The story, like Livingston, centers on the railroad. Livingston was founded by the Northern Pacific railroad in the 1880s and made it a service stop for its engines. Livingston prospered. And then the railroad pulled out, leaving behind a superfund cleanup site a century later.
Bill Phillips, now 77, was a machinist for the railroad. He lives along the banks of the Yellowstone River east of town now and remembers oil and chemicals being just dumped onto the ground at the engine yards in Livingston.
I found a deer grazing near the superfund cleanup site.
Doug Thompson remembers working in the paint shop during his 34 years with the railroad. Thompson, now 71 and retired, lives a short walk away from the plant where workers were told to use a pressure hose to spray stripped paint and the stripping chemicals right out the door and onto the ground.
Dick Murphy now lives in a cabin built in 1883 along Mission Creek east of Livingston with his dog, Annie. Murphy says he worked for the railroad right out of high school and saw frequent large spills of diesel fuel.
Murphy, Thompson and Phillips were a few who started to speak out about the problems in the 1970s. They were branded trouble makers.
The story goes on to describe the cleanup efforts that are still ongoing, now more than 30 years later, as well as the lasting impacts of the pollution.
And the story describes Livingston, where we lived for three years in the late 1990s when we first moved to Montana. It’s a place that embraces its history, presenting itself as an authentic small town in the American West, with amenities to attract tourists to the world-class fishing nearby and the topography of Yellowstone National Park, only a short drive to the south.
I love Butte, Montana. It’s genuine and it’s honestly humble. Butte owns its mining past, good and bad, and it moves forward with friendly grace.
Courtney and John McKee are examples of that. In 2012, they started Headframe Spirits, named for the structures that mark the mine shafts scattered inside the Butte city limits. They distill spirits and also make the stills.
See these pictures on my website here.
Shannon Kahler isn’t your typical sheep shearer. While most operations are geared to shear hundreds, perhaps thousands of sheep at a time, Shannon caters to the small hobby farmer with just a handful of sheep. She spends double the amount of time per sheep as the commercial shearers, says she’s offering the animals a “spa day.”
The sheep can outweigh her by 100 pounds or more, so she brings along her husband, Robert, when she can.
Shearing is good animal husbandry. For one thing, it shows wounds like this one, likely sustained in an unpleasant encounter with barbed wire, that can then be treated. For another, if left unshorn, the weight of the wool can tear the animal’s skin.
See these on my website here.
These are contentious times in our state, our nation and our world. There is a lot of fear out there and that fear is really loud.
Living here, we’re lucky because it’s easy to go somewhere and be quiet with rocks, trees and water. For me there’s comfort there. I see patience, endurance, trust.
They say time heals all wounds. I can see how that might be true. And I hope to God we start healing quickly, because the wounds only seem to be getting deeper.
Sure, Montana has it’s requisite of mountains, wildlife and people who are connected with the land, but we’ve got tech too.
Zack Cole, director of scientific materials at FLIR Systems, Inc., in Bozeman, peers through a garnet crystal used to build high power laser systems for cutting and welding sheet metal in automotive and heavy equipment manufacturing.
Light travels through a crystal to illuminate the materials from which it was made: a raw powder of aluminum oxide and lutetium oxide, according to Cole, which are then melted into a liquid and re-solidified at a temperature nearing 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
At the Tech Park Facility of FLIR Systems, Inc., laser light travels into a crystal under the watch of Zack Cole. Cole says the process is a way to find imperfections in the crystal.
Crystals made to be used in lasers by FLIR Systems, Inc., stand on a lab table. Cole says the different colors are indicative of different materials used in the making of the crystals and also the differing potential uses of the crystals, which include detection of X-rays, cutting and welding sheet metal and use in space applications like satellites, Mars rovers and International Space Station docking facilities.
See these and more on my website.
I’ve written before about how good land stewardship is a common trait among environmentalists and the agriculture industry. Both want a healthy ecosystem, but there have been problems in the past communicating and working together.
The Gallatin Valley Land Trust is working with local farmers and ranchers to preserve farms and ranches from future development, preserving healthy rivers and wildlife habitat — something many local farmers and ranchers have been doing for generations.
Last summer, I met several of the local landowners that have worked with GVLT. Here’s some of what I saw:
See these on my website.