montana photograph Trying Times

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We are a nation divided. And in our house, that doesn’t settle well.

I feel isolated, foolish and stupid to be so surprised that so many of my neighbors feel so radically different than I. And when I look to the future, I’m hard pressed to know what to hope for.

It’s scary.

So when my wife suggested we attend a march and rally in Bozeman yesterday, we went and I’m glad of it. It was nice to connect with others with similar feelings. And the only gestures I saw from passing vehicles were peace signs and thumbs up. So that’s nice.

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montana photograph Smokejumpers

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I had the great pleasure to work for the fine folks at Bleacher Report this summer on a story about smokejumpers — women and men who jump out of perfectly good airplanes into forest fires. I spent a couple of days at the Aerial Fire Center in West Yellowstone, Mont.

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The jumpers are an elite group — experts at a variety of skills who have worked their way up through the ranks of Forest Service fire fighting.

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They’re supremely fit people, each given 90 minutes a day to devote to their own personal fitness routine.

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They jump wearing 100 pounds of firefighting and camping gear — enough to sustain their efforts unassisted for three days.

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And the gear they use is so specialized, they must make most of it themselves. And what they don’t manufacture, they often adapt from other applications.

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Time not spent fighting fires is spent maintaining and repacking gear. Parachutes are inflated and inspected before being repacked.

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The hours are long and a lot of time is spent away from home and loved ones.

Read the story on the Bleacher Report blog here. See these pictures and more on my website here.

montana photograph Birds of the Hi-Line

During the summer of 2015, the good people of the World Wildlife Fund hired me to spend a couple of weeks up on the Hi-Line in northern Montana photographing a multitude of things. Among those things were the birds in and around the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge near Malta. Here’s some of what we found:

Black-crowned night heron? South of Malta, Mont.

Black-crowned night heron.

Raptor. South of Malta, Mont.

Prairie falcon.

Godwit. South of Malta, Mont.

Godwit.

Raven in nest. South of Malta, Mont.

Raven.

Swallow near bridge. South of Malta, Mont.

Swallow.

Meadowlark. South of Malta, Mont.

Meadowlark.

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Burrowing owl.

Cormorant. South of Malta, Mont.

Cormorant.

Yellow-headed blackbird. Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge east of Malta, Mont.

Yellow-headed blackbird.

Battle Creek and swallows north of Chinook, Mont.

Swallows.

To see these on my website, visit ThomasLeePhoto.com

montana photograph Saco

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Grain is a big part of the history of Saco and northern Montana, but locals say this elevator, standing above the railroad and U.S. Highway 2, Saco’s main drag, is scheduled for demolition.

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Shaped like a sleeping buffalo, this boulder, once perched above the nearby Milk River, is honored by Montana native peoples in traditional stories and through offerings like tobacco. It was moved to its present location along U.S. Highway 2 just west of Saco in 1967, according to a sign nearby.

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Nena Magmend waits on the regulars at the Cabin Cafe she owns with her husband, Andrew, in downtown Saco. Magmend says they remodeled the cafe a few years ago, but kept the original counters, showing the wear from years of elbows.

 

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Robert Plouffe says that when his brother moved into a new home, there was no room for all of his hunting trophies. So Plouffe put them up in the Pay N Save, one of the main businesses in downtown Saco. Plouffe is renowned for his smoked meat products and has a first-rate custom meat processing business.

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“We found a nice house for a good price,” says Patty Pollock, 19, of moving to Saco with her boyfriend and family about two years ago from Cut Bank. Pollock’s co-worker at the Pay N Save, Patti Minnerath says she has lived in Saco for 32 years. “It’s very quiet,” she says. “The way I like it.”

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Saco lies in the northern great plains, described by some as a desolate place. Still, there was enough traffic at this crossroads for a candidate to think it worthwhile to put up a sign. The candidate, Bruce Meyers, won election to Montana’s House of Representatives in 2014. This picture was made almost a year after that election — or maybe a year before the next election in 2016.

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Howard Pippin, 76, remembers his youth in Saco when a lot of small farms added up to a population of about 500. Now, Pippin says outside his home, those small farms have consolidated into larger ones and Saco’s population is more like 170.

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Saco’s downtown faces south, toward U.S. Highway 2 and the railroad, so business owners like Dan Desler have to keep up with building maintenance. Desler says he lives most of the year in Eugene, Ore., but has been coming out to Saco for more than 25 years to hunt and fish. Some years back, he went in with Rick Nelson and bought the Saco Motel.

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Saco sits atop a natural gas resource known as the Bowdoin Dome. The town has its own gas well and offers residents natural gas for their homes at low prices.

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A short drive from Saco, Nelson Reservoir is one of the best places in the state to catch a walleye.

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See these on my website: http://bit.ly/2c0Hl3n.

montana photograph Favorite Things Revisited

A batch of favorite things from a good friend with agricultural roots and an urban present:

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And this acorn I found last fall but can’t throw away:

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You can see more from this project at ThomasLeePhoto.com.

montana photograph Cinderella’s Stash

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“You should be Cinderella at least once in your life,” says The N’ Thing’s owner, Bonnie Poser. “And that happens in high school.” Poser stocks more than 1,000 prom dresses at her store in Conrad for customers from all over Montana and into Canada and beyond. Prices are usually around $500, Poser says.

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Sixty miles north of Great Falls, Montana, surrounded by grain fields, the ribbon of Interstate 15 passes by Conrad on the plains of northern Montana. Conrad is the unlikely home of a dress shop frequented by people from hundreds of miles away.

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Conrad’s agricultural roots aren’t easy to miss. It is the headquarters for Frontline Ag Solutions, one of the largest John Deere dealerships in the region.

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“Dresses take on a personality,” Bonnie Poser says. “And that’s how it’s supposed to be.” Poser, 70, opened The N’ Thing, a dress shop in Conrad specializing in prom wear, in 1975.

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You won’t find a single computer in the store, Poser says. So to honor the promise not to sell two similar dresses for the same prom, records must be kept on paper.

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Styles change and Poser must be current, so new dresses arrive frequently. Yet, the buying process is a skill not easily mastered, Poser says. Dress styles come and go and Poser must choose age-appropriate attire that will appeal to her customers and their parents and chaperones.

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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.

http://bit.ly/2arcRqk

montana photograph Pollinator Patrol

Pollinators, like bees, are important part of the lives of innumerable plants and animals. Without them, many food crops would not exist. And pollinator numbers are declining, according to an article in the current issue of Montana Quarterly.20160420133318-2

Laura Burkle is an ecology professor at Montana State University. She and U.S. Forest Service entomologist Kevin Runyon are leading a study of pollinators near Bozeman. They’re trying to determine the effects of global warming on pollinator numbers.

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On a hillside south of Bozeman on a sunny April afternoon, the team sets up equipment to measure the scent of small yellow flowers called glacier lilies. While the machines work, the pollinators feeding on the flowers will be caught and then brought back to the lab to be identified, Burkle says. The idea is to gather data over time that may help map the effects of global warming on the plants and the pollinators.

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Graduate student Will Glenny sets up to measure the scent of one of the glacier lilies.
20160420142610From left, Laura Burkle, Justin Runyon and Will Glenny.

 

 

http://thomasleephoto.com/True-Stories/20160421MSUPollination/1/