Montana Outdoors

December 31, 2007

The man of snow

Filed under: Montana, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Reflections — montucky @ 11:18 am

I always think kindly of the man of snow when he visits on a cold winter day.

The man of snow

His life and mine, while equally real, are separated mainly by 66.6º F and a good pair of hiking boots. He is, however, much more beneficial than I in a re-cycled state.

Happy New Year everyone!

December 14, 2007

A sad little story

Filed under: Montana, Reflections, Rural fire department, Wildland fires — Tags: — montucky @ 3:12 pm

Half a dozen times lately I have written versions of this story and each time deleted them, thinking that it dwelled too much on negatives, but because I seem to have such a compulsion to tell the story, I finally decided I would.

Fourteen years ago I moved with my family back to Montana where I was born and raised. We settled into a rural area and made our home on the last remaining little piece of a ranch my grandparents started in about 1916. It’s nice to have roots.

In Montana, as I’m sure it is all over these United States, the small towns and surrounding rural areas can’t afford all of the infrastructure that the big cities can, one of those being a fire department. In its place we form “Rural or Volunteer Fire Departments” staffed and operated solely by volunteers. Grant money from various sources is usually available for equipment and there are always several viable sources for operating funds which, since there are no salaries involved, really don’t add up to all that much. These departments are surprisingly efficient.

Not long after we settled here, wanting to do my part in supporting the community, I inquired into the situation at the Rural Fire Department and was told that they had a full staff of 20 people, but would put my name on a long waiting list and perhaps in a few years there would be room for me in the department. The situation was the same with the town fire department in the small town not far from my home, and they required besides that their members live in town.

In subsequent years I pretty much forgot about Rural Fire, mostly because during all those years I had to work in places far from home and couldn’t be available to the department anyway. Once the time came when I was able to be at home again I didn’t think much about it until one day last fall there was a story in the local paper that said Rural Fire was in badly in need of volunteers. When I called the chief and asked if he could use an old gaffer who still had a couple good years left I was welcomed with open arms. We met at the fire hall, I was issued all my “turn-out” and wildland fire gear and a pager and became a volunteer fireman with the Rural Fire Department. I have to confess I don’t especially enjoy being called out to incidents at any time of the day or night to do things that are always strenuous and dirty and at the very best aren’t a whole lot of fun, but I also know that I wouldn’t sleep well at night if I knew that at any time someone may be desperately in need of help and no one would be there to answer their call.

Two weeks ago another story appeared in the local paper, this one about the town’s fire department. Interest has severely waned there and their supply of volunteers has dwindled away, the Chief resigned because of lack of cooperation and availability of people, and now there is no one left to respond to emergency fire calls in the town. Thirteen hundred people live inside that town’s city limits and yet not enough of them will volunteer to be able to operate a fire department. To my way of thinking, the most significant thing about that whole sad situation in that pathetic little town was the response of the residents and business owners who were interviewed for the story: their first concern was not that lives and property are in danger, but that now their insurance rates will triple!

What could possibly have changed so drastically in the last 10 to 15 years? Is this sort of thing prevailing in small towns and rural communities all over the country? I have a sense that it is. And to me, the most important question: if this type of total selfishness and apathy is really growing at what appears to be an exponential rate, who then will exert themselves to protect the natural world upon which our very species depends for its existence?

Across the world we are now focusing intently on greenhouse gasses, but I would suggest that global warming itself is nothing more than one more symptom of a malady that has settled into the hearts and minds and motivation of our people.

December 2, 2007


Filed under: Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Reflections — montucky @ 11:29 pm

Nature already has the attitude: it’s up to us to give her a chance.


July 14, 2007

A memory

For a boy and a Dad and a white-tail buck, the world was young, and green, and everything was as it should have been back in the late 1940’s.

Yesterday morning this picture appeared before me during my travels, as though it had been sent from back then, and I photographed it, not as now and new, but as old and reminiscent of those times, those good times, those gentle and magical times that will never be again.

As a boy with my Dad, as a young man, as a father with a son of my own, I roamed and hunted these woods and fields and thought they would never go away, but times have changed and values have changed. There are survey flags and machines now in the field beyond the woods, and the power of the rich stranger, his new fence lines and asphalt, bricks and mortar and “Private Property”, “Keep Out”, “No Trespassing”, “more money for me”, are the new values of this land. Those who really loved this place are no longer here and this is the last time it will ever look this way.

White-tail from the past

May 27, 2007

Memorial day.

Filed under: Montana, Reflections, Writing — montucky @ 9:31 pm

It was cloudy and cold that day in the late fall of nineteen hundred and forty four as a small boy stood with his family on the windy concrete platform of the old Milwaukee railroad station in Missoula Montana awaiting the departure of the train bound for the west coast.

The boy of three-plus years stood at attention in his miniature green uniform, authentically made for him by his mother’s hands. On each collar of his jacket he proudly wore the Globe and Anchor of the United States Marine Corps.

A few feet away stood a tall young Marine also dressed in a crisp green uniform. On his collars were shiny gold bars: on the left side of his campaign cover was a Globe and Anchor, on the right another gold bar.

When departure time came, the young officer hugged his mother, shook his father’s hand and then shook the hand of his young brother, followed by a sharp salute, then turned and boarded the train. His destination, known to him but not to the family; the South Pacific.

It was a cold winter that year but also one filled with foreboding and anxiety as the news of the South Pacific Campaign slowly trickled back to the town. The boy knew that something very important was happening from some of the words he overheard spoken and from an occasional glimpse of his mother’s tears.

There were letters received by the family during that winter, sporadic and short, but ever so welcome. Then one afternoon, when spring was at the doorstep of western Montana a large black sedan pulled up to the curb in front of the family home. The boy could see the tears well up in his mother’s eyes but he was still too young to understand.

A Navy Commander accompanied by an aide emerged from the car and made their way up the walk to the front door. After a short introduction, the Commander made a short and emotional statement: “The Department of the Navy regrets to inform you that your son has been killed in action during the battle for Iwo Jima.”


There is much, much more to this story, but to put it briefly for now, the Department of the Navy is not always right. Several weeks later a letter came in the mail in the young officer’s shaky handwriting and postmarked from the US medical facility on Guam, where he was slowly recovering from massive wounds incurred on the morning of March twenty-sixth during the last battle on the island and on the day Iwo Jima was declared officially secure. He was more fortunate than many of his comrades about whom the brief messages from the Department of the Navy were correct.

April 13, 2007

Finding balance

Filed under: Conservation, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photos, Pictures, Reflections — montucky @ 11:17 am

How does one find balance in this unbalanced world?

There is a balance point, a place where meditation and resolve take place.

It is at the crest of this high ridge, right where it touches the sky,


just between the town side, the place of people and their thought structures, architecture and highways


and the other side which was the same long before we came along and will still be the same long after we’re gone.

Home of the cat

We must protect places like this, for where else can one go to seek the perspective so necessary to peace of mind.

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