Tag Archives: Montana

Memorial Day Excerpt from ‘At Sea’

Standard

Excerpt from At Sea

Jayee’s Lists (The Poor Sons of Bitches who Died) lay faded in a low kitchen drawer beneath batteries, broken pencils, expired dog food coupons, forgotten pink birthday candles, gum erasers, and other unsorted miscellany.

Superimposed over the small battlefield of the ranch where lambs and eagles met largely unrecorded deaths on a rangeland framed by fences and box elders and cottonwoods and a narrow creek carrying water off the backbone of the earth in years of drought and years of flood, the old man recorded soldiers’ names and souls.

He read the news from Vietnam with morning coffee and evening spirits, and with a fine surveyor’s hand, he tallied the bare bones of body counts between narrowed-ruled lines in light-weight Bluehorse notebooks intended for the wisdom of school.

After dinner he walked his dessert out through the bluebunch wheat grass and settling sheep to his ancient Studebaker pickup truck. He carried a sharp yellow pencil and a pack of Chesterfields, tools for doing his sums, “calculating Montana” in a cloud of cigarette smoke from “vintage tobaccos grown mild, aged mild, blended mild.”

On the first page of the first book he wrote, “Here are the poor sons of bitches who died.” On the last page of the last book, he wrote, “The dead, dying and wounded came home frayed, faded, scuffed, stained, or broken.”

On the pages in between, he wrote the name of each Montana soldier who was killed or missing in recorded battles far away. Sipping bourbon, smoking like a lotus in a sea of fire, he ordered, numbered, and divided the names by service branch, by casualty year, by meaningful cross references, by statistically significant tables, by the moon’s phases and sun’s seasons, by the cycles of sheep.

Jayee remarked from year to year that the notebooks grew no heavier with use. He saw fit to include the names of the towns where the dead once lived, fathered children and bought cigarettes. These names he learnt were also lighter than the smoke.

The current of his words between the pale blue lines of each thing page arose in fat, upper case letters that scraped the edges of their narrow channels. They began as a mere trickle from 1961 to 1964 that grew in volume in 1965 before the first spring thaw, to become a cold deluge that crested in 1968, wreaking havoc across the frail floodplain of pastures and pages, carrying the dark angry names scrawled with blunting pencil, and broken letters, through irregular grey smudges, over erasures that undercut the page deep enough and wide enough to rip away the heart from multiple entries. There was little respite in 1969. After that the deaths receded and most of the physical blood dried up by 1973.

The pages were dog eared, marked with paperclips already turning to rust, and fading to pale dust behind the list of towns: RICHEY, WHITEFISH, HELENA, CHOTEAU, BOZEMAN, BUTTE, KALISPELL, THOMPSON FALLS, THREE FORKS, STEVENSVILLE, TROUT CREEK, BILLINGS, CHOTEAU HINSDALE, GREAT FALLS, HARDIN, SACO, SIDNEY, HAVRE, HELENA, GREAT FALLS, HELENA, BOZEMAN, BUTTE, DODSON, HELENA, ARLEE, REEDPOINT, HAVRE, BIG SANDY, MISSOULA, BILLINGS, WHITLASH, ROUNDUP, ROUNDUP, ST. IGNATIUS, HARLEM, BUTTE, BUTTE, WIBAUX, STEVENSVILLE, ABSAROKEE, LIBBY, WHITEFISH, GREAT FALLS, MISSOULA, HELENA, LIVINGSTON, CONRAD, GREAT FALLS, EUREKA, GREAT FALLS, HARDIN, HELENA, JOLIET, BUTTE, MISSOULA, BROCKTON, MISSOULA, LEWISTOWN,  LAME DEER, SCOBEY,  ROSEBUD, GLASGOW, BILLINGS, ANACONDA, FT. BENTON, MISSOULA, KALISPELL, GREAT FALLS, HARDIN, ST. IGNATIUS, DODSON, MISSOULA, SHELBY, MILES CITY, CUSTER, GLASGOW, LEWISTOWN, BILLINGS, BELT,  LARSLAN, MILES CITY, BUTTE, BUSBY, MISSOULA, MELROSE, BILLINGS, LIBBY, BILLINGS, BAINVILLE, HATHAWAY, BOZEMAN, BILLINGS, BILLINGS, BUTTE, MCALLISTER, WIBAUX, BROWNING, MISSOULA, THOMPSON FALLS, THOMPSON FALLS, LOGAN, AVON, MISSOULA, ST. IGNATIUS, KALISPELL, BILLINGS, ROSEBUD, DENTON, CHARLO, ST. XAVIER, HARLOWTON, SANDERS, LEWISTOWN, LIVINGSTON, MISSOULA, LIBBY, BUTTE, BILLINGS, SUNBURST, TROY, BUTTE, CHINOOK, JORDAN, DODSON, GREAT FALLS, LIBBY, HELENA, BUTTE, ROSS FORK, GREAT FALLS, INTAKE, BUTTE, BUTTE, GREAT FALLS, LIVINGSTON, BILLINGS, REDSTONE, MISSOULA, BILLINGS, MCLEOD, FORSYTH, BILLINGS, HELENA, BILLINGS, MISSOULA, BOZEMAN, BUTTE, MALTA, KALISPELL,  ANACONDA, GREAT FALLS, ST. IGNATIUS, INVERNESS, RONAN,  MISSOULA,  SCOBEY, ANTELOPE, BUTTE, MISSOULA, FORSYTH, BILLINGS, BUTTE,  BILLINGS, GREAT FALLS, DODSON, HELENA, GREAT FALLS, LAUREL, BUTTE, CUT BANK, WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, DEER LODGE, BUTTE,  HAMILTON, MILES CITY, KALISPELL, VALIER, SHELBY,  KILA, CHOTEAU, GREAT FALLS, MILES CITY, HAMILTON, GREAT FALLS, HAVRE,  LAME DEER, GREAT FALLS, TROUT CREEK, POLSON, PABLO, HELENA, BIG TIMBER, LAUREL, BILLINGS, GREAT FALLS, GREAT FALLS, BUTTE, MISSOULA, ANACONDA, GREAT FALLS, MISSOULA, BOZEMAN, GREAT  FALLS, GLEN, GREAT FALLS, ST. IGNATIUS, FROMBERG, MISSOULA, KALISPELL, CORAM, KALISPELL, BILLINGS, HAVRE, GREAT FALLS, COFFEE CREEK, LIBBY, FT. PECK, BOZEMAN, FORSYTH, POLSON, MISSOULA, WOLF POINT, KALISPELL, BUTTE, FAIRVIEW, MISSOULA, MILES CITY, ANACONDA, GREAT FALLS, BILLINGS, WIBAUX, BILLINGS, CUT BANK, TERRY, ANACONDA, BUTTE, MISSOULA, FLORENCE, HAVRE, SUNBURST, EUREKA, BILLINGS, THOMPSON FALLS, RONAN, WOLF POINT, FLAXVILLE, GREAT FALLS, HELENA, KALISPELL, MISSOULA, ANACONDA, ALDER, VALIER, TROY, RICHEY, LINCOLN, CHOTEAU, BUTTE, MISSOULA, BILLINGS, CLYDE PARK, MISSOULA, MISSOULA, HAVRE, and TROY.

Jayee’s tallies added up like this:

USA  – 169

USAF – 16

USMC – 59

USN  – 23

TOT  – 267

 

The old man made 267 trips around Montana between 1961 and 1972 that no surveying jobs could account for. He said little to the family about it and they didn’t often ask.

During Jayee’s second trip to Havre in 1966, Mavis, a waitress at the Beanery, noticed a stack of 44-inch white crosses sticking out from beneath a tarp in his truck.  On each cross there was a name. When she suggested that Jayee was stealing them from roadside accident scenes, he said he made them per spec to repay old debts.

Mavis asked Katoya if Jayee was all right and Katoya said “right enough.” He returned to the restaurant multiple times to prove he was right enough and was sitting there on August 31, 1967 when the 77-year-old Great Northern restaurant served its last bowl of Irish stew and closed its doors for good. When the building was torn down the following February, he pounded “an extra cross” into the rubble where the counter once stood and said it was the best he could do.

Months passed and additional stories surfaced about an old man crisscrossing the state searching for the families of the fallen, and of warm conversations lasting long into the dark hours. Jayee remained solitary and taciturn in the face of public or private praise or blame and traveled from town to town methodically, as though he was marking chaining stations along an endless open traverse.

After each individual’s name, he wrote XD (cross delivered), XR (cross refused), or CNF (could not find).

On October 18, 1974, Jayee died (surrounded by old relatives and the close perfume of vintage tobacco) with a freshly sharpened yellow pencil, with a half-smoked pack of Chesterfields, with lists and spirits close at hand, “waiting,” he always told those who asked about them.

Reverend Jones stood before the mourners in the small church and read the names of those who wished to remember and to be remembered, and one upon one, they created a great hymn that rose up over the banks of their consciousness and flowed down the rivers of their perception in a crowned deluge.

Copyright (c) 2010, 2016 by Malcolm R. Campbell

‘Mountain Song’ is a story about love that might be too broke to fix

Standard

As far as I know, we all experience “first love” and ultimately we all “come of age,” yet these subjects have become so cliched, that they are very difficult for writers to tackle with any hope of getting it right. We know in spades what it’s like to experience what our elders in a other era used to call “puppy love,” telling us it was immature, part of growing up (like falling off a bike), and ultimately wouldn’t matter.

mountainsongcover4We all know the territory, don’t we: the love that seems both fresh and infinite that for reasons unknown collapses without warning as thought it never happened. But we never forget and we could easily bore young people with our stories about it, but just in telling old secrets about long-gone moments, we would appear to be discounting what people in high school and college are feeling right now.

There’s always something heroic about the risks of first love, yet when it comes to fiction, we can hardly turn a boy-meets-girl story in a college geography class into and epic of star-crossed lovers such as Romeo and Juliette. It strikes me odd that such a common occurrence as first love boils down to something each of us must suffer alone when we experience its collapsing.

The world seems to end for us and while it’s ending, we’re mostly silent. From time to time, I read a short story or a novel where the author gets it right. I’ve tried to get it right–but the words never seem to match the experience. Perhaps they can’t because we’ve all been there and have our own stories to tell (should we ever dare) about what it was like.

Based on a true story (kind of)

That said, Mountain Song has kernels of truth in it. I’ve obscured them because the real life characters, one of whom was me, were two people who had a summer romance while working at a resort hotel. By itself, that doesn’t make for a compelling novel because we took long walks in the moonlight and stole guarded kisses while on duty, and there’s just so much that can be said about that.

Plus, the characters had to be very different than their real-life counterparts. Otherwise, one has to worry about libel and invasion of privacy. So, in Mountain Song, the characters’ diverse backgrounds provided the framework for the story. Bottom line, as was true in real life, the two main characters were poles apart in terms of upbringing, home towns, and lifetime goals. But neither of us had the bizarre, flawed upbringings of the characters representing us in the novel.

The people who knew me then, said the true story ruined me. It did for a while. Then I recovered (mostly). If you’ve read everything I’ve ever written about Glacier National Park (and heaven help you if you have), then you’ll know I’ve tried twice before to tell this story. The first time was in an experimental novel that made Finnegans Wake look like an easy read. The second time, I had a publisher who wanted the book turned into commercial fiction. That didn’t work.

I’m not sure whether I’ve gotten it right yet because, truth be told–and it can’t be–I’m not a fan of sentimentality, worse yet novels where the protagonist comes across as a whiner with a “poor me” attitude because, well, nobody likes reading that schlock and one way or another we’ve all had a wedding ring ready and waiting in our pocket for the right moment when things fell apart.

–Malcolm

 

 

Briefly Noted: ‘Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women’s Stories’

Standard

Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women’s Stories, edited by Martha Kohl (Montana Historical Society Press: May 2016), 288 pages, over 100 photographs.

MHSscboolmarmsWhen the histories of the west we studied in high school were written, the emphasis was on great men, both saints and devils, and what they did. We’re slowly finding out there was more to the story; this new book edited by Martha Kohl is part of our re-education. (I’m not sure why the cover photograph shown on Amazon has a slightly different subtitle than the book’s listing or the cover as shown on the MHS site.)

From the Publisher:

“Sheriff Garfield had just been elected to a second term in 1920 when he was fatally shot. His wife Ruth, a ranching woman with a young son, set aside her grief to serve out her husband’s term. She was Montana’s first female sheriff and served two years.

“Stories like Ruth Garfield’s fill the pages of Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women’s Stories. The women featured in this book range from late eighteenth-century Indian women warriors to twenty-first century Blackfeet banker Elouise Cobell. They span geography―from the western Montana women who worked for the Forest Service, to Miles City doctor Sadie Lindeberg. And they span ideology―from the members of the Montana Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, who led the fight for laws banning segregation in public accommodations, to the Women of the Ku Klux Klan. With grit and foresight, these women shaped Montana.”

From the Great Falls Tribune:

Telephone operators worked at hotels as well as at exchanges. Photographed here is Helen (last name unknown), an operator at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park in 1925. At the time, park concessionaires often required their Blackfeet employees–including bus drivers and telephone operators—to dress in “traditional” clothing to appeal to eastern tourists. Bain News Service, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Telephone operators worked at hotels as well as at exchanges. Photographed here is Helen (last name unknown), an operator at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park in 1925. At the time, park concessionaires often required their Blackfeet employees–including bus drivers and telephone operators—to dress in “traditional” clothing to appeal to eastern tourists. Bain News Service, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

“Historian Martha Kohl edited the project, which grew from the MHS Women’s History Matters project marking 100 years of women’s suffrage in the state. Kohl started informally asking people to name 10 women in Montana history.

“Even the best educated seemed to stall at three — Sacajawea, Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin and photographer Evelyn Cameron. But then the stories came of great-grandmothers who homesteaded, widowed mothers who eked out a living in Butte and aunts who served during World War II.

“’In other words, Montanans knew about fascinating women — they just didn’t consider them historical,’ Kohl wrote.”

Martha Kohl (“Montana: Stories of the Land” and “I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings” [see my blog post about that book]) is a historical specialist at the Montana Historical Society.

Many of the essays in the book previously appeared on the MHS webpage Women’s History Matters: 1914 – 2014. The site also contains other references of interest to educators and historians.

According to the San Francisco Book Review, “Each of these stories are short, around three pages or so, and often accompanied by a picture. They tell an interesting story and that is what the contributors bring to life. A story that has been ignored, and if it wasn’t for contributors like these, then these stories would likely be lost forever. Hopefully something like this will bring a closer look to other states and their stories.”

–Malcolm

 

 

Thomas-Jacob releases new edition of ‘Sarabande’

Standard

SarabandeCover2015Thomas-Jacob Publishing is releasing a new edition of Sarabande just in time for the 2015 holiday season.

The second book in the “Mountain Journeys” series, the novel sweeps a young woman along a dark and ill-fated trek from the high country of Montana to the prairie of Illinois to escape a ghost. While the novel’s official release date is November 1, the Kindle edition is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Haunted by her powerful sister Dryad from beyond the grave, Sarabande leaves the world of Pyrrha from its hiding place within Montana’s Glacier Park, and travels on horseback to Illinois to seek the help of Sun Singer Robert Adams. Sarabande almost dies trying to reach him and it’s soon obvious that evil has followed her from the western mountains to Robert’s small town in a world of soybeans, corn, brick streets and old homes.

Click here to see the trailer on YouTube

Click here to see the trailer on YouTube

Robert saved Sarabande’s life in the first book of the series, The Sun Singer. Truth be told, he doesn’t think he can do it again. His magic is weak, all but forgotten. Worse yet, he remembers Dryad’s moon magic and hypnotic voice and fears that he can’t resist her seductive charms another time.

Sarabande, a contemporary fantasy, was written so that it can be read as a standalone novel about a woman’s perilous journey. It can also be read as a sequel to The Sun Singer, which was the story of Robert’s journey to Pyrrha. The Sun Singer ended on a positive note, but there were a few loose ends.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is also the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Emily’s Stories,” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”

Mountain Journeys Web Page

 

 

Dear Big Sky Brewing Company

Standard

moosedroolA year ago, I walked into the Interlaken Lounge at Many Glacier Hotel and bought an ice cold mug of Moose Drool. With a name like that, I figured what could possibly go wrong.

It was darned good.

When people asked me what I was drinking, naturally I said “Moose Drool.”

Since most visitors to Glacier Park look for moose but never find them, folks wondered how I got close enough to get the drool into a mug.

“If you ring a bear bell by the light of the moon, a moose will appear,” I said. “Hand it some grass (not pot) to start the drooling process.”

Those who took a sip immediately left the bar and headed out into Swiftcurrent Valley to find their own moose. I left the hotel the next morning before any incident reports were filed with the park rangers.

The Problem

You brew Moose Drool in Montana but don’t distribute it in faraway Georgia. I see by your business plan, you’re concentrating on your neck of the woods and that makes sense. Meanwhile, I’m stuck sitting here drinking Schlitz. (Not really.)

brewingcompanySo, here’s an opportunity for the Big Sky Brewing Company to set up a wonderful promotion. Get a tractor trailer, put your logo all over it, and send it down into Georgia with some guy called Bandit serving as your escort.

Film the whole thing and put it on YouTube. It will go viral. Big Sky will haul in big bucks.

While it may not get me a continuous supply of beer here in northeast Georgia, I’m hoping for a couple of free bottles. Then, next time I’m in the Interlaken Lounge at Many Glacier Hotel, I’ll buy a round of Moose Drool for everyone.

Malcolm

LascauxAnthologyMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels and paranormal short stories including “Dream of Crows” which appears in the Lascaux Prize 2014 anthology.

 

 

Briefly Noted: ‘Montana’s Charlie Russell’

Standard

It’s difficult to read about Montana without coming across Charlie Russell sooner or later. He’s the state’s most celebrated and most widely known artist. This book offers a view of Russell’s work in the collection of the Montana Historical Society in Helena. Nothing is better than seeing the paintings up close. If you can’t do that, this book is a fine introduction.

CharlieRussellFrom the Publisher: Montana’s Charlie Russell brings to life the Montana Historical Society’s world-class collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, bronzes, and illustrated letters by the Treasure State’s famed “Cowboy Artist.” Using advanced digital technology, each of the 230 pieces in the Society’s permanent collection has been meticulously photographed to bring to life, in vivid color, Russell’s artistic mastery. Carefully researched scholarship illuminates the stories behind each artwork. The result is a catalog of Russell’s art as you’ve never seen it before.

From the Montana Historical Society Press Release

MHS RELEASING NEW CHARLIE RUSSELL BOOK MORE THAN 60 YEARS IN THE MAKING

“In 1952 the Montana Historical Society acquired the Malcolm Mackay family collection of the artwork of Charles M. Russell that became the heart of its unmatched assemblage of the famed Montana cowboy artist’s masterpieces, paintings, illustrated letters, sketches and sculpture.

“Since then, it has been the dream of many to reproduce the entire MHS Russell art collection in a high-quality book that would celebrate the artist’s vision of Montana and the breadth of his amazing career — that took him from cowboying in the Judith Gap to one of the best loved artists of the West…

“…K. Ross Toole, MHS director in 1952, said while raising funds to acquire the Mackay collection: ‘If Montana has contributed one thing to the heritage of the whole West, it is Charles M. Russell’s paintings …. It was Montana that inspired him; it was Montana that he painted.'”

With this book on your coffee table, you can turn off the TV for the Winter.

Malcolm

Seeker for promo 1Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “The Seeker,” a book about mountains, first loves and betrayal set partly in Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Glacier September 19 Update: Access to Logan Pass Changes This Weekend

Standard

from NPS Glacier National Park

 

Guard rail replacement in June - NPS Photo on Flickr

Guard rail replacement in June – NPS Photo on Flickr

The last day to access Logan Pass by vehicle from the east side of Glacier National Park will be Sunday, September 21, allowing accelerated fall season rehabilitation on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Vehicle traffic will be restricted on the east side near the St. Mary Campground beginning Monday, September 22. Vehicle access to Logan Pass will be available from the west side of the park through Sunday, October 19, weather permitting.

Fall access to east-side hiking trails between the St. Mary Campground and Logan Pass will be limited during road rehabilitation activity beginning Monday, September 22. Hikers wanting to hike any of the trails that are accessed, or may be an exit point, along the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, are highly encouraged to contact the park at 406-888-7800 before departing. The trails that are affected include Siyeh Pass, Baring Basin, Piegan Pass, Otokomi, St. Mary Falls/Baring Falls/Virginia Falls, Gunsight and Sperry Trails. For more information on status of trails and access, please contact the park or visit http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/trailstatusreports.htm.

Access to some backcountry campsites on the east side of the park will also be affected. All backcountry campers are required to have a permit from the park’s backcountry office for overnight stays. All backcountry permits must be obtained from the Apgar Permit Center at this time of the year. For more information on backcountry camping and trail access, please contact the park at 888-7800 or visit http://www.nps.gov/glac.

Times and locations for boat inspections for boats launching in Glacier National Park are changing. Inspections for the west side of the park will be conducted at the Apgar Backcountry Office, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily through the end of October. Boat inspections for the east side of the park, Many Glacier and Two Medicine areas, are by appointment only. Appointments are available by contacting the park at 406-888-7800.

The Logan Pass Visitor Center will be open through this Sunday, September 21, 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Apgar Visitor Center and the St. Mary Visitor Center are open through October 5, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily.

Many Glacier Bridge Replacement

Swiftcurrent Bridge, which provides access to Many Glacier Hotel, was losing its structural integrity, had a cracked deck, and could no longer handle high water.  - NPS photo from the park planning document

Swiftcurrent Bridge, which provides access to Many Glacier Hotel, was losing its structural integrity, had a cracked deck, and could no longer handle high water. – NPS photo from the park planning document

Visitors to the Many Glacier area of the park should be aware that the replacement of the Swiftcurrent Bridge will begin shortly after the Many Glacier Hotel closes for the season on Sunday, September 21.  Visitors can expect short delays beginning September 26. As of September 29 there will be no vehicle or pedestrian traffic as the bridge is replaced. It is anticipated that the work to replace the bridge will continue through mid-November.

Access to Cracker Lake and the Piegan Trail will be through the Grinnell Picnic Area, at the Grinnell Trailhead. The Swiftcurrent Bridge is located at the foot of Swiftcurrent Lake and provides vehicle and pedestrian access to the Many Glacier Hotel Historic District, and the Many Glacier Hotel.

Autumn visitors to Glacier National Park will find less crowds, cooler temperatures, and changing vegetation colors. Area residents and visitors are reminded that the park is open year-round and park recreational opportunities can be found during all seasons.

Nice to see infrastructure work going forward.

–Malcolm

Seeker for promo 1Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of three novels partially set in Glacier National Park, “The Sun Singer” (paperback) “Sarabande” (out of print) and “The Seeker” (on Amazon and Smashwords in paperback and e-book).