that offers a healing place for patients
and visitors, Bren Lowe, Livingston HealthCares

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 41
Chief Executive Officer Bren
Lowe leads an art tour of the
new hospital, pausing here
at a four-panel painting by
Derek DeYoung.

Opposite page: Landscape

artist Russell Chatham
attended the public
unveiling of 11 of his
paintings during the grand
opening of Livingstons
new hospital.

chief executive officer, said of the decision to go big on artwork.

The decision came really early on, before we had even figured
out where all the walls would go.
The 125,000-square-foot building opened its doors in
October, replacing a 1950s-era structure the community had
long since outgrown.
From the outside, the place looks like a ski lodge. The inside
DESIGN and ART for DAILY LIVING lacks the bland sterility of most medical facilities and you could
easily fool yourself that youre in a gallery or museum. The
Gallery art is everywhere and theres more in the wings, waiting to be
l artistic gifts hung. And its almost all local, which isnt surprising, given that
Livingston has become a mecca for the arts in recent decades.
l modern art
There are plenty of big names in the building, artists with
l unique jewelry
national reputations. Clyde Aspevig. Parks Reece. Lyn St Clair.
l fine fiber clothing Edd Enders. Janie Camp. Its a long list.
and accessories
But front and center in the hospital hangs the work of Russell
Design Services Chatham, the landscape painter who probably did more than
l home
anybody to put Livingstons artistic community on the national
map during his decades in Park County. Enter the spacious and
l interiors
airy lobby and four huge Chatham landscapes dominate the
l furniture room. Step into the dining areawhere the food is surprisingly
tasty and good coffee is freeand you find yourself surrounded
exquisite quality of handcrafted items by another seven oversized Chathams, all bathed in natural light
streaming through giant windows.
406.522.9999 Corner of Tracy and Main Its the most beautiful hospital Ive ever seen, Chatham
www.cellobozeman.com Downtown Bozeman

said from his current home in California. And its the
only one Ive seen that has that much artwork.
Its also the only public space in the world where people
can see a large collection of Chatham originals. While his
lithographs adorn many walls in the region, most of his
paintings hang in private collections, so if you wanted to
see them you had to go knock on somebodys door.
Thats not true anymore.
Chatham created the paintings in the 1990s for
permanent display in a hall at Bozemans Museum of the
Rockies. But that plan fell apart after a couple years (yes,
there were some hard feelings) and the work has been in
storage ever since. Now theyre on long-term loan from
the museum to the hospital, and Chatham says hes happy
theyre back in the light of day.
This is the first time Montanans have been able to see
them in 20 years, he said.
And they can see a lot more as well. responded to a call to artists organized by locals.
Every hallway bears paintings, lithography and fine While art is a common fixture in most hospitals, enough
art photography. One of the most striking pieces is a so that medical art consultants advertise on the inter-
five-panel mixed-media wall sculpture that portrays a net, Livingston HealthCare didnt hire one. Planners
birds-eye view of the nearby Yellowstone
River, which defines Livingston as much
as anything, with the life and succor it
provides. Made of sculpted glass and
numerous hardwoods, the sculpture is
the creation of Livingston artists Ona
Recently Uncorked In
Magaro and Bob Newhall. Magaro carved Downtown Livingston
the layered glass and Newhall worked the
They started with an aerial photo of
that stretch of river and then applied some
artistic interpretation, Magaro explained.
It worked. They managed to capture the
rivers flow and power, its timelessness. Its
a piece of considerable weight, both physi-
cally and metaphorically, and measures 4
feet high by 10 feet wide.
Weve had great responses from visi-
tors and patients and staff, Magaro said,
adding that another hospital already is
asking about commissioning another piece.
Hospital employees have said theyre
thankful that they get to walk by it every Visit the
newly expanded
day, see how it changes in changing light. 4:309 TUESSAT Gourmet Cellar
We wanted to make a site-specific, custom- next door.
made piece for the Livingston hospital.
Like many artists, Magaro and Newhall
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 43
It comes from the emotional relationship we have with the landscape.

This multimedia piece by Ona Nagaro and Bob Newhall depicts a nearby stretch of the Yellowstone River, which flows just a quick stroll
from Livingston HealthCares new facility.

didnt want to wind up with artwork that looks good but images, a position that seems obvious for a hospital, and
isnt locally forged, Lowe said. For it to be part of the focus on natural scenes and wildlife. But that wasnt a
community it had to represent the talent that is here. It problem when it came to selecting art created by people
was an intuitive decision to go local. who live surrounded by vast vistas and wild animals. Its a
So a committee was formed, comprising hospital board Montana hospital filled with Montana art.
members, artists and people who run local galleries. Hoggan said the committee tended toward local, recog-
According to Robin Hoggan, a member of that commit- nizable scenes. We didnt want scenes of the Tetons. Its
tee and a board member at the downtown Livingston obviously not here.
Center for Art and Culture, the call went out to scores of Familiar scenes, done welllike the Chatham land-
artists, who were asked to spread the word. There were scapesjust help people feel better, said Clyde Aspevig,
bumps in the road but now 450 pieces have been collected another internationally renowned landscape painter. It
and most have been hung. Theyre in public spaces, hall- comes from the emotional relationship we have with the
ways, patient rooms, offices, examination rooms and even landscape, or a particular scene. It gets the endorphins
the rehabilitation rooms. flowing, and the dopamine levels rise.
The committee did heed some advice. A philosophy And that helps with the healing process. Making a
called Evidence Based Design recommends that hospi- hospital aesthetically pleasing is important, especially
tals avoid intense abstractions as well as jarring or violent since its a place few people look forward to visiting: most

Heat from the Earth
Livingstons new hospital is tapping groundwater as a way
to defray its heating and cooling expenses.
Though the system is new, it already seems to be
paying off, according to Bren Lowe, chief executive officer
of Livingston HealthCare.
Power bills for the 125,000-square-foot building are
roughly equivalent to those for the set of buildings it
replaced, structures that were 40,000 square feet smaller,
Lowe said.
Groundwater in this area measures a consistent 53
All water pulled by the hospitalits permitted for 1,774 acre-
degrees year round. Massive pumps pull it to the surface feetflows back into the ground after warming the facility.
at the rate of 18 gallons per second and force it to the
hospitals third floor where it enters heat exchanges for
heating or cooling. trench, basically a length of perforated pipe buried about
There, instead of pulling in outside air that could be 700 downgradient feet from the wells.
90 degrees or way below freezing, the heaters or cool- The temperature of the water will change during
ers work from an ambient temperature of 53 degrees, the this process, but not enough to affect the nearby
same as the groundwater temperature. So the equip- Yellowstone River or the trees on its floodplain, accord-
ment has an easier job of shipping 72 degree air to patient ing to the Montana Department of Natural Resources and
rooms, labs and offices. Conservation, which wrote an environmental assessment
But it takes a lot of groundwater to do the job. The of the project.
hospitals permit allows up to 1,774 acre-feet of water Water will not be consumed during the heating/cool-
to be removed every year. Thats equivalent to about 15 ing process, DNRC says. Water returning to the aquifer
percent of the water used annually by the entire city of may differ in temperature than the water extracted from
Bozeman. the aquifer, but, because the aquifer contains so much
However, all of this water goes right back into the more water than will be pumped, The temperature differ-
ground. After it travels through a complicated snarl of ence in the return water is unlikely to cause any significant
pipes, it flows back into the ground through an infiltration effect.

of the time, if theyre in there, theyre sick, or somebody There also is a revolving gallery for smaller pieces.
they care about is sick. Currently, that space is occupied by large black-and-
Lowe said the hospital spent $160,000 to obtain and white photographs of sheep operations on the historic
display the artwork. That works out to 1.6 percent of Harvat Ranch, which once owned the land where the
the $10 million raised in Park County to help build the hospital now stands. Hoggan said the next show will be
structure. (The entire structure cost $43.5 million to historic railroading photographs and a new show will
build and equip.) But the work is worth many times that appear every six months, adding to the already flowing
much. Aspevig, whose large pieces fetch tens of thou- display in downtown Livingston, home to roughly a dozen
sands, donated a compelling painting, as did many others, galleries.
entirely or in part. Chatham said the collection now in the In cooperation with local schools, theres even a space
hospital is valued at $1 million and he wasnt paid for its for the art of kindergarten students. That one will change
placement there. every year.
And the paintings are now in the hospitals public If you go to kindergarten in Livingston, Hoggan said,
spaces, for the public to enjoy. Youll have artwork in the hospital.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 45

People drive all day
to tiny Conrad to buy a
dress from Bonnie Poser



nter The N Thing, smack
in the middle of down-
town Conrad, nestled up
against City Hall, and you
start playing by the rules, or you
dont play. Owner Bonnie Posers
rules, that is, developed over 40
years in business.
First, lose the shoes by the front
door. Second, no boyfriends, fathers,
grandfathers or random males
allowed past the counter, beyond
which hundreds of glittering formal
dresses hang on racks.
Ill work around anything,
Poser claims, Except a boyfriend.
This is a training ground for
Posers no-nonsense approach
to business blooms out of her

Dresses take on a personality,

Bonnie Poser says. Poser, 70, opened
The N Thing, a dress shop in Conrad
specializing in prom wear, in 1975.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 47
background, growing up on a ranch outside of Power,
and living in this hardworking agricultural community of
2,500. Conrad is the kind of town you only stop in if you
need gas or get a flat tire. Well out onto the high plains,
the Rocky Mountain Front is a distant view, and there
are no Freezout Lakes or Great Falls of the Missouri or
legendary historical trails winding through town. It earns
two exits on the interstate and stands as the unassuming
epitome of a service towna place locals come to for the
things they need, mostly agricultural in nature: tractors,
farm implements, seed plants, grain elevators, the Co-op.
If youre looking for bragging rights in Conrad, its likely
to come down to heirloom lentils or an unmatched work
ethic that grows money out of the soil, not blue-ribbon trout
streams or outfitted adventures.
That context makes Posers store and her business style
all the more startling, because she leavens her practicality,
born of place and parochial history, with the savvy eye of a
fashionista firmly grounded in her market, which extends
far beyond the edge of town.
I may have the largest selection of prom and formal
dresses anywhere in the state, Poser guesses. There are
1,000 dresses in the store and out back in the warehouse,
from size OO to 32W. Anymore, there is hardly a down
time of year. We sell dresses for cruises, for military balls,
for snowball dances, graduations, proms, weddings. You
name it and I probably have it: semi-ball, fit-and-flare,
sequins, chiffon. And if I dont, I can order it. We get more
in every week.
Shes a wizard when it comes to ordering, says Denise
Pourroy, who has worked at The N Thing for years. She
has the eye.
All of this handled without the aid of computers or
Internet, which Poser has no time for or interest in. She

keeps track of each girl, every dance, and every dress; and
meticulous track at that, on handwritten lists taped to the
wall near the five dressing rooms, and the master list on
her clipboard.
We will never sell the same dress to two girls going to
the same dance, she says. We wont even sell the same
dress in a different color.
People come from as far away as Calgary, Medicine
Hat, eastern Montana, the Dakotas, and Wyoming to find
the right dress for the right occasion. Poser has served
clients from as far away as the Netherlands and has
handled three generations of young women in the same
Alex Kraft, now a freshman at MSU in Bozeman, has
continued a yearly family tradition that has been going
for nearly a decade from her home in Cutbank. Between
my sister and me, weve been making yearly trips for eight
years or more, Kraft says. We make a day of it. Growing
up in northern Montana, everyone knows that The N
Thing is where you go for a dress.
Often that dress, which, on average, runs about $500,
is worn once, so that one time better be memorable.
Memorable enough that the dress often hangs in a closet
for decades afterward as a reminder. Poser and her five
employees, most of whom have been with her for years, and
some for decades, are absolutely committed to their part in
assuring success, at least as far as looking beautiful goes.
Poser, now an energetic and stylish 70-year-old, started
her clothing business in Conrad in 1975. She and her

At left: Dress styles come and go and Poser must choose

age-appropriate attire that will appeal to her customers and their
parents and chaperones. Below: Sixty miles north of Great Falls,
the ribbon of Interstate 15 passes by Conrad.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 49
An extensive supply of
spare jewels is on hand so
that in the event a dress
loses a sparkle or two, an
exact match can be found
and sewn into place.

husband had moved to town after college to run a farm Billings. Ranch families think nothing of driving 200
implement store. Poser knew a man who had developed a miles to shop at a box store in a city, but who would ever
very successful shoe-sales business in the state, and asked pick Conrad for the Mecca of formal wear? Somewhere
his advice about starting a shoe store in Conrad. around the turn of this century, she shifted out of junior
He told me, you need to open a clothing boutique, styles and toward what she calls updated career fashion,
she remembers. He took me under his wing, introduced along with the fancy dresses.
me to contacts in the clothing business. I went with him to I realized that the moms needed better clothes, she
a sales event in Billings. I trusted his business sense and remembers. It seemed like so much of what was available
just started filling out orders. I had no money, no store, no for middle-aged women made them look like grandmas.
collateral, but there I was ordering like mad. These are women in careers and professions where they
Poser approached the bank her family had used for need to look good. I sell to women 20 and up who want to
farm loans. I needed $15,000. The banker looked at me look chic, not like Aunt Bee from Mayberry.
and asked if I was going to pay them back. You know I When I first started with prom dresses, the only thing
will, I said to him. He handed me that promissory note going was Jessicas Gunny, Poser says of a bygone brand.
and I havent owed a dime since. They were the dominant dress for decades. When they
The first incarnation of The N Thing was housed in a finally went out of business, thats when things really
remodeled dime store Poser rented. She put in a false wall started to open up and we could branch out.
to corral the cavernous space, brought in old wagon wheels At this point the front third of the store is devoted to
for clothes racks, and started selling. updated career inventoryscarves, jackets, fashion-
For years people would come in to the store just to see able tops, skirts and pants, shoes. Once past the coun-
those wagon wheel racks, she says. ter though, into the no-male zone, its all about sparkling,
Back then all I handled was gauze tops and hash formal dresses. Rack after rack of them filling the space.
jeans for juniors. Everyone just had to have hash jeans. Id say now its about 70 percent dresses and 30
My supplier was in India. It was all about the pockets with percent career wear, Poser guesses, which is about how
those pants. They were $50 a pair. Back then that was the store space seems split. Its like farming. When the
real money. grain prices are down, beef is up. When beef is good, grain
Two years later the current space on Main Street, is down. Same here, when one is going strong, the other
formerly a doctors office, opened up and Poser bought it. one lags. Its my way of being diversified.
We moved in the dead of night, she says. Never missed Most of Posers employees are farm and ranch wives.
a day of work. Their schedules have to be flexible to accommodate the
A large measure of Posers success is her ability to demands at home. When its harvest season, its mostly
sense and adapt to her market, and to do it from a nuts- me in the store, shrugs Poser. Thats just the way it is
and-bolts place like Conrad. Missoula, sure. Bozeman. around here.

Its clear that the main focus, these days, is on the girls. The kids uncomfortable with their bodies. The ones
formal dresses. And the end goal is unwavering. My job is who come in with a boyfriend who cant keep his hands off
to make every girl who walks in as beautiful as she can be, of her. The kid who drags along the entourage of girlfriends
Poser stresses. That sharp mission requires a surprising who are as likely to sabotage the process as they are to
combination of strength, vision, sensitivity, and diplomacy. support it. The family strapped for money.
Its a process, Poser admits. Once we get things settled out, shoes off, men up front,
For Alex Kraft, part of the process was that it got in the girls in back, then we can get started, Poser says.
way of her basketball season. We had to call ahead and Usually they have some idea. They have a ballpark for
make a special appointment on a Sunday, because every size. Theyll have pictures on their phones, they might have
other day we were either practicing or playing a game. a color they want, short or long length.
Poser would open the store for them and Kraft would bring Then the team starts pulling dresses. On average a
half the girls on the basketball team to make it worthwhile. girl will be in and out of the dressing room for about two
We went every year, Kraft says. Wed take turns hours. It can be exhausting. When it gets busy in here it
trying on the dresses and come out for everyone on the seems like you have 40 people in this little back room. All
team to rate the dress. My grandma usually treated, so she five dressing rooms are going full blast, and were pulling
came too. those heavy dresses on and off girls for 10 hours a day.
Over the years, Poser and her crew have honed their Some girls are 6 feet tall, says Pourroy. I have had to
assessments of their clients, perceptive as social workers, ask them to kneel or Id have to get a step ladder!
which, for all practical purposes, they often are. Turns out All the while they are gathering information, keep-
you can tell a lot as soon as a girl walks through the door. ing it straight. What school dance it is. Have they had
The teenager whose grandpa is treating. The shy, awkward a dress before? Is that same dress on the list already?

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M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 51
What colors actually match a girls skin tone.
In the first stage they go for fit, finding that size that seems
natural and complementary. Then they hone in on style, length,
color, all the rest.
Weve gotten pretty good at guiding a girl respectfully,
keeping appropriate for her age and working with her personal-
ity, says Poser. I dont carry provocative gowns unless that is
specifically what a girl wants, and I make damn sure to check
with the parents. Then I can order it for her. Ive only had one
or two times when a parent has come back saying a dress is too
risqu, and Im proud of that record.
It also speaks to Posers awareness of her community, where
she is certain to meet those parents and grandparents in the
grocery aisle or at the feed store or on a ranch road.
Sometimes they have to go home to think on it, Poser
says. They could come back three or four times. Its a really
big deal, especially for the young girls.
Dresses have personalities, Poser asserts. That quality
either shines or falls flat depending on the girl its on. Poser
remembers one of her career styles she sold to a woman who
looked fabulous wearing it. I tried on that same outfit and it
was just terrible!
In some cases the right choice gets complicated. Thats
where Posers diplomacy and social perception come in to play.
Ive been in the dressing room with a girl who has a whole
gaggle of girlfriends out there making comments, and I know
damn well those girls dont want their friend to look better than
they do at the dance. Ill whisper in her ear to pick the dress
that she likes, and not listen to her friends.
Poser remembers a family who all came in together with
their young daughter. They had a big whispered powwow up
front and I knew money was an issue.
They said they couldnt spend more than $200. First I sent
them across the street to the consignment store, but they didnt
find anything there, so they came back. I knew they would.
We worked with them, picked out four or five dresses,
tried to keep the price down. Finally that girl came out of the
dressing room with a $298 dress on and you could just see
her dad melt, Poser remembers. He just flat melted. The girl
reminded him that it was still too much money, but suddenly he
was insisting that she needed shoes to go with, some jewelry,
and there was no more talk about budget.
Through all of this process, the boyfriends and fathers
and grandfathers fidget out front, find perches on the window
display, or put their shoes back on and go down to the Co-op to
pass the time until the girl is ready to walk out with the dress
shes picked.
We are very careful, Poser stresses. This is such a

Ive only had one or two times when a parent has come back
saying a dress is too risqu, and Im proud of that record.
delicate thing, especially with girls who arent comfortable when it becomes a chore, maybe Ill take stock, but I dont
in their skin. You can offend someone without even open- see that happening any time soon.
ing your mouth. The key, says Poser, is to keep adapting. New styles,
Pourroy recalls one time when she misread a label on new trends, retro, keeping track of the fashion pulse from
a dress and had a size 14 girl try on a size 4. Wow, that Calgary to Bismarck. If you dont evolve with the times,
was awkward, she says. I couldnt apologize enough to youre through.
that kid. Recently, that philosophy was tested when the first
And then theres the mamas, Poser sighs. Sometimes transgender client walked in to The N Thing. A mascu-
they have such a strong image for their daughter, and line-looking woman came in, waited discreetly until the
it just doesnt work. Mamas can be even tougher than store was empty, and approached the counter about getting
boyfriends! a formal dress for a dance. It was a moment when the
I figure Im halfway there, Poser says, optimistically, larger world confronted Poser in her small, careful farm-
of her career. Ive seen fashions come and go. Those two- town realitya moment to adapt, to move forward.
piece, I-Dream-of-Jeannie dresses have cycled around In her unflappable style, Poser paused a beat to take
twice while Ive been in business. stock, breathed deep, and started in.
I enjoy coming to work every day. When that changes, Okay, she said. What size are you?

Its more than just the

same old song. Its a relationship built on trust, understanding,
and miles of history. Its confidence in someone that
moves with you, in a direction that makes sense,
year, after year, after year. And with decades of
banking experience its you and together.


M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 53

Why animals hibernate and
what it means for humans



ou can tell when spring finally
arrives. You can sense it, the
longer days and a mildness in the
air even though the ground may
be covered with snow. Animals
can, too, which is why there are a lot more of them
around in the spring.
About a third of all mammal species in
Montana hibernate during the winter, along with
all cold-blooded land-based creatures such as
reptiles, amphibians and certain insects. In addi-
tion, some animals disappear during the winter
by entering a state of torpor, though they make an
appearance now and again.
Whether hibernating or in a state of torpor,
when spring arrives, these animals reactivate.
Understanding not only why certain animals hole
up in the winter, but what happens to them physi-
ologically, is a threshhold that may have impor-
tant ramifications for humans as well, in terms of
both medical science and space travel.

Why They Do It
With the exception of bears, hibernators are
small animals, usually under 10 pounds. The
most common in Montana are several species of
bats, ground squirrels, mice and marmots.
Its a solution for getting around food short-
ages and colder temperatures during the winter,
says Kerry Foresman, professor emeritus of biol-
ogy at the University of Montana and the author
of Mammals of Montana. When the snow flies,
larger herbivores like elk, deer and bighorn
A grizzly bear hunts for food in a river.
Unlike smaller hibernators, bears body
sheep can migrate to lower elevations, but smaller
temperatures dont dip dramatically species, like ground squirrels, dont have the
during the winter months. capability to move 200 miles.
In the case of bears, which are omnivores,

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 55
hibernation is still an adaptation to a lack of food. Bears
have a digestive system similar to humans, explains
The warming trend is causing
Chris Servheen, adjunct research associate professor of hibernators like the hoary
wildlife conservation at the University of Montana and the marmot to emerge from their
grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and naps earlier.

Wildlife Service. When it turns to winter, there are no

green plants or insects. Bears would need to be carni-
vores, but they are ineffective predators. Hibernation is an
elegant way to solve the problem.

Hibernation vs. Torpor

There are two ways animals sleep through the winter,
hibernating or entering a state of torpor. In both cases,
body temperature and metabolic rate drop. The difference
is based on how much and for how long.
Any lowering of body temperature is considered torpor.
When people get hypothermic, they technically enter
a state a state of torpor, which can be life threatening
because we are not genetically programmed for it. However,
certain animals purposely enter a state of torpor to
conserve energy. For their condition to be considered torpor
rather than hibernation, they dont stay there very long.
An animal in torpor lowers its body temperature mini-
mally, only about 5 to 15 degrees, says Foresman. A deer Hiberators in a Changing World
mouse will go into torpor at night for six to seven hours if The long-term effects of climate change on
its cold and if they dont find seeds under the snow. Its a hibernators are currently unclear. The best data
periodic response and not every night. Rather than burn up comes from the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory
reserves, their temperature drops. If they find seeds, theyll in Crested Butte, Colorado, where scientists have
run around. Their brain monitors their body temperature. recorded the hibernation habits of yellow-bellied
Its genetic, like why you wake up in the morning. marmots since the mid-1970s. Though daylight
True hibernators, except for bears, are genetically patterns havent changed, spring now comes about a
programmed to turn their internal thermostats way down, to month earlier and fall about a month later. As a result,
a minimum of 33 degrees Fahrenheit. (At 32 degrees, their marmots take longer to reduce their body temperature
cells, which are mostly water, would freeze and explode, to a state of deep hibernation and are emerging from
and they would die.) As the days shorten, temperatures hibernation about 38 days earlier. Can these rodents
decrease and food sources disappear, and hibernators go sustain themselves under warming conditions? No one
underground; but entering a state of hibernation is not a knows for sure, as researchers require even longer data
matter of simply falling asleep. Its a step-by-step process. sets to form valid conclusions.
Its not a light switch, says Foresman. It takes
several weeks for the animal to turn down its metabolism
and turn off its digestive tract. It takes energy for diges-
tive motility and acid production. The proteins in certain ambient temperature of its nest or den. For example, when
synapses in the brain disassociate, so those nerve connec- a Columbian ground squirrel heads into its hole in August
tions dont work anymore. Thought processes take energy. to begin hibernating, the air temperature might be 100
Hibernation is a way to conserve energy. degrees, but three feet underground, the soil is around
It also takes time for an animals body temperature to 70 degrees, so the squirrels body temperature drops to
drop. Body temperature during hibernation is tied to the 70 degrees. As the soil cools off, so does the squirrel. Its

Cold-blooded animals become more lethargic
as the weather turns colder. Rattlesnakes,
like these near Grass Range, amass in large
numbers before heading underground.


Cold-Blooded Creatures in the Cold snakes. Hibernaculi may be holes in the ground, crevices
among rock piles, a hollow log or a pile of heavy duff and
Brumation is the term used to describe hibernation leaves on the forest floor which offers both insulation and
among cold-blooded animals such as reptiles, amphibians protection from predators.
and insects. Cold-blooded animals are ectothermic, which Brumation is a survival tactic, hard-wired into ectother-
means they cannot control their internal body temperature. mic creatures. The bodily functions of brumators slow to a
They get warmer or colder based on the environment in crawl. They do not eat. Their digestive systems shut down,
which they live and the season of the year. The process is and their heart and respiratory functions drop.
similar to hibernation among warm-blooded mammals, but Not all brumators survive the winter. If their choice
the activity of the animal is more directly tied to air temper- of hibernaculum is poor or they enter brumation with an
ature than daylight. injury or illness which needs warmth and nutrition to heal,
Take the common rattlesnake. As the weather cools the chance of survival is low. That said, all cold-blooded
off, snakes become more lethargic. They seek a den, called creatures require a period of brumation to get through a
a hibernaculum, which they often share with many other Montana winter.

body functions slow down as its temperature drops, and the kidneys arent functioning it would permeate the cells
it sleeps for longer and longer periods of time. When its and poison the animal, so the animals temperature rises
temperature reaches 33 degrees, it might stay asleep for briefly to 98 degrees to get the kidneys functioning. It
three to four weeks at a time, but it still awakens occa- clears the waste, then drops back into a deep sleep.
sionally and briefly to clear body waste. In the case of bears, their body temperature declines
During hibernation, most animals are not asleep the but not as drastically. Whereas a ground squirrel cools off
whole time, says Foresman. They still metabolize fat to just above freezing, the body temperature of a hibernat-
which produces urea, an ammonia, as a by-product. If ing bear hovers around 88 degrees, only 12 degrees below

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 57
A black bear makes its way through Beware of
bushes. When bears are roused from
their dens early, their lives, and the
Sleeping Bears
lives of their cubs, are endangered. If you find the den of a
hibernating bear, leave it alone.
A bear may rouse from hiberna-
tion if disturbed and could hurt
you, but more likely it would
endanger itself. If a bear aban-
dons its den during the winter,
it dips into its energy stores.
While it may find another den,
the fuel it burns in the process
may leave it energy-deficient
later in the winter. And if a sow
abandons her cubs, the cubs
will die without her body heat
and milk.

their non-hibernating temperature, which allows it to rouse Its metabolism is incredibly reduced, says Foresman.
quickly in the winter if disturbed. For this reason, some Its not dead, but its functioning at a minimal level,
scientists argue that bears are not true hibernators even living off its body fats from which it also gets water.
though they are dormant for a number of months. Hopefully it has enough fat stored up. There are high
Its a silly argument, says Servheen, During hiber- mortality rates among hibernators, for example 50 percent
nation, ground squirrels may have lower heart rates and among ground squirrels, due to late spring snowstorms.
breathing rates while hibernating but they need to wake
up to urinate periodically. Bears dont eat, drink, urinate,
or defecate for months. Both are uniquely adapted to
Waking Up
survive the winter. According to Foresman, some of the best research on
There may be additional reasons, besides clearing what prompts animals to wake up from hibernation has
nitrogenous wastes, why all hibernators except bears been done on the western jumping mouse in Montana. The
must wake up periodically. Another theory is the need main trigger appears to be increase in soil temperature
to repair and maintain organs, tissues, and cells, says around the nest.
Foresman. Significant protein synthesis occurs during When the soil reaches about 45 degrees, it indicates
these periods of arousal. Its very possible that this is a new growth of grasses, he explains. The animals wake
needed requirement. up, and pretty quickly, not in steps over several months.
Bears do not need intermittent wake-ups while hiber- That said, the process of waking up is not instanta-
nating. In addition, they are able to maintain muscle mass neous. To make the point in classrooms, Foresman hands
and strength, and their bones do not lose density despite a student a hibernating ground squirrel, curled in a ball
months of inactivity. Female bears also give birth and with a body temperature of 33 degrees. The student holds
nurse their cubs while hibernating. the ground squirrel for a minute, then passes it to the next
Bruin or rodent, once asleep, most of its body func- student. An hour later, at the end of the session, the squir-
tions all but cease. A ground squirrel might breathe once rel has revived enough to roll over but it remains very
or twice per minute, and its heart slows to five to 10 beats lethargic as its body functions begin to restart. It would
per minute. take another hour or two to fully awaken.

Bears take much longer to get going after hiberna- version of suspended animation with potential implica-
tion. Theyre not really hungry at first, says Servheen. tion for real space travel. Its a big reason why millions of
It takes 5 to 14 days to get their systems fully restarted. dollars have been dedicated to studying hibernators.
Rousing from hibernation is not a trivial physiological If were going to get serious about space travel, says
change. They come out when it gets wet in the den, but Foresman, We need to figure out how these animals pull
they might still hang out by the den. it off.
For this reason, a bears weight is not at its lowest imme- Imagine how much food and water youd save! adds
diately after hibernation. If a bear emerges in May, it might Servheen.
continue to lose weight for another six to eight weeks. Its Inducing hibernation in humans is not as far-fetched
no coincidence that early summer is when a bears physi- as you might think. We already induce torpor during
cal condition is at its worst. Then, as its system restarts, it heart surgery, dropping the bodys temperature to 80
gets hungry. By fall, it enters a period of hyperphagia and degrees. And research is being done to understand how
gorges in preparation for hibernating again. bears convert urea into proteins in the blood during
hibernation, in hopes of resolving dialysis problems in
Hibernation and Humans In Star Trek, a television series about space explo-
In the Academy Award-winning film Avatar, the main ration in the 23rd century, the narrator always opened
characters began their travel to a planet in a far-off galaxy the show by describing space as the final frontier.
by falling asleep in a laboratory that induced a type Understanding hibernation is perhaps the most important
of suspended animation. Hibernation is the real-world next step to getting there.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 59



umbo was a rum runner, a German immigrant
swept into Montana on the heels of the homestead
movement early in the 20th century. In the
basement of his Oxford Bar on Havres Main Street
was a speakeasy: lemonade, grilled cheese sandwiches
and milkshakes on the main floor; booze (if you knew the
proper code) through the backdoor to the basement. The
Oxford even sported a one-lane bowling alley.
Shorty Young, infamous for his widespread dealings in
Prohibition-era lawlessness and the focus of Gary Wilsons
excellent book Honky-Tonk Town, operated a similar
establishment on the towns west side, a true honky-tonk
complete with prostitutes, cribs and gambling rooms.

Prohibition sent Hi-Line tipplers
into barroom basements for their booze,
even as a steady stream of it flowed
across the Canadian border

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 61
Prohibition, then, was the
last straw for those hard
There were others, of course, large and small, all up bitten by the collapse of
and down the Hi-Line. They and all the others who oper-
ated illicit businesses in Montana during Prohibition the homesteading boom.
tended to view the federal legislation as little more than a
needling annoyance.
When Montana went dry, officials in Helena sent
Hoping for relief from
agents and prosecuting attorneys to north-central Montana
seeking convictions. Havre, being the largest of the the federal government,
Hi-Line towns and the one oh-so-close to the border and
easy Canadian liquor, quickly absorbed many of them into
the wink-and-walk subculture of the day. According to
Montanans only received
the stories set forth in Wilsons book, everyone was on the
take. To nobodys surprise, evidence seized by agents visits from revenue agents
never seemed to make its way into court. Witnesses never
appeared. Cases were dismissed by local judges. Jumbo, bent on making life even
Shorty, other Havre businessmen and their attorneys had
case after case thrown out. They even brought charges
of their own against state and federal lawmen, assert-
more unendurable.
ing that warrants were unsupported by probable cause
and alleging trespass and even criminal mischief after
their warehouses and barns were broken into in search of
contraband. Time and again, agents were transferred or Northern Railway helped, extending its below-grade steam
demoted because they could not get convictions or over- lines from the rail yards on the north side to the strug-
come the irrepressible urge to succumb to Havres bawdy gling entrepreneurs on First Street. With time, the citizens
houses. It was tough being a cop on the Hi-Line. created their own underground mall.
Ever since its early days, the town bucked conven- It was only temporary though. Eventually, Havre
tion and obedience to the law. One cold January night rebuilt, emerging from the tunneled taverns and makeshift
in 1904, the Havre Hotel caught fire. Maybe it was two markets. But two decades later, when Prohibition pressed
brothers, drunkards both, who sought retribution when harshly on thirsty Montanans, some of the long-empty
they were thrown out of their room and set fire to the trash basements became speakeasy outlets and headquarters for
pile in the alley. Or was it the three cowhands from the the Havre Bunch. Truth is, even though Shorty Young
north side seeking to settle a long-standing feud with the and others maintained some basement offices there, illicit
owner? Nobody could be sure, but the fire changed things liquor lords saw little need to hide beneath the ground.
in Havre. Fueled by the relentless Hi-Line winds, the fire Havre was open for businessif you knew the right code.
howled through the night and consumed three blocks of Prohibition, then, was the last straw for those hard
wooden storefront businesses, the towns entire commer- bitten by the collapse of the homesteading boom. Hoping
cial neighborhood. for relief from the federal government, Montanans only
Undaunted, hardy Havre merchants went subterranean received visits from revenue agents bent on making life
and reopened their businesses: a meat market, drugstore, even more unendurable.
brothel, saloons, a dry goods store, and a Chinese laundry. While America basked in the Roaring Twenties,
Even the post office reopened in its basement. The Havre Montana was already well into a depression that began
Daily News ran ads attesting to the solvency of the vari- after World War I. Homesteads had gone bankrupt; farms
ous businesses and directing customers to the beneath were abandoned overnight, two-thirds of the banks closed.
the streets temporary locations. Awaiting spring, when Folks left. Montana is the only state that lost population
the local brickyard could rebuild, the business owners during the 1920s.
expanded their operations underground, tunneling, Seeking to find a way through those hard times, Jumbo
connecting adjacent stores and utilizing interconnecting went entrepreneurial by opening his bar and bootleg-
steam conduits to ward off the Hi-Line chill. The Great ging operation with other business partners. He played

trombone in the community band, gave to charities,
supported local sports teams, even bought war bonds to
help fight the Hun in the Great War.
The infamously flawed Montana Sedition Act had some-
thing to do with this. Zealous patriots formed into compli-
ance corps that roamed the town and countryside, coercing
neighbors to buy war bonds while keeping keen notes as to
who had a German last name and who spoke with an accent
and who owned a German shepherd dog. Some of the corps
members were using the legislation to make a name for
themselves in local politics. When local compliance corps
officials came visiting the Oxford Bar, Jumbo did what
many good businessmen did: he bought them off with liquor
and went on eating sauerkraut.
Runners, like Jumbo, would operate hopped-up
Oldsmobiles or Buicks with powerful flathead V-8
engines. Some ran on ethanol and kerosene blends with
air cleaners and mufflers removed to increase speed. The
license plates were left at home. They carried chains to
cope with the temperamental two-track dirt roads that ran
north from Havre like tendrils attached to the Canadian
border. Most ran at night, headlights off. Lots of the driv-
ers were teenagers like the kid named Luke, who had
been expelled from Havre High School for smoking cigars.
He delivered the Havre Daily News in the morning, then
ran liquor at night. One time, his driving partner, a much
older man, hit a snowdrift while running, lights out, on
the Saint Joe Road. He broke his arm and spent a chilly
night underneath the overturned Packard. The next day,
they hitched a ride back to town and got the bone set at
the Deaconess Hospital. The man told everyone he had
slipped on the frozen Milk River while cutting blocks of
ice for local merchants. Nobody believed him.
The runners knew all the backroads, coulees and
draws. They knew where all the gates were. And when
those were not convenient, they kept wire cutters in the
roadster in case they had to cut their way from one field
to another, but they were careful to repair the fence after
they went through. The farmers, after all, were their
friends, often providing shelter for them on the dicey
journeys to Canada and back. Hollowed-out haystacks
provided concealment for roadsters. Most runners knew
the land by heart; some kept secret maps of routes.
Somewhere between Medicine Hat and Havre was
Peter Skronyaks farmstead.
It and many others like it were nondescript,

MONTANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY RESEARCH CENTER PHOTOGRAPH ARCHIVES C.W. Shorty Young, a prominent bootlegger in Havre, and his wife.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 63

Main Street in Havre, circa 1931.

LOOK FOR THE HORSE ON THE ROOF! hardscrabble frame houses. This one His rivaled his neighbors in size and
was a former claimers shack added to production. Revenuers would sometimes
Bozemans Premier over the years. Skronyak was an invet- visit his farmstead just to make sure that
Boutique & erate bachelor. He emigrated from the
old country to escape conscription into
he was not using his huge crop of pota-
toes in a small-scale still operation.
Tack Store the Prussian army. In his youth, he was In the end, Franklin Roosevelt
a roguish man, tall and flinty-eyed. concluded, like most sensible
Where Equine Gear Meets Fashion After booking passage to New York, he Americans, that Prohibition could not
rented a Great Northern boxcar for $35, reasonably outlaw the sale, transport,
l 10 Minutes West of Bozeman on the loaded it with goods purchased with and possession of liquor. Accordingly,
Way to Big Sky
an inheritance from his fathers forest he appeared before a joint session
estate in the Alpokalja Mountains of of Congress in 1933 and, his New
l Full-Service Boutique & Tack Store for
Cowboys, Cowgirls & Equestrians Hungary, and went west to plant flax in York accent in full flair, triumphantly
Montana. declared: I favor the repeal of the
Peter liked rye whiskey. Jumbo Volstead Act just as fast as the law
GET OUTFITTED FOR SPRING always made certain that, when he will allow it. And he pounded his fist
holed up at Peters place on his trips to on the podium. Uproarious applause
l Dubarry of Ireland l Horsewear Ireland Canada, he always left him with a bottle erupted across the chamber and the
l Back on Track l Goode Rider
of Sazerac. Together the men would stay nation. Prohibition ended and so did
l Barn Fly Trading l Rebecca Ray
l Miller Ranch l Boulet Boots up late, playing cards and drinking, the speakeasy era. Americans went
l Johnny Was l Kerrits while Jumbo filled him in on the doings back to what they do, only more openly.
l Ryan Michael l MT-Made Gifts in town: news about people, prices, poli- Much later, when his neighbors
tics, business matters, gossip. located Peter Skronyak one spring in
English, Western & Out on the Town Skronyaks place abutted the border, the 1930s, he was still frozen solid in
30 miles north of Havre, though it was his root cellar. He had likely taken
difficult to know just where the border shelter there during a prolonged bliz-
was, ill-defined and crudely surveyed zard, the last place of warmth on his
as it often was in remote regions. Most forlorn farmstead. Inside his small
wheat farmers on the northern plains, frame house, his stove wood and coal
whether their survey legally supported all used up, patches of frost still clung
it or not, plowed right up to the to the tattered wallpaper. When they
Medicine Line, their stubble fields just took stock of his belongings, they found
kissing the edge. And wet Alberta hidden bottles of ryedozens upon
was right there in the next field. dozensall unopened, wrapped in
Such farms and ranches provided an flour sacks and shoved deep into oat
underground-railway-style network of bins, the compost pit and hayloft.
halfway houses. Peter Skronyaks was Putting things by was a mantra for
& BOUTIQUE folks who didnt have much. Skronyak
one of them. He lived on potatoes and
venisonlots of it. Any good plains was good at it. Prohibition was over, but
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Road Watchers

ts a lonely grave for such a busy place. Millions of
people scurry by every year. Hardly anybody stops.
William Thomas lies here, his bones along-
side those of his 7-year-old son Charlie and Joseph
Shultz, the hired man who was murdered with them.
Somebody built a cairn of smooth river stones to mark the
spot, wedged between Interstate 90 and its frontage road
a couple miles west of tiny Greycliff. Just over a fence,
the traffic keeps cruising. Which is what the Thomases
and Schultz were trying to do on what was then the
Bozeman Trail.
But they got in a hurry and thats how they ended up in
the ground, scalped and pierced with arrows. Three more
casualties in an era that Blackfeet historian Darrell Kipp
Interstate 90 carries millions of travelers past a historic Bozeman
compared to whats happened in Mogadishu in recent Trail grave near Greycliff.
years, a time when eager settlers invaded the homeland
of resentful Plains Indians, when there was plenty of
murderous behavior to go around. had 13 arrows in his body. Charlie had three and lay near
The Thomas party had traveled from a prosperous his father, alongside the wagon. Schultzs body was found
Illinois farm, mostly accompanying large trains of wagons in the nearby Yellowstone River, his fishing gear and a
and sometimes soldiers. William Thomas, bereft from the couple of trout nearby.
recent loss of his wife and twin daughters to pneumonia, Nobody knows who killed them. Maybe raiding
was aiming to start over with a brother in the Gallatin Blackfeet, maybe Sioux, probably not Crow. They stole
Valley. Along the way, theyd seen the shallow graves of the $500 team of mules and most everything else of
other pilgrims killed by Indians, some of them excavated value. But they didnt take Williams diary, which is in the
by wolves that devoured the faces of the dead. Montana Historical Society today.
It rattled William. That was August 24, 1866, a year when settlers were
Summing up the danger, he wrote in his diary on outnumbered by freight wagons bringing goods to western
July 31, 1866, while still in Wyoming in the heart of Montana gold camps. The state was taking bloody baby
Sioux and Cheyenne country, cold chills run through steps into the modern age.
my blood. All but military travel on the Bozeman Trail ended after
He spent the next day in camp, reading his Bible. that deadly summer, but within a dozen years the Indian
But after the wagon train crossed the Bighorn River, Wars were finished in Montana. Roads got better and
guide Jim Bridger told the travelers they were in Crow safer. Trains rolled through by 1883. Towns prospered and
Country, the home of friendly Indians, so a few wagons faded, irrigation projects arrived, pavement was laid, the
pushed ahead of the main group. Then one of them broke interstate highway system came, with this segment overlay-
down and William decided to press onward, his little ing John Bozemans route to the gold fields.
group alone and unarmed. So many changes. Yet the grave with three bodies
I determined trusting in the Lord to go ahead, the remains, silent, rarely visited. Earthbound eyes closed
man his friends called Reverend wrote on August 17. as the world passes by at speeds they could never have
Seven days later, his companions caught up. William imagined.

Theres still time, young writers.
The Montana Quarterly wants your best work!
The third annual Big Snowy Prize will award two prizes, one for short fiction and one for essay/
nonfiction, to Montanans 30 or younger.

Whos eligible? Anyone 30 or younger as of April 15, 2016, and a current or former Montana resident.

What are the rules? Send unpublished entries up to 3,500 words in a Word document to
editor@themontanaquarterly.com. Show that you live or have lived in Montana.
Previous winners are ineligible.

Whats the deadline? April 15, 2016.

How many entries? One per person, please.

Winners in each category will get a check for $500, a handsome

trophy, and publication in the Summer 2016 Montana Quarterly.

More information at www.themontanaquarterly.com/big-snowy-prize/


The Varied Lives

of Robert Staffanson

any lives have a second act, some a third, WITNESS TO SPIRIT:
but few can claim a successful fourth act.
Yet 94-year-old Robert Staffanson is doing My Life with Cowboys,
exactly that with his first book, Witness to Mozart & Indians
Spirit. Called the most interesting man By Robert Staffanson | Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing Inc.,
in Montana by Ed Kemmick of Last Best News, Staffanson $42 hardcover, $24 paperback, 260 pages
spent his formative years on no-frills Montana ranches,
excelling in horsemanship and connecting to a nature- writer Todd Wilkinson to
based Western spirit that has never left him. edit his autobiography.
Staffanson, who says he could sing before I could While the first two acts
walk, played a range of instruments and earned a music of the book are matter-of-
degree from the University of Montana. His leadership fact, the third is poetic
skills, musical gifts, and raw pluck led to his second act: a and inspirational. The
meteoric rise in the world of classical music. In his twen- format is vintage family
ties, Staffanson founded the Billings Symphony and music album and includes
education programs still active today. By his early thir- more than fifty photos.
ties he was the conductor of the prestigious Springfield, While Staffansons spirit,
Massachusetts Symphony. Music in its highest forms opens scope of impact and
spiritual windows like no other art, Staffanson writes. four acts would be hard
In the same era, Staffanson and his wife spent summers to match, his life and
rejuvenating in Montana and he had a life-changing expe- choices can inspire read-
rience at a Blackfeet Medicine Camp. He felt the pull to ers of all ages to take
abandon a profession in which I was successful for an risks and maybe even change the world.
idea of addressing Americas oldest moral problem: its Robert Staffanson is the President Emeritus of the
indefensible treatment of Native Americans. And that laid American Indian Institute. He lives in Bozeman with his
the foundation for his third act. Despite medical trauma wife Ann, next door to their daughter Kristin Campbell
and acute hearing loss, he worked for years with tradi- and her family.
tional native leaders to develop the role and goals of the
American Indian Institute. For four decades, the organi- Montana Quarterly: What do you want readers to know
zation he founded has facilitated unprecedented Native- going into Witness to Spirit?
driven traditional circle gatherings and programs Robert Staffanson: That this is a very honest book
advocating Native wisdom and perspective. reflecting spiritual qualities in three very disparate areas
Fourth act, ninth decade: Staffanson tapped Bozeman of life.

The word
spirit has
lost its
meaning. It is
generally tied
to dogma or
relegated to
kooks who
are looking
for some
magic to fix
the hole in
their psyche.


Left: Robert Staffanson in

Bozeman. Above: Staffanson
prepares to conduct a
symphony in Springfield,

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 69
MQ: Why did you choose a title with the words witness been successful. Some are not, or are torn between the
and spirit, common in Christendom and proselytizing, two. Alcohol and drugs are used as sedatives. Traditional
while not addressing your religious beliefs in the book? Native Americans have kept the morals and values of
RS: The term spirit is a defining one for the book, their heritage with little compromise and have adapted
which is concerned with spirituality. Spirituality is not outwardly to the conditions of modern life while inwardly
limited to any one religion. I am a Christian but I did not retaining the spirit and essence of who they are in their
want to impose my religious affiliation in a book dedicated own communities and in their own ceremonies. They are
to spirituality, which is pertinent to all religions. The term the people with a finger in the dike of disappearance and
witness is used to signify my own spiritual experiences in with whom we work to help them sustain their heritage
the three areas of life dealt with in the book. under overwhelming pressure.

MQ: What did you learn about fundraising as a MQ: To what do you attribute resistance to the
symphony conductor that helped you fund the American American Indian Institutes mission by your non-native
Indian Institute? friends and peers?
RS: Passion. Neither symphony orchestras nor work RS: No other minority group can match the discrimina-
with Indians have popular appeal. One has to make an tion and hate directed at Native Americans. Non-Indian
emotional case as well as a pragmatic case. association with them, particularly with traditional Indians,
attracts some of the same negative emotion applied to
MQ: What were your favorite parts, and what do you Indians. In that view the non-native is a traitor to their race
miss, about the classical music world? and community. An element of guilt over its abominable
RS: My favorite part was bringing the work of great treatment of the (native) people is likely a factor. The trag-
composers to audiences both adult and children. Because edy is, that if there had been any effort to understand the
of hearing loss I miss that. I will never again hear that true nature of the Indian heritage, there are many elements
music. It would have been unbearable had I not had an that could have helped the larger society address environ-
urgent cause to which I could apply myself completely and mental and human problems that overwhelm us. A great
be fulfilled. human family, traditional Indians, has been bulldozed
under with no idea of the value lost in that carnage.
MQ: How did you come to settle in Bozeman?
RS: Chet Huntley, former NBC announcer, was one of MQ: Why do you think so few people are dedicated to
the American Indian Institutes founding trustees. I moved spiritual growth like yourself?
to Bozeman to be near him and because of the facilities in RS: Spiritual growth, like growth in any discipline,
Bozeman and its location in an awesome natural setting. takes interest, time and commitment. Our society is not
set up to promote spiritual growth. We are pragmatic and
MQ: How are traditional indigenous people differ- promote practical disciplines. The word spirit has
ent from the rest of the vastly diverse contemporary native lost its meaning. It is generally tied to dogma or relegated
populations? to kooks who are looking for some magic to fix the hole
RS: The Native American community is split in many in their psyche. One of the elements that attracted me to
ways, perhaps even more than the dominant society. In traditional Indians is that spirit dominates their lives. Any
simplistic terms the greatest split is between politi- traditional Indian is brought up with spiritual insights and
cal Indians, those who have adopted our life-ways and examples. We do not have that except in churches where
our essentially materialistic approach to life, and tradi- spirituality is circumspect and tied to dogma. Traditional
tional Indians who have kept the life-ways and the value Indians say, We dont see any spirituality in your world.
systems of their heritage in spite of being told by our soci- They have a point.
ety over centuries that it is both wrong and evil; church
and state combined to destroy the only wisdom indigenous MQ: Do you have any parting advice to readers?
to this hemisphere. In some Indian nations the tradi- RS: Open your minds and your hearts to people society
tional side is strong, in others it is weak. Some Indian has marginalized and denigrated. Both you and they will
people have come over to the non-Indian world and have benefit.


The Power of Short Stories

hort stories are the perfect literary form two young sons. In one hilari-
for the 21st century. They can be read on our ous scene, he teaches the
lunch break or during our morning commute. boys how to be manly men
They fit neatly between the covers of a magazine or on by making strong coffee and
our diminutive glowing screens. The short-story writer then sitting around talking
Lorrie Moore has said, Short stories are about trouble about the weather, something
in mind. A bit of the blues. Songs and cries that reveal his own father does with his
the range and ways of human character. Three new buddies down at Albertsons.
story collections by Callan Wink, Glen Chamberlain When his girlfriend says that
and Rick Bass (all of whom have been featured in the the coffee is horrible, her
Montana Quarterly) offer a tasty mix of troubled minds. young sons reply, Its good ...
These stories allow us to step into the messy lives of because were men.
others and, as Neil Gaiman says, still be back in time In Breatharians, a
for dinner. Whether you are already a connoisseur of father gives his 12-year-old son the job of killing
short stories or new to the form, these three collections surplus barn cats using whatever tool suits you. ...
are well worth your time. Small tails worth as much as large tails. As the boy
embraces this ghastly job, he witnesses his father
having sex with his teenage girlfriend over a hay bale,
DOG RUN MOON her underwears brilliant lacy pinkness ... a glar-
ing insult to the honest, flyspecked, manure brown of
By Callan Wink | The Dial Press, hardcover,
the barn. The next morning when the girlfriend asks
256 pages, $26
him if he wants his coffee black, like his dads, the boy
says, Sure, and he tries not to grimace as he sips the
Callan Winks long-awaited first book, Dog Run Moon, strong brew. Then he grabs his wrench and heads to
cements his growing reputation as a fresh and highly the barn, trying to find his place within the adult world
original voice in contemporary literature. of work and sex.
He published his first story in The New Yorker while In the title story, Dog Run Moon, a young man
he was still in college, and he has continued to publish runs barefoot through the desert at night with a stolen
in top-tier venues ever since. Its not hard to understand dog while two angry men chase him on an ATV. This
why. Wink has a combination of raw talent, deft techni- story primes us for a violent climax, but the subtext of
cal ability, and keen insight into human nature that is longing and pain is more complex and interior than that.
rare in a writer of his young ageor a writer of any age. Just when we think we have this author comfortably
I can say without reservation that hes one of the best pigeonholed as a writer writing about disaffected young
young writers coming out of the West. men, Wink blows those expectations to smithereens with
Many of Winks stories explore the pressures on In Hindsight, a long and intricately woven story about
young men to conform to the impossible myth of mascu- a working-class bisexual woman. We follow the woman
linity revered in the West. These men flounder as they through half a century as she cobbles a makeshift
try to carve their own path in the world, unsure of what family out of her ruined relationships and squeezes life
they want and how to get it. Through trial and error, out of her disappointments.
they slowly grope their way toward adulthood. Winks beautifully strange stories are bewitching.
In Runoff, a 25-year-old man living in his fathers They have a fiery passion and authenticity that make
basement overhears his father call him a beta dog who them infinitely pleasurable to read. If you havent read
is willing to be led. He stumbles into love with a much Callan Wink yet, its time to take the plunge. Hes the
older woman and finds himself playing alpha dog to her real deal.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 71
ALL I WANT IS WHAT In one of my favorite
stories, Evas Task, Eva
YOUVE GOT moves to rural Idaho with
By Glen Chamberlain | Dock Street Press, softcover, her husband. As she stalks a
273 pages, $16.99 mysterious cowboy, she falls
in love with the land, hungry
Glen Chamberlains second short story collection, to learn everything about
All I Want Is What Youve Got, includes 12 finely the wild rye, the sego lilies,
wrought stories that take us down the long dirt roads the golden eagles diving
and into the homes and lives of small-town Montana. for ground squirrels, and
Many of these stories take place in rural Buckle especially the swallows. In
Valley, but they are in no way limited by what the her vast Idaho solitude, she
publishing industry likes to call regionalism. James admires the communities of
Joyce has said, In the particular is contained the mudjug houses they build in cliffs ... the creaking notes
universal. By focusing on specific people in a specific and guttural gratings of many conversations. ... Often
place, whether its a Chinese-American woman trying she sits and studies them ... pleased at how much there
to untangle the myth of her ancestry, or the ways is to learn about something so familiar. She is trans-
fate can turn mean in the hands of a lying, conniv- formed by the rural landscape, but when she witnesses
ing 12-year-old girl, or the everyday oscillations of the violent reality of her mysterious cowboy, her
marriage, Chamberlain drills deep into our collective
In Big Their Secret, Crystal, a nurses aide,
takes care of Fergus, a paralyzed man whose
only physical capability is blinking his eye once
for yes, twice for no. Fergus, with his thick
brown curls, was once the handsomest boy in
all Buckle Valley. That kind of hair wasnt
supposed to be in nursing homes. ... The hair
Fergus had should have been out walking about,
getting tousled by the breeze and warmed by the
sun, and the fingers of a woman should be comb-
ing it in the dark of night. Crystal talks to him
constantly, giving him time to blink out his yes
and no answers. Its quite a feat that, through
these interactions, Chamberlain brings the silent
man to life as a multi-dimensional character. The
last line of this story is perfect.
In Her Funny Valentine, a lonely elderly
man falls in love with an unconventional woman
who is visiting the local artists refuge. A
Montana truth emerges when he says: People
from all over the world came to have their art fed
by the landscape that hed never figured out how
to eat and digest. It wasnt that he didnt appreci-
ate its beauty; its just that hed spent his whole
life trying to balance living in Pocket against
making a living in Pocket. ... The scale always
tipped toward poverty.

In Basss stories, spouses and children leave, mountain
lions threaten to rip apart a mans happiness, and rivers
change direction, taking entire towns with them.

disillusionment is a catalyst for another type of change. Sometimes they find this
These stories show great versatility in style and elusive stability for a little
structure. Some contain the wit, ingenuity and intellec- while in love and family, in
tual play of Nabokov, others include vivid descriptions work and place, in the mad
of the western landscape that draw us into the beauty obsessions that drive them
and power of place. The idea for this eclectic collection onward through the confu-
arose after Chamberlain attended an Ahn Trio concert. sion and chaos of life.
That night, I decided Id make the Ahn Trio into a In Coach, a mans
quartet: Id try to write stories that in mood corre- incandescent fury for girls
sponded to the cuts from their CD titled Lullaby for My basketball, with its mix of
Favorite Insomniac. Through this creative collabo- high passion and deep irrel-
ration between the arts, Chamberlain has produced evance, is a form of ther-
a highly entertaining and thought-provoking story apy he uses to heal from
collection. a lifetime of setbacks and pain. In The Legend of
Pig-Eye, a young fighter tries to gain acceptance from
his sadistic trainer. I did not know what my parents
FOR A LITTLE WHILE wanted from me, but I did know what Don wanted. ... I
wondered if I fought so wildly and viciously ... to keep
By Rick Bass | Little, Brown and Company, hardcover,
480 pages, $28
things from changing.
In these stories, love is the strongest bulwark against
the impermanence of life. In How She Remembers It,
For a Little While by Rick Bass collects the best of a young girl traveling with her father glimpses the thin
almost 30 years worth of Basss short stories, a delec- line between her privileged life and the hopelessness
table mix that includes old favorites as well as many and despair of a woman with brittle orange hair sitting
new gems. beside her broken-down Cadillac with a half-empty
Bass, whose stories have appeared in nearly every bottle of vodka. She seemed resigned, so accustomed
major short story venue and have won numerous prizes, to this type of situation ... as she confirmed once again
is a storyteller extraordinaire. His tightly woven tales that she understood how the world was ... no mercy in
seem to grow organically from sentence to sentence, it for her. The girl imagines herself in such a predica-
like leaves unfurling in the sun. These stories are ment and realizes: Only her own victory of being
deeply rooted in place, revealing a strange and beguil- loved deeply allowed her the luxury of such indulgent
ing beauty among the gas flares of Texas, the alligator- imaginings.
infested swamps of the southern bayou, and the isolated In Basss stories, spouses and children leave, moun-
cabins and snowclad forests of Montana. tain lions threaten to rip apart a mans happiness, and
Bass immerses us in the sometimes odd but always rivers change direction, taking entire towns with them.
fascinating lives of his characters: cyclists and runners, It can go just like that, one character says, snapping
loggers and hunters, adolescents on the verge of her fingers. It can go that fast. Yet in the midst of
sexual awakening and adults wading into the quag- such uncertainty, Bass has an uncanny ability to find
mire of dementia. One thing these characters have in beauty and passion. In an unstable world, this collec-
common is that they are all searching for something tion gives us something solid to hold on to for a little
solid to hang on to in a fluid and ever-changing world. while.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 73

Mill Town



L et me tell you what its like to run away.
In the early autumn of that year the
river was clear and slowed to a trickle
and the wildfires were finally dead. Our
place sat hidden down a washboard road
that hugged the calm stream until it
veered off to an open pasture near the base
of the mountains. In the open pasture we had
a small house and a barn, both faded from
the sun and years of neglect. It was only 10
minutes from Milltown, the town where I
grew up and the town I never left until I was
From my bedroom, I heard his truck
rattle into the driveway. He slammed the
door and made more noise when he came
inside. I usually knew my father was home
by the noise he made and the smell that he
carried with him. I never met anyone else
who smelled like him. It was a sharp metal-
lic scent and I used to worry I would some-
day share that trait.
Russell, get out here and help me
unload, he said.
Without looking at him, I headed straight
to the old Chevy. The back of the pickup
was filled with grocery bags stuffed with the
usual suppliesa dozen packets of Sudafed,
jugs of iodine, brake fluid and Drano, two
cases of Rainier.
I remember the first time I asked about
his shopping.
Whatya need all this for? I said, look-
ing into the shopping cart at Albertsons. He
stopped and stared down at me. His eyes
were almost hidden by his battered Stetson
tucked over his forehead, but I could see their
sharpness. His dark reaction startled me.
Now, looking back on it, I think he wanted
to say something, something another father
might say. Instead he said nothing. And thats
when we made a silent agreement. It was the
first time I really knew he was my father and I
was his son.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 75
I carried the bags inside and placed them on the kitchen vodka into a glass of ice.
table while two more trucks rambled up the driveway kick- So Gene comes home piss-drunk while Trevor and
ing up dust. Swede and Pervert climbed out of one truck, a Sheryl are naked in bed. But Gene makes so much damned
shiny new Ford I hadnt seen before, and Tina stepped out of noise and can hardly untie his shoes, it gives Trevor enough
her same old one. time to pull himself out of there and run out the back door.
God damn hotter than hell out here, Pervert said, When Gene finally stumbled into bed, he mustve been
walking up the front porch holding an open can of Steel pleasantly surprised to find his wife lying there looking all
Reserve. ready to greet him properly.
The three of them broke the silence in the kitchen. Tina and Pervert broke out in high-pitched laughter
How ya doin Russell? Tina said, smiling softly at me. while my father shook his head and took a long pull from
You look good. his beer.
Im fine, I said. Well, Swede continued, laughing real loud, The only
Anybody want a beer? my father asked, opening the problem is that Trevor forgot to grab his undergarments,
refrigerator. and the next morning Gene almost put on those same
I got something better, Tina said, a rowdy twang in her dirty leftovers. A little upset, to say the least, Gene yanked
voice. Sheryl out of bed by her hair and threw her in the shower
She pulled out a handle of McCormicks vodka and and decided to give her an ice-cold bath. Sounds like he
waved it in the air. She already seemed drunk, teetering on held her in there for about five minutes before she finally
those skinny legs that carried her bony frame. Through it muttered Trevors name.
all, she was still pretty, even after the beatings from a car The room grew quiet. Gene Donaldson was unpredict-
wreck and more than a few boyfriends. able and neurotic, which makes you wonder why anyone
My father pinched a black chunk of snuff and buried it would sneak into his house and screw his wife.
in a new part of his lip that still had nerves before wiping Trevor showed up to work at the mill that next day,
his hand on those torn jeans he wore day after day. Pervert thinking nothing of it, Swede said. But then when he
leaned back in his chair and let his ponytail hang low came out to his car for lunch, Gene snuck up behind with a
toward the ground as he poured a long drink into his mouth. 2-by-4 and cracked it over Trevors skull. Couple other guys
He was a motorcycle mechanic from Texas. He had an came out just in time to stop Gene from beating Trevor into
accent that stumbled out of his bulbous lips. He always wore sawdust. Last I heard, Trevors still out cold in the hospital
a black vest and oil stained white T-shirt that barely hid the in Missoula. Genes sitting in his cell where it sounds like
faded tattoos of naked women crawling around the leather hell be spending some time.
of his arms. The only tidy thing about him was his ponytail, Sounds like Sheryls going to be having some lonely
which was wrapped tight with a rubber band. nights for a while, my father said.
In some ways, Swede still resembled the young man in Dont get any ideas, Pervert said, sneaking a grin.
the photos that still littered our house. He had wrinkled, My father looked up at the clock on the wall, almost
soft skin now, but still a burly frame with thick arms, simi- 3 oclock. It was time. Without saying a word, he stood up
lar to the picture of him and my dad standing together in and led the procession out the back door toward the barn.
high school football jerseys. Or the photo of them smiling They each picked up grocery bags and silently walked
unfamiliar smiles with their shirts off near the river, stand- outside, not saying goodbye or anything else as they left me
ing on either side of my young mom. in the empty house.
Everyone settled in and Swede launched into the big Left to my solitude, as I often was in those days, I walked
news at the lumber mill. a few minutes down the windy road and sat by the river
Shit, Swede began, So while Gene was drinking after under the high blue sky. I watched the current sweep over
shift at the V, Trevor Williams swung over to Genes house, the pebbles that radiated through the clear water. Yellow
parked two blocks down the road and came through the leaves floated downstream.
back gate where Sheryl was waiting for him like usual, prob- I caught a glimpse of a trout waving through the shallows.
ably not wearing nothing but some silky little outfit like the It looked like a young rainbow. I gazed down at it swimming
ones Tina loves. in place, and I remember wondering what would happen to
You can dream, Swede, Tina said as she poured that fish once it followed its natural path downstream, past

I gazed down at it swimming in place, and I remember wondering what
would happen to that fish once it followed its natural path downstream,
past the mountains and forest and into the large reservoir behind
the Milltown Dam, where the river stops and becomes a pool of toxic
sediment from years of abuse and neglect.

M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 77
the mountains and forest and into the large reservoir behind stories from Tina, stories that scared and tantalized me.
the Milltown Dam, where the river stops and becomes a pool I barely ever went to Missoula even though the drive
of toxic sediment from years of abuse and neglect. What was short, only 15 minutes on the Interstate. It occupied
would happen if it knew its fate? It could fight upstream the horizon like a pulsating fire. My father and his friends
for as long as its strength and will and desire allowed it, always took the back roads into the city.
but eventually the weight of the water, the strength of river, That night the moon shined through a silver blan-
would prevail. Always does. So what is one to do? ket of clouds and the outline of the mountains was well
defined. For the short time when Milltown is behind you and
Missoula is just ahead, the stars can suddenly appear and

y father bent over his plate eating a chunk everything seems wild and unknown.
of chicken with his sloppy hands. His cup sat Hellgate Canyon grew closer until it opened into an
on the table and he smelled like vodka and cat entire valley of lights and cars and buildings. We veered
piss. It was dark outside and I could hear the through downtown, past loud groups of young men and
crickets. women carelessly walking the streets, smiling and acting
He looked up from his plate toward the clock. He carefree. I tried to stay focused on the driving, but couldnt
swiped his hand across his brow, almost like he was trying help but stare out at them. We came to the stoplight on
to erase something from his forehead. Higgins Avenue. A group of young women crossed in front
Clean up, would ya? I gotta run an errand, he said, of us, laughing, and the women looked in and caught us
clambering to his feet. both staring out at them.
His shoulders sagged and his skinny arms dangled like They were still in the street when the light turned green
noodles. and a car behind us honked. My fathers head jerked back.
The dishwashers still broken, so rinse em off and let The women hurried out of the road and one of them waved
em dry. All right? apologetically. I hurried through the light and turned at the
Where you going? I asked. first street. The streets grew darker the farther we distanced
I gotta drop some stuff off in Missoula, he said. ourselves from downtown. My father held a piece of paper
He stumbled over to the door and sat down on the bench close to the window for light and read directions.
to put on his old round-toed cowboy boots, the ones hed had Stop, this is it, he said. It was a residential neighbor-
since I was a child. He tried standing up to stomp his foot hood and there were cars parked all along the street and a
into one boot but staggered. He saved himself by grabbing few people stood in the front yard of a large brick house that
the wall. His legs shuddered and his hat fell to the ground. had lights on and loud music spilling outside.
He muttered a curse word and pretended like I wasnt This one? I asked.
watching. I looked at his half-empty cup of booze. Yeah, this is it, he said. Wait here.
Why dont you let me drive, I said. No, I said. Im coming with you.
Im fine, he said. I lurched into a parking spot and flipped the key, turning
We had broken into arguments about this before and the truck off.
often I would wish hed just crash into a ditch and never get God dammit, Russell, youre staying right here, he
out. But then I would think about it some more and my heart screamed.
would thump and the air would thin out around me. Im either going in with you or Im driving away the
No, I want to go, I said. second you step out, I yelled back.
He froze in his seat. We stared at each other. I dont He seemed startled. I thought he was going to hit me so I
know why, but I wasnt afraid of him at that moment. I held raised my chin, giving him a target. He fired his fist toward
his gaze until finally he broke the silence. my face but stopped barely an inch away. The smell of his
All right, God dammit, he yelled. Get in the truck. steely hand drifted between us.
At night, Milltown is almost pitch black except for the Dont you ever act like you can take it, he yelled.
streetlights and two bars. That night the parking lot at I heard my heart knocking inside my chest. He clenched
Harolds Club was crowded and the butter-yellow sign flick- his fist in front of my face for a second more and then
ered Dine Drink Dance. I remember wondering what went dropped it. He opened the door and slammed it behind him.
on inside those wooden walls, although Id heard plenty of I looked out at his shadowy figure walking down the street

and jumped out and ran after him. cowboy hat and boots. I hurried behind him, budging into
I joined him at the front door of the house where two men a girl holding a beer. She turned and looked at me. Her soft
were standing and smoking. skin glowed from the sweat and lights.
You can just go in, if you want, one of them said. Im really sorry, I said. She smiled and put her hand
All right, my father replied. Then he turned and out and touched me on the arm. I felt every hair sharpen as
looked at me, as if giving me one last chance. I stuck my her sweaty hand soothed my skin.
hand out and opened the door, letting him lead the way. Its cool, she smiled.
Flashing lights and music filled the living room. People I hurried after my father who was rushing through the
were dancing everywhere, at least 50 of them. The air was crowd. I wanted a mask. I wanted to scream. I wanted him
thick and musty and stuck to my face. My father stood to tell me who we were.
frozen in the doorway looking out into the ocean of people. My father opened the door. Three young men were sitting
I nudged his back and he shot a look back at me. He took a on an old black couch. They all looked up at us. I remem-
step forward and froze again. His hands stuck tightly to his ber thinking my fathers jeans and Carhartt coat seemed
sides. People caught sight of him and slowed down to see suddenly out of place, among other things.
whose father had come to grab somebody. Checkers? he said, agitation filling his voice. One of
After a few more seconds, he approached someone and them stood up, paused, and then smiled.
said, Im looking for Checkers. Are you ?
Checkers, oh yeah, she said. Hes back there. Yeah, he said.
She pointed toward the back of the party where a closed Oh shit, man, cool. Sorry I didnt think, you know, youd
door hid another room. The smell of alcohol and sweat be, uh, well, you know. Take a seat.
flooded the room. I watched as he split the crowd with his Checkers walked to the door and closed it and looked

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M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 79
directly at me. Checkers said, laughing. My father looked at the birthday
Who are you? he asked me. boy sitting alone on the couch. He was pale.
A friend, my father said. Here it is. Money, my father said, repeating himself with more
He pulled a Ziploc bag from his pocket and held it up. force in his voice.
Everyone stared at it, including me. Id never seen it before, OK. OK. Jesus Christ. Ill be right back.
but I immediately recognized what it was. It was who my Checkers walked out the door and quickly shut it behind
father had become. him, leaving the three of us together, silent.
Money, my father said. After a silent moment that seemed to last a minute, the
Checkers smirked. kid piped up.
Right, right, sorry, man. You go to school here? he asked, looking at me.
One of the young men on the couch stood up and said he No, I said.
had to go to the bathroom. Silence, and then the kid said, I do. Im a freshman.
OK, but hurry back. You gotta help rookie here with He was wearing a bright collared shirt and had spiky
his first time, Checkers said, pointing to the kid now sitting hair just like Checkers.
alone. Im from Idaho, he continued. I never been to
We got us a first-timer here tonight, Checkers said, Montana until I came here for college. My mom told me to
talking to my father now. Birthday present for my little explore somewhere new after high school, but I was nervous
cousin here. to leave home and all my friends. But my cousin was going
He nudged the kids shoulder with his fist and the kid to school here and they said he would look after me.
half smiled. My father was staring down at the kid.
Nineteen years old. What a useless accomplishment, The door opened and Checkers barged in. Out of his

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pocket he pulled a needle. Then he pulled out a wad of would pass by and pretend like we were total strangers.
cash. He counted it on the table in front of us, placing each Although each of us, side by side, would seem like total
bill an inch away from the other. When he was finished he opposites, we werent so unalike.
looked up at my father with a straight face. Thanks, man, Checkers said.
There it is, now lets have it. He went to shake my fathers hand but suddenly my
My father set the bag on the table and Checkers opened father grabbed the bag off the table. Everyone in the room
it and lifted the powder to his nose, smelling the milky- froze. My heart began to beat loud again, almost in unison
white chunks. with the music that shook the house.
Sweet, Checkers said, nodding with a grin. Perfect. What the fuck, Checkers yelled.
The music pumped through the floorboards and made Its off.
the house creak. The flashing lights leaked through the Wait, why? The moneys right there, just take it and
bottom of the closed door. The kid sat on the couch and I leave, man!
saw his hands shivering and sweat began to form across his My father turned and grabbed the doorknob. An arm
forehead. My father squinted and he shuffled his boots on grabbed him from behind. Swiveling in an instant, my father
the carpet and I could almost hear the static build. I saw his grabbed Checkers by the throat and threw him against
tongue come out of his mouth and wet his dry, cracked lips the wall before punching him squarely in the jaw. The kid
and his eyes peered at me out of their wrinkled corners. on the couch stood up. I waited, hoping he wouldnt try
Checkers sat down and pulled out a lighter and a dark anything, but instead he dashed out the door and disap-
spoon. His younger cousin gazed loosely at the floor, some- peared into the loud flashing lights.
thing crossing his mind that seemed to trap him. I wondered My father turned to me, and without saying anything we
if he were to see me on the street, if hed say hello, or if he rushed away, out of the musty house and into the night.

heard someone once say that God stores up a
mans punishment for his sons, when instead He
should repay the man himself; let his own eyes
see his destruction; let him drink the wrath of
Avoid capital gains tax on the the Almighty.
sale of your real estate with a I still think of my father often, and when I do, I
think of that night. A few weeks later, when I found
1031 tax deferred exchange. him slouched over dead in his chair looking out the
window at the empty pasture and red barn, I sold the
place to Swede and I ran away.
I ran away and I started something new, found
Qualified 1031 Exchange Intermediary, Inc. a new river and a new current to maneuver. But no
John P. Mabie, President matter where I go and how much I try to change, that
night with my father always sticks in my mind.
We ran outside and slammed the doors of the
truck and everything but our hearts stopped and it
was quiet again. He turned and looked at me as if he
had a speech or confession he was finally ready to
give. I waited.
I remember seeing the wrinkles that carved his
406.222.1010 | email: qualified1031@msn.com face. The once dark hair turned gray. The dry lips
and black teeth. The granite hands. The tired look
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P.O. Box 1031 | Livingston, MT 59047
young wife. Milltown.
The blanched face of Grant Wiplinger.
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M O N TA N A Q U A R T E R LY 81

Elise Atchison lives in David T. Hanson was born Scott McMillion is the editor
a cabin on the edge of and raised in Montana. His of the Montana Quarterly.
the Absaroka-Beartooth photographs investigating His journalism and essays
wilderness. Her work has the contemporary American appear in magazines around
appeared in South Dakota landscape have been widely the country and an updated
Review, Jackson Hole exhibited and collected in edition of his award-winning
Review, Cutthroat Journal, museums throughout the book, Mark of the Grizzly
on Reflections West Radio and elsewhere. Her world. He has been awarded a Guggenheim and (Lyons Press), came out in 2011. He lives in
website is at www.eliseatchison.com. two NEA fellowships. Livingston with his wife Jennifer and a cat
named Norman.
Lisa Densmore Ballard is Alan Kesselheim has
an award-winning writer written for Montana Michael J. Ober is four
and photographer based Quarterly from its start and generations deep into
in Red Lodge, Montana. counts it among the most Montanas history and lore.
She spends nearly valuable outlets in his 30- He recently retired as library
every waking moment year freelance career. He director and faculty
exploring, writing about has written 11 books, most member at Flathead Valley
and photographing the backcountry. Visit her at recently Montana: Real Place, Real People, with Community College, where
www.LisaDensmore.com. photographer Thomas Lee. he taught Montana history. He also worked 44
seasons in Glacier National Park as a backcountry
Tony Bynum is a Kris King grew up in and law enforcement ranger.
professional conservation, Montana and loves it anew
wildlife and outdoor with every season change. Elliot Stahl has been
adventure photographer Shes been writing articles exploring and photographing
from East Glacier, for a quarter century and caves across the U.S
Montana. See more of his has interviewed authors for and Mexico for 10 years,
work at www.tonybynum. Montana Quarterly since its including four expeditions to
com or www.glacierparkphotographer.com. inception. Its her favorite writing gig ever. explore and map the remote
caves of the Bob Marshall
Connie Dillon is a full-time Todd Klassy is a commercial Wilderness Area. He lives in Georgia.
artist and photographer, part photographer from Havre.
time writer and the owner His photos have been Marshall Swearingen is
of Gallery Nine in Billings. published by Popular a freelance writer and
Her work has been juried Photography, National regular contributor to High
into several shows as well Geographic, Newsweek, Country News. Now living in
as the auctions People and Sports Livingston, he has hunted,
at the Yellowstone Art Museum and Illustrated. See more at www.toddklassy.com. fished and skied all over
Paris Gibson Square. Montana.
Phil Knight came west
Butte native Edwin Dobb in 1982 and has never Dillon Tabish was born and
teaches narrative writing been the same since. raised in Missoula, the
and literary journalism at He is a student of nature oldest son of a printer and
the UC Berkeley Graduate and is fascinated by all librarian. He graduated from
School of Journalism. undeveloped spaces and the University of Montana
Among some members the ways of untamed School of Journalism in
of the Poplar River First creatures. He has written two books and 2008 and lives in Kalispell,
Nation, in Manitoba, he is known as Man Who countless magazine articles. where he is a staff writer for the Flathead
Swims Home. Beacon newspaper and a freelance magazine
Montana Quarterly Senior writer.
Thomas Goltz splits Photographer Thomas Lees
his time between his latest book is Montana: John Zumpano is a
Livingston home and Real Place, Real People, freelance event, portrait
extended journeys to Turkey with Al Kesselheim. He and fine art photographer
and the Caucasus region of accepts commissions for in Livingston. His work
the former USSR, on which speaking engagements includes parades, rodeos,
he has written four well- and commercial, editorial and fine art imagery powwows and landscapes
received books and too many articles to count. at www.ThomasLeePhoto.com and www. of the Northern Rockies.
He once taught at Montana State University. ThomasLeeTrueWest.com. See more of his work at JZphotoArt.com.

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Google Earth is a trademark of Google Inc. 2016 Audi of America, Inc.

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