Among the many fine stories in the current issue of Montana Quarterly is John Clayton’s profile of the town of Philipsburg, Montana. I found it to be a town with a sense of humor, a place proud of its heritage without clinging to it. Anne Krickel, above, lives next door to a church. At one time, she says, she and her husband had a sign on the bathtub outside their home that advertised, “Baptisms: 50¢.” Then some friends brought her a mannequin leg from an old department store. “I thought, ‘That is perfect,’ ” she says.


Asked to explain the math on a sign welcoming visitors to P-burg’s southern entrance, Mayor Craig Sorensen says, “It’s an art project slash joke.” Mayor Sorensen adds that there are also four signs around town directing people to a fictitious nude beach. If followed, the signs lead travelers in a circle.


Founded as a mining town in the 1860s, P-burg was built to last. Much of the architecture, including the Philipsburg grade school, was constructed of brick. The school, dedicated in 1896, claims to be the oldest operating grade school in Montana.


And a lot of work has gone into preserving and maintaining the historic downtown. On the June Saturday morning I visited, the main drag was getting a fresh chip seal.


Roy Hamilton, 96, grew up in P-burg. He learned mechanical skills from his father, a carpenter from Sweden. He sent his three kids to college with jobs that included manganese mining and work for the city public works department.

“You could say that Roy’s career is a microcosm of P-burg and the economic history of the state as a whole,” John Clayton writes. “He used his mechanical aptitude and common sense to make things in teamwork with others. And responding to market forces beyond his control, his source of income had to shift from mining to logging to government. The stability was not in a single employer, but in family, landscape, community, and the value of work itself. All that makes Roy very likable, just like his town.”


Not to worry

My good friend Doug Loneman called the other day with an invitation to head up to Hyalite Reservoir.

I was surprised to find the water level of the reservoir much lower than what I’d seen a few months earlier. A quick call this morning to the Bozeman Water Department assures me this is nothing to worry over. They bring water levels way down in the fall to save the dam from ice damage in the winter.

Still, it was an eerie place. The exposed ground, I was told, has only been under water since 1993, when the dam was enlarged. But the creeks still converged and then headed down toward Hyalite Canyon and it was easy to imagine the forest they once ran through, now sandy mud and stumps.

I’m sad for the forest now gone and at the same time glad for the water this dam provides me and the other people of the rapidly-growing population of Bozeman.

Then I think of the people in California, some of whom have been without running water for five months or more. And I remember that clean water has been in short supply in Africa and other parts of the world for a very long time.

The climate is changing. And water is more precious than oil. I hope we remember that in time.






New Music

Kenneth Fuchs is a great composer who wrote a piece that the Bozeman Symphony played at their last concert called Discover The Wild. Maestro Matthew Savery asked me to put together a slide show of Montana and Yellowstone landscapes to go along with this wonderful piece of music. Here’s what we came up with. The video lasts a little less than five minutes.

Starry Eclipse

Total Lunar Eclipse Over Montana

Katie and I got up early this morning to witness the total lunar eclipse. We were greeted with an amazingly clear sky that gave us all sorts of stars to go with a blood-red moon. What a treat.

Plus, Rena made us blueberry muffins for when we got home!

To The Dogs


For 33 years now, dogs from all over the U.S. and Canada have been coming to Helena for the Fall Roundup Cluster Dog Show. This is Grazie, a breed of Italian hunting dog called Spinone Italiano getting a bath after the first of four days of competition.

20140920134903-3My friend Al Knauber, working for the Helena Independent Record, says more than 600 dogs entered the show. Al quotes Fred Thomas from Yakima, Wash., as saying, “Some of the best dogs in the country are here right now.”

The dog show life can involve a lot of money and travel, Al goes on to write. Some owners hire handlers to show and travel with their dogs. Others have motor homes to travel with their dogs and are on the road up to 45 weekends a year.

20140920131807Faith, a standard poodle from Houston, waits for a fresh round of hair spray.



Dragon Boats


Imagine this: You’re in a 46-foot canoe with 19 other weekend warriors paddling across Flathead Lake and there’s a crazy person in the bow beating on a drum and yelling at you to STROKE!

And you’re dressed funny.

That scene was played out time and again over the weekend at the annual Flathead Dragon Boat Festival at Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork.

Teams from Canada and the U.S. have been coming to Bigfork every year now since 2012 raising tens of thousands of dollars for local non-profits.






Bubble Ball


The other night, just before it snowed, some local teenagers wrapped themselves in plastic and air, then ran into each other — a lot.

It’s called Bubble Ball and started in Europe a few years ago. Here’s a video of people trying to play soccer wearing the things. The other night near the Emerson Cultural Center here in Bozeman, there was a soccer ball on the field, but it went largely ignored in favor of the fun of sending a friend flying.




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