Readers share their Montana wildlife shots
Montana wildlife. Two great words.
And our great Facebook friends have shared some pretty great shots of the Montana wildlife they’ve seen across the state.
A special thanks to Mark LaRowe (coyote), Beach Kowgirl (owl), Marcie Rand Galick (birds on Hauser Lake) and Stephanie Nordberg (moose) for sharing these photos with us.
Big Sky Spotlight: Meet Clark Schreibeis
Montana wildlife carver and sculptor Clark Schreibeis won Best in World honors in the decorative life-size division at the World Fish Carving Championships in 2013. The entry was also judged Best of Show. It was Schreibeis’s fifth best in show since 1995. He also won the Master of Master’s Division in the World Taxidermy Championships held simultaneously in Springfield, Ill. He continues his quest for artistic perfection in a rural setting west of Billings.
By JIM GRANSBERY, Photo by KELVIN PINNEY
Numerous artists have sought wilderness for solitude that spawns creativity.
For Clark Schreibeis, a 1980, 600-mile canoe trip – including a 15-mile portage over Ivashak Pass in Alaska’s Brooks Range – crystallized the desires of his life. At 25, encountering a determinate crossroad, he chose a deliberate path.
That rarified atmosphere of sun, sky, mountains, waters and wildlife above the Arctic Circle guided him: “I was going to quit drinking, marry Rika and take up taxidermy.”
He successfully achieved all three.
Today, he is the world’s finest fish carver and taxidermist. His peers have made it so.
Schreibeis, 58, was born and lived in Sheridan, Wyo., until he was 12 when his family moved to Billings in 1967. His father ran a dairy. His life as a sculptor began at age 8 when he carved a whale out of a bar of Ivory soap.
“I would whittle on wood,” he said. “I remember being struck by the beauty of the wood when I carved into an old piece of juniper.”
His artistic talent percolated to the surface now and again during a number of years. Although he liked to draw, he took no art classes in high school. He did take courses in technical, mechanical and architectural drawing. After graduating from West High School, he worked construction and on the railroad.
“I ran with a rowdy crowd,” he said. “I never knew I had (artistic) talent.”
After his four-month sojourn in Alaska, “Rika said ‘come home,’ ” Schreibeis said. “I took a six-week crash course in taxidermy in Wisconsin. That was all. I hung out my shingle as a western taxidermist. I did fish and birds.”
During a world taxidermy competition in Kansas in 1985, Schreibeis was drawn to carving. In a two-hour seminar, the instructor carved a fish out of wood.
“I was totally taken,” Schreibeis said. “It was more artistic. I was done with taxidermy.”
In 1995, he won his first Best of Show at the World Fish Carving Championships, which he has taken each time he’s entered the biennial competition.
His double world win last year came as a result of commissions by admirers of his work.
Billings angler Joel Long Jr. asked Schreibeis to capture in wood his “dream fish,” a 24-inch spawning male brown trout. For his taxidermy entry, Schreibeis chose his rendition of a wolf eel caught by friend and client Jim Routson, of Missoula, while fishing for halibut off the coast of Sitka, Alaska.
The wolf eel – from the dark deep – resembles a ferocious demon. The 5-foot, 5-inch creature was for Schreibeis the ultimate challenge to recreate. Being a judge, he was unable to compete in the fish category, but he could enter the Master of Masters division, which was open to all master level judges and competitors of all species.
His expertise established, Schreibeis spends his time sculpting in wood and bronze, working on a few select taxidermy projects, judging, teaching carving classes and exploring those wild places he loves.
What is the goal of your work?
To capture the essence of the species. To produce a decorative piece, such as the brown trout, as close to real, and accurately. With the Rocky Mountain (red) juniper, to produce a sculpture such as a great blue heron that displays the beauty of the wood.
What are the best choices for wood?
For carving fish, the best is “tupelo” (swamp tree) found in the southeastern United States. The first 4- to 5 -feet from the root ball is best. The grain is harder upward from that. At several sites in eastern Montana I look for juniper. Southeast of Glendive there is some big stuff.
Where lies your creativity?
I’ve had a piece of juniper here, maybe for 10 years. I have tried to visualize what it might become. Maybe a couple of owls? It (creativity) is to release the sculpture. The work becomes more stylized, interpretive as you go. Although it is not as detailed or accurate as the brown trout, my juniper carving “shouts” great blue heron.
Where in Montana do you go to relax?
On the river.
What three words describe Montana?
Beauty. Wildlife. Family.
Jim Gransbery is a retired agricultural/political reporter of The Billings Gazette. He writes from Billings.
Beautiful Bad Lands of Makoshika State Park
In the eyes of Montana photographer Jason Savage, the vast and unique landscapes inside Makoshika State Park more than allow the land to live up to its name.
The largest state park in Montana, “Makoshika” is a variant spelling of the Lakota word meaning “bad land” or “bad earth.”
The park’s 11,531 acres – located just outside Glendive – are filled with giant formations of light colored capstone that reach toward the expansive eastern Montana skies like elegant pedestals.
Among the wild landscape lies the bones of ancient species, including Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, and artifacts left behind by ancient peoples thousands of years ago.
“To me as a photographer, it feels like a harsh landscape but it has all this beauty,” Savage said. “It’s kind of an unforgiving place, especially in the summer it’s hot, but it’s got all this fantastic landscape and wildlife. It’s pretty spectacular.”
Planning a trip to Makoshika? Ranger Tom Shoush recommends several things you’ve got to see:
- Drive the 10-mile road through the park.
“If the road system is open, I always tell people to drive to the top. That’s where the views are,” Shoush said.
- Watch out for dinosaur bones.
The bones of 10-12 species of dinosaurs have been found inside Makoshika. Most of the finds, Shoush said, are large herbivores that lived near end of the age of dinosaurs. The most significant is an entire Thescelosaur, a “very rare” and “tremendous find” Shoush said.
- Stop at the visitors’ center.
It’s home to dinosaur bones and rare artifacts left behind by ancient peoples. “A human presence in the area dated back to 10,000 to 12,000 years ago,” Shoush said.
- Stop by during the “spring green up.”
Shoush recommends visiting from Makoshika in mid-May through mid-June.
“I tell people somewhere around June 1 you have the best chance of seeing the flowers in bloom and the migratory birds have returned,” he said.
To view the entire Makoshika photo portfolio, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Wild Ride: Wolf Point’s Wild Horse Stampede keeps rodeo traditions alive
By Rich Peterson, Photos by Lynn Donaldson
Wolf Point’s Wild Horse Stampede is approaching its 91st birthday but Montana’s oldest professional rodeo shows no signs of aging or wrinkles.
Thousands of rodeo fans converge on this Hi-Line town of nearly 3,000 residents each year for three days during the second week in July.
It’s a time of class and family reunions, parades, a carnival, “Catholic burgers,” street dances and, of course, the main event: The oldest Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event in the state that is known as the “granddaddy of Montana rodeos.”
“For a lot of people who come here every summer for the Stampede, it feels like home,” said Clint Long, who’s been the chairman of the event since 1984 and has attended the rodeo since childhood. “Everyone remembers coming to the Stampede when they were kids. It’s an amazing phenomenon. People want to connect with their roots again. So much is going on in a world that’s moving too fast. Roots are shallow anymore.”
To read the entire feature on the Wild Horse Stampede, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Montana Book Review: Literary Thrills and Chills
By Doug Mitchell
A dark new novel from one of Montana’s most well-known master of thrillers, a heartfelt history from the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, and a western-themed page-turner with a hearty heroine.
Montana Magazine contributor Doug Mitchell reviews a handful of books based in or about Montana.
Light of the World
By James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster, New York, 2013
One of America’s premier fiction writers, James Lee Burke sets his 20th Dave Robicheaux novel, Light of the World, near his ranch home just south of Missoula.
For those not familiar with Burke’s work, Dave Robicheaux, a deputy sheriff in New Iberia, La., is the main character in as good a set of mystery stories as you’ll ever find. A deeply flawed, but an intensely human man, Robicheaux is the kind of imperfect character in whom we as readers can easily believe.
In Light of the World, Robicheaux is vacationing in Montana with his family and his ever present sidekick, Clete Purcel, when strange things begin to happen.
This dark, hard tale isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is a first-class page turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat. More than that, it is a beautifully written book with the kind of memorable, elegant language that separates Burke from most of his peers in the fiction genre.
For long-time Burke fans, it is another great read.
First-time readers: Be prepared to get hooked and to develop an oddly strong opinion about whether your favorite character is Dave Robicheaux or Clete Purcel.
A Cheyenne Voice – The Complete John Stands in Timber Interviews
By John Stands in Timber and Margot Liberty
University of Oklahoma Press, Oklahoma, 2013
More than a half century in the making, A Cheyenne Voice – The Complete John Stands in Timber Interviews represents a significant contribution to the history and culture of the American West. In this dense and rich volume, author Margot Liberty presents a full transcription of the recorded interviews she did with Stands in Timber in the 1950s. The interviews were the basis of her 1967 book Cheyenne Memories. In the book, Liberty provides a rare and intimate window to an all too often forgotten past.
Born in 1882, John Stands in Timber sat for these interviews late in his life.
And what a life it was. An orphan, Stands in Timber was sent to a boarding school but returned to the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation at the age of 23, where he became a dedicated tribal historian, story collector and protector of the native language.
There is no way not to be moved by this book. Although at times a difficult read because it is a direct transcription, the stories and history shared by Stands in Timber, as elicited through the capable questioning of Liberty, take the reader to a very special place. It is the kind of book you will want to keep by your bedside table and read in reflective moments because the stories are so warm and significant that they demand the attention of a treasured moment.
By K.C. McRae
Midnight Ink, Minnesota, 2013
I was prepared not to expect much of Shotgun Moon when it got to the top of the pile of books by my nightstand. I had not heard of the author and was not familiar with the publisher, but I liked the premise of a female heroine in a western novel and figured I would give it a whirl.
I’m glad I did.
Shotgun Moon is a breath of fresh air from a talented writer who, I later learned, has an accomplished career writing under other names. This is her first novel writing as K.C. McRae.
On the first page of the book we are introduced to our heroine, Merry McCoy, recently released from prison and headed back to her home in the fictional rural Montanan town of Hazel.
Merry is as refreshing and original of a character as I have come across in a long time. From the moment she returns home we are on a 300-page thrill ride that is filled with amazing characters.
I had the chance to ask McRae some questions about Shotgun Moon.
Here’s what she had to say about the book and her work.
Q: You are already a successful author through your two series Magical Bakery Mysteries (writing under the name of Bailey Cates) and Home Crafting Mysteries (Cricket McRae), what made you decide to take a chance with Shotgun Moon.
A: I’ve always been drawn to western writers and to stories that depict the unique sensibilities of western life. As much as I enjoy the work of authors like Doig, Duncan, Kittredge or McGuane, I’m a mystery writer at heart and am also a big fan of James Lee Burke, Dana Stabenow, Craig Johnson and C.J. Box. The idea for Shotgun Moon had been percolating for years, and when I found myself with an opening in my writing schedule I decided it was time to bring it to life. It certainly is a departure from my two cozy mystery series, which is one of the reasons it was so enormously fun to write. Cozy mysteries are typically lighter fare with little actual violence, sex or even bad language. In the world of Shotgun Moon the story couldn’t be told that way, and I loved the opportunity to write a little darker.
Q: Merry McCoy is quite a character. Where did she come from?
A: I have had the luck to know many women who meet adversity – both the everyday stumbling blocks and life-altering enormities – with quiet strength. They take a deep breath and do what needs to be done, from putting down a horse to changing a bed pan, from protecting their children to living in constant pain. These women taught me how gentle strength can be and how brutal as well. They showed me, and continue to show me, that it’s possible to get through life without letting it wear you away, that success can simply mean retaining the ability to be compassionate in the middle of it all while not giving into bitterness or self-pity. The journey to reach that equanimity is rarely pretty or smooth, but it’s worth it. Some of these people are friends and others are members of my family. These women all inspired my flawed but persistent main character. One of them was my great-grandmother, Essie McCoy, whose name I borrowed for Merry.
Q: You have a new Bailey Cates book coming out, Some Enchanted Éclair, in July. Tell us a bit about the transition as a writer from writing a book like Shotgun Moon, then moving back to a Magical Bakery Mystery.
A: Some Enchanted Eclair is my 11th novel, and the fourth Magical Bakery Mystery. In some ways it’s the polar opposite of Shotgun Moon – set in the Deep South, featuring a young witch who owns a bakery. The tone is lighter, and there’s an emphasis on food – especially savory pastries. In some ways that makes it easier to write than something like Shotgun, simply because the story is not as layered. However, the mystery still needs to work in an interesting and coherent way, and Katie Lightfoot, the witch in question, is actually an old fashioned herbal healer whose father is descended from Shawnee medicine men. Like Merry, she’s resourceful, cares about her friends and family, and takes care of business. I’ve found that the luxury of being able to switch from one kind of mystery writing to another keeps things fresh and interesting.
Q: Why did you choose Montana as the location for Shotgun Moon?
A: Both of my parents were born in Montana. My dad worked at Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer, and I have family in Billings. I grew up mostly in northern Wyoming and Colorado. Then, when I lived in Seattle I visited the Bitterroot Valley and fell in love with the place. For years I wanted to live there, and one day that still might happen. In the meantime, Shotgun Moon gave me the opportunity to partially live my fantasy on the page.
Q: Will fans of Shotgun Moon we see more from K.C. McRae and if so, can you give us a sneak peek?
A: I have several projects in the works, among them a couple more K.C. McRae adventures. One is set in a primitive living school and another in a cult-like compound in the Yaak Valley. However, neither is presently under contract, so my priority in the next six months will be on my current obligations.
To another book review by Doug Mitchell, click here.
Grizzly Guardian finds wild calling
By Corinne Garcia, Photos by Erik Petersen
Not just anyone would opt for a bear as a pet in lieu of something a lot less intimidating. But for Casey Anderson, an animal lover and naturalist who has made a career out of working with and exploring some of the world’s most feared animals, somehow it doesn’t seem so strange. Host of the National Geographic Channel series “America the Wild,” the fifth generation Montanan has paved his own way through the animal kingdom, going from hobby tracker to wildlife expert and spokesperson.
In 2002, Anderson met Brutus, a grizzly cub who was just the size of a squirrel. Through this quirky bear, and other wild animals he has come to know and understand, he has been able to dispel many myths about predators. But first, Anderson had to learn about them himself.
What is Brutus like today? He’s a one-of-a-kind bear living at Anderson’s Montana Grizzly Encounter outside Bozeman.
To view videos of Brutus, as well as other bears at the sanctuary, visit the santurary’s bearcam page.
To read the entire feature on Casey Andereson, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Last Farm Standing: Kalispell Kreamery
Story and photos by Jessica Lowry
For 35 years – no matter the late nights, the sideways-blowing snow or the hard bite of winter mornings – the Hedstrom Dairy cows have known exactly what shapes would darken the barn’s pre-dawn doorway just as certain as they could expect the sun to rise over the Swan Mountains looming to the east.
Mornings start early on the farm. Cows don’t care if you were up late into the night or have other things to do. They need to be milked.
Bill and Marilyn Hedstrom have spent the past 35 years keeping their cows happy around the clock.
After three and a half decades and in a valley where tourism and traffic to Glacier National Park drive a significant segment of the economy, Kalispell Kreamery and Hedstrom Dairy is the last Flathead dairy farm in operation.
After falling in love with the family’s first cow in 1978, the Hedstrom’s opened a dairy. What started as a five acre operation in Happy Valley has grown into an 80-acre farm in West Valley.
To read the entire feature on the Kalispell Kreamery, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Bow Virtuoso: Expert craftsman creates one-of-a-kind hunting tools
Story by Brian D’Ambrosio, Photos by Jeremy Lurgio
In bowyer Jim Rempp’s opinion, simple and basic are the natural equals of skill and precision.
“People are tired of current technology,” Rempp said. “They want to go back to the simple things. Wooden archery is the original native archery.”
As a part of a recent consumer backlash against cheaper, newer materials in the past 10 years, Rempp has seen primitive archery re-emerge as an alternative. In a reversal of attitude, many of today’s archers prefer traditional wooden bows over modern counterparts.
“These are the most primitive bows that there are,” said Rempp in between rounds of target practice on a spacious slice of farmland outside Missoula where he makes and tests bows. “They are all wood. Basically, they are just a stick.”
To read the entire feature on Jim Rempp, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.