A batch of favorite things from a good friend with agricultural roots and an urban present:
And this acorn I found last fall but can’t throw away:
You can see more from this project at ThomasLeePhoto.com.
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.
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.
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.
It’s not much of a concert poster, but it filled the room at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs for Jason DeShaw last summer.
DeShaw is a country singer from Plentywood who is open about his own struggles with mental illness. He tells the crowd at the hospital that he was first diagnosed in 2010 after a breakdown while he was on tour in Saskatchewan. After a 400-mile dash to Billings, Shaw tells the crowd, he was asked if he heard voices.
“Yes I do.” Whose?
“And into the psych ward I went,” DeShaw says.
Four years later, DeShaw is on tour as a performer, speaker and listener, visiting Montana small towns and large cities, advocating for mental illness awareness.
He speaks from the heart, he says, and sings from it too. And his honesty, courage and eloquence have impressed and affected lives. He tells Montana Quarterly writer Brian D’Ambrosio of a performance an an eastern Montana high school that inspired several students to seek counseling for depression that many of their friends and family did not know existed.
“Mental illness has made me a better human being,” DeShaw says. That’s a hell of a thing.
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Times are tough in Colstrip, Montana, where most of the town’s economy is dependent on coal, mined nearby and burned to create electricity at the power plant in town.
Electricity prices are being driving down by the availability of cheap natural gas, and both Washington and Oregon have passed legislation that will gradually phase out the purchase of coal-fired electricity. And the federal Clean Power Plan threatens to impose more stringent regulations on what — besides the steam — comes out of the Colstrip smokestacks .
This week marks the passing of Joe Medicine Crow, who died in Billings on Sunday at 102. I photographed him in 2008 at his home in Lodge Grass for a story about the American Indian Institute.
Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, Medicine Crow was a hero in World War II, where he became the last member of the Crow tribe to accomplish the four traditional deeds that earn one the status of “war chief.” One of these deeds was to steal 50 horses from the Nazi army.
A renowned anthropologist and historian, he knew personally four scouts who had been with Gen. George Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where Custer’s army was decimated by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors in 1876.
I remember him as the embodiment of dignity, strength and resilience. I was honored to have met him.
Montana isn’t exactly a melting pot. About 90 percent of the population identifies as white, according to the 2014 census. If you’re a Montanan of another race, finding a someone who will do a good job cutting your hair can be a problem.
That’s why people drive 100 miles and more to Billings to have their hair cut at Billings Best Barbers, owned by Rafael Rivera and his older brother Eric Rosas.
“We’re super multi-cultural,” says Rivera. “We cut all types of hair.”
The brothers grew up in Puerto Rico, but Rosas was stationed in Great Falls during his stint in the Air Force. He married a Billings woman and moved there when he was discharged. Rivera came to visit and never left.
“We grew up in a barber shop environment,” Rosas says. “We knew there was a need for something like this.”
The brothers say a barber shop should provide an experience, develop relationships with clientele. A barber shop should not only provide a good haircut, but also be a place to get up to speed on sports, talk music, parenting, everyday life.
“Any topic of conversation is open for discussion here, ” says Rosas. “Nobody ever gets out of hand. Everybody understands we’re just talking.”
The shop specializes in short hair. Fades are a specialty. They take pride in clean lines, cool designs, razor work, and uniform, consistent blending.