Montana Rural Photography Betty Potter in Clearwater Junction


Al Kesselheim and I recently completed a project for the Montana Department of Natural Resource Conservation. We profiled water users in the different watersheds of Montana for the department’s report to the Montana legislature.

This is Betty Potter, 72, who arrived at a ranch in Clearwater Junction, Montana, in 1962, planning to stay two weeks. More than 50 years later, she was cleaning hay and horse manure from the irrigation ditch that waters her hay fields — still at that same ranch.


During the summers, Betty Potter rotates water through her hay fields, keeping ditches free of debris. She cuts the hay too. She logs beetle-kill timber during the winters.


“I’m not much of an inside person,” she says. “I like to work.”


“I’ve got a bad back, a bad knee, sore shoulder. I take a lot of Ibuprofen,” Betty Potter says.


“When it’s all said and done,” reads the inscription on her husband’s head stone, “we are only caretakers of the land.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do,” Potter says. “It’s not a way to get rich. It’s a way of life, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

Bigger images on my website.

#MontanaPhotojournalist #MontanaDocumentaryPhotographer #RuralPhotographer #Farming #Ranching #WomenRanchers #WomenFarmers

6 thoughts on “Montana Rural Photography Betty Potter in Clearwater Junction

  1. Hi Thomas, I just came across these photos and they are stunning. I interact with Betty occasionally through work. She is the real deal, and needless to say she has made quite an impression on me. I always feel that I fall short when I try to describe her to friends, but your photos capture her perfectly. Especially her hands 🙂 Thank you for these!

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