Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame aims to preserve, promote Montana’s Western culture
By Cathy Melin Moser
Photos courtesy of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame
The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center is always in search of a rousing Western story.
Ask the folks in charge, and they’ll tell you it’s the stories about people, animals and events that exemplify Montana’s Western heritage.
So it’s not surprising that colorful, engaging stories were aplenty at the recent class of 2013 induction ceremony in March 2014 that roped another 36 inductees into the Hall of Fame corral.
“They are noteworthy because of what they did, not because they wanted to become famous,” said Bill Donald, volunteer board of director member from Melville. “They are not arrogant or braggadocios. They are humble, to the point that it’s easy to have their stories lost.”
Representation was diverse at the organization’s sixth induction ceremony held in Great Falls. “Legacy” award inductees included award-winning author, Dorothy M. Johnson, and the nearly unrideable saddle bronc, Trails End.
Other notables were the 1904 Fort Shaw Indian Boarding School girls’ basketball team, the Montana Department of Livestock and Connolly Saddlery, founded in 1912 and still making saddles in Billings.
“Living” award inductees, most of whom have reached their 80s or 90s, provided a glimpse inside the speech, dress and mannerisms of the cowboy life of the past.
To see the entire story on the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
A pair of good Big Sky reads
By Doug Mitchell
A gripping novel featuring an unusual friendship written by a jack-of-all-trades author and a re-issued thriller that promises to entertain with its implausible but fast-paced story, Montana Magazine contributor Doug Mitchell reviews two books by Montana authors.
Henry Holt and Company, New York – 2014
This fall has been filled with terrific debut novels from graduates of the University of Montana’s Master in Fine Arts program in Missoula. That’s why when I got a copy of Kim Zupan’s debut novel, The Ploughmen, I was reticent. You see, Missoula had quite a streak going and I didn’t want to put it in jeopardy with a book from an author I didn’t recognize and whose route to his MFA from Missoula and to writing a novel seemed anything but typical.
I should not have worried.
The Ploughmen is an easy and enjoyable read that represents a strong debut for a talented wordsmith. Set in a fictionalized area of central Montana, the book weaves together the lives of two men; a torturous criminal (John Gload) and a tortured sheriff’s deputy (Val Millimaki). Gload is an unrepentant murderer whose string is just about played out while Millimaki is a 20-something deputy suffering a bad run of both professional and personal luck.
Using beautiful language and a vocabulary that regularly had me grabbing for my dictionary, Zupan weaves an interesting tale about the uneasy friendship that develops between Millimaki and Gload.
My only minor complaint about the book is that, on occasion, I felt certain words were out of scale to the descriptions and seemed like a forced assertion of the author’s extensive vocabulary.
For example, describing well a Montana scene we all can see in our minds eye, Zupan writes “Crows and magpies swarmed the humming power lines overhead, awaiting the tender carrion and greeting with caws and crows the plentitude of the refulgent day.”
I had to look up “refulgent” and, for me, “radiant” or “gleaming” would have sufficed quite nicely.
Two things impressed me most about The Ploughmen.
First, Zupan’s journey to publishing this debut novel is nontraditional to say the least. A carpenter by trade, Zupan earned his MFA from the University of Montana in 1984. Over the years his writing has appeared in notable short story compilations next to some of the big names in Montana fiction writing. All the while, Zupan had day jobs that ran the gamut from smelterman to pro rodeo bareback rider, with a stint as a salmon fisherman in Alaska thrown in for good measure. I don’t think that’s what most of us think of when we think “writer” but Kim Zupan is just that – and a good one.
Second, the book is somehow at the same time intellectually challenging and an easy read. In my view, this is a very rare literary skill. To write something meaningful, to challenge a reader with complex characters and still make the reading enjoyable requires a hand with great skill. Zupan has that rare skill and we as readers are better off for it.
Montana Magazine: First, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about your outstanding first novel, The Ploughmen. How long have you know you had this story to tell?
Kim Zupan: The genesis of this story came from late-night, gin-fueled conversations with an old friend of mine who had been a deputy sheriff for Cascade County. He had a seemingly limitless trove of great tales and some of these rattled around in my head for years as I was working on other things. Eventually they became the seed for The Ploughmen. Because of the way I’ve had to work- essentially in three-month increments – the book took probably six or seven years to write, and had percolated in my head for at least that many years before anything went down on paper.
MM: With the two main characters in the book you have given them qualities that don’t always match their deeds. Was that by design or did that just happen organically as you began to tell the story?
KZ: Honestly, it’s hard for me to tell what’s by design and what’s organic. You’ve heard it before, I’m sure, but the characters, if you’re going well, take on a life of their own and more or less tell you what they want to do. Amidst some of the pain and frustration and drudgery of writing, that’s a fun part – when you sit back and see the characters take shape and sprawl out on the page. I didn’t, for example, plan for John Gload to lay his hand on top of Millimaki’s in the jail one late night (in a scene late in the book). It’s what he decided to do and was, I think, consistent with his personality, at that moment. I just said, “Well, hell—okay. Go ahead. It’s your show.”
MM: How does your varied occupational background inform your writing?
KZ: I mentioned earlier that I wrote most of the novel in three-month long installments, this by necessity as we (my wife and I) squirreled away money for nine months in order for me to take the winter off to work at the desk. And because the time was hard-earned and precious, I’d approach these writing sabbaticals like blue-collar jobs – show up early, stay late. Of course one can’t write eight or ten hours a day but you have to have your ass in the seat to capitalize on those times when everything clicks – call it the visitation by the Muse or the alignment of the planets or the proper sequencing of synapses – whatever. If you’re not there when it comes down – with your pencil in hand or fingers on the keyboard – it won’t ever happen.
In general terms, having worked so long in the trades has given me a heightened awareness of and sensitivity for the struggle and sometimes heartache of people just trying to get by and provide for their families. For many it can be a daily battle and that’s something many people in our privileged country don’t know or have forgotten or, worse, choose to ignore. If a senator’s wife is abandoned by her husband certainly that’s painful. If a waitresses’ husband leaves her and she doesn’t know how she’ll make the next house payment, well, that a different level of pain.
More specifically, from having done many different things over the years, my head is a box full of esoterica banging around. Some maritime term or image from my fishing days might serve in describing the country east of Grass Range, for example. I have, as the old sitcom line went, a mind full of junk. Sometimes that junk is useful.
MM: Tell us a little about your writing process – how do you go about writing a book as big and complex as The Ploughmen.
KZ: I wish my process was a bit less – to use your word – organic and more streamlined and organized. But it isn’t. My head doesn’t work that way and I’ve made my peace with that. I tend to just forge ahead, however glacially slow, and get a draft down on paper. Briefly, then, I delude myself that the book is complete and final. Then I go through it again and this time it’s most certainly done. Then I go through once more, for the last time. And again. My wife is an excellent and exceedingly patient editor (as well as an excellent writer) and she knows my stuff well enough now to know when I’m over the top with the prose. So after her careful read I’ll go through it yet again, slashing and burning to the essential book. At some point in the process I may write scenes on 3 by 5 cards and tack them to a cork board, just to make sure the story is flowing and that subsequent scenes are explained earlier. But otherwise – if we can here define organic as being more from the gut than the head – then that’s how I work. The head gets involved in the later stages when I realize the jumbled mess must make sense to someone besides me.
MM: So, with novel No. 1 out of the way, what’s next?
KZ: I’m well into another book now, but I’m too superstitious to say much about it. But I’m anxious for the next block of unencumbered time to hammer away at it.
The President’s Mistress
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform – 2013
This book was a fun discovery. Originally self-published by Montana native Jack Paskvan in 1989, The President’s Mistress, was re-released through Amazon’s CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform last year and came to me through the “friend of a friend” hotline – one of those realities of life in Montana that truly makes this state one very large small town.
This is a fun book in the genre of James Patterson or Jack Higgins; an implausible story that allows us to suspend reality for a while and live vicariously through characters with incredible courage and stories with a pacing and urgency that keeps the pages turning.
And one must suspend reality as a guide from the very first page of the book to buy into what Paskvan is selling. You see, the premise of the story is a plan hatched decades earlier by the pre-glasnost Soviet Union to create a child that would come of age and destroy the world (at least the non-communist parts).
I kept waiting for the book to become cheesy, but Paskvan wouldn’t oblige.
Mistress is well written, interesting and fast-paced. The characters are well developed and the story somehow hangs together.
One of the interesting features for me was to read a book in 2014 that was written pre-Internet and cellphone. Many of the predicaments the heroes and villains find themselves in are so easily fixable today. And yet the tale didn’t feel dated – just authentic.
The President’s Mistress was my surprise book of the summer and would be the perfect weekend getaway book for the reader looking for something different from an off-the-beaten-track Montana author.
Montana Magazine: It is 1967, you’ve just graduated from the University of Montana and you get drafted. How did you react when you learned you were likely headed to Vietnam?
JACK PASKVAN: My answer to this has always been the same and always with a straight face. I had two BAs, a Mustang convertible, a fiancé and two girlfriends when they drafted me two weeks out of college. I was royally pissed off. I automatically assumed I would eventually end up in Vietnam, but my first goal was to avoid the infantry at all costs. So what did they do but send me to Fort Polk, Louisiana, (Tigerland) June, July and August. Initially the Army thought I would make good officer candidate. That lasted about three days, and for the remaining eight weeks of basic training the drill sergeants engaged in a heightened program of attitude adjustment for me. By the end of those eight weeks they had done a pretty good job of it. Of course, we were told the great computer somewhere in Arizona picked us for various branches based on our skills and abilities. When the assignments came, they started with the As and ended up with the Os for the infantry, which was just across the street in Tigerland. I was next up, and for the next dozen or so names we landed the MPs. Not a whole lot better, but that did give me a temporary reprieve and for five months a very cushy assignment at the Underground Pentagon at Fort Ritchey, Maryland. After Tet of ’68 when the MPs were decimated in the major cities, my entire unit was shipped to Vietnam. By then I was reasonably resigned to the fact I would eventually go.
MM: In The President’s Mistress you kind of skip Vietnam, with the book set partly in World War II and partly at the end of the cold war…intentional?
JP: As fate would have it, Vietnam turned out to be one of the greatest opportunities to ever come my way. To this day I say it was the best job I ever had. Upon my arrival at battalion headquarters with orders to an attachment to the 4th Infantry Division, I was screened out due to my education and offered the job as battalion public information officer, which translates to an enlisted reporter/photographer. Thus began my professional writing career. I took to it instinctively and had a very successful tour of duty with numerous press releases published in both the civilian and military media. That said, Vietnam should have been a book in itself, and other than my first novel attempt back in 1970, which was not very good, I’ve never felt the need to delve into it. I prefer to draw upon my real life experiences in Vietnam as a means of developing my characters by taking a look into their pasts. The scene in The President’s Mistress is a good example when Davoren relates the story about the saying, “On the fields of hesitation lie the bleached bones of those who stopped to rest, and resting too long, they wasted and died.” He tells about the reporter in Vietnam who just didn’t have what it takes to be great and as a result would always be a wannabe. Davoren equates that to his secure position as a member of the United States Senate with an eye cast toward the presidency. I find these anecdotes from Vietnam and elsewhere to be very handy when it comes to adding depth to the characters. Another example would be when Alexei was talking about the Afghansky and related that to Fletch’s experiences in Vietnam. I had every intention to leave Vietnam completely out of the plot other than to drop these little tidbits here and there. The President’s Mistress just did not need Vietnam outside passing comments to develop the characters.
MM: I was struck in both of your books (I also read Blood Identity) with the symmetry in your writing. In both books there are multiple characters with similar odds of being the villain. Is that an intentional writing style or just a happy coincidence?
JP: In my mind nothing is black or white. The duality of good and evil in many of my characters is simply a reflection of the world we live in. I probably go a bit overboard in incorporating this in my writing just to keep the reader guessing as long as possible, and I certainly do it intentionally. There’s somewhat of a vicarious pleasure in being the only one to know the final outcome while creating the actions and emotions of these various characters as they struggle with their own duality to the extent it appears even they don’t recognize their true inner nature.
MM: You re-released The President’s Mistress last year when Blood Identity came out. What was it like to re-visit that book after so long?
JP: Rereading The President’s Mistress after it languished for 25 years came as a very pleasant surprise and somewhat of a shock. For one thing, I had forgotten many of the scenes and turns of events. It was like reading someone else’s book and really getting into it. All the original word processing data was lost, and I had four or five boxes of original manuscripts in various incarnations. My agents in New York at the time, first International Creative Management and then Sobel and Associates, had me do a series of rewrites, and after a while I got tired of the cumbersome process and just sat on the manuscripts. When The President’s Mistress was resurrected, I went with the original. Scanning the manuscript didn’t work, so I sat down and typed out the whole thing all over, editing and rewriting as I went along. It was burdensome at first and interfered with my daily business routine, but it didn’t take long until I was right back in the groove and enjoying the hell out of it.
MM: Will we as readers be treated to anything thing else from you?
JP: There’s a sequel to Blood Identity coming out shortly. It’s entitled Police Brutality and takes up right at the end of Blood Identity. After that I really don’t know. I work full-time running a wholesale jewelry business with clients scattered all over the country, and I do have an obligation to them and my company. There are some other manuscripts I’ll look over and see if they are worthy of publication, but I suspect the rewriting would be so extensive I might as well start a new book. If I ever do that, my heart lies with The President’s Mistress. I have toyed with the idea of writing a sequel to it with the protagonist now in her mid-sixties and all sorts of evil coming out of the Middle East, of course, and a Putin like character to make matters even worse. The plot is in my head, and I’ve actually written the first page. One of my main issues, however, is I’m completely intimidated to write a tale in a time of smart phones and technology driven plots. We’ll see.
Doug Mitchell is the Montana Magazine book reviewer. He writes from Helena.
Images of the East: Photographer travels 10,000 across Montana to make images for Eastern Montana
Photography of Leland Howard
A typical day – at least for a photographer who has set out to capture the heart of a place as big and bold as Eastern Montana – doesn’t exist.
One day might involve traveling hundreds of miles of country roads, another could be spent hiking, and the next making arrangements to shoot a cattle roundup or observing the movements of wild horses.
That’s a glimpse of how longtime photographer Leland Howard spent his atypical days during his 10,000 mile trip around Eastern Montana on a journey to capture images of all kinds that fill his new book, Eastern Montana.
“Regardless of the circumstance, the photographic artist has to become conversant with the subject to be portrayed in images,” said Howard, a Shelley, Idaho-based nature photographer who has worked in the field for more than 30 years.
The sweeping Eastern Montana was commissioned by Dr. Tayeb Al’Hafez, a physician in Miles City and founder of the Global Health Equity Foundation, which helps create programs designed to improve healthcare in Montana.
Proceeds from Eastern Montana will be used to benefit a suicide prevention program that serves eastern Montana communities.
Eastern Montana is available at local bookstores and gift shops, through online retailers, or can be ordered from Farcountry Press by calling 406-234-5082 or visiting www.almyracommunications.com.
Want to know more about Leland Howard’s trip around Eastern Montana? Read on:
Tell us about the inception of this project. How and why did you decide to take on this project?
About two and a half years ago Dr.Tayeb Al’Hafez ask if I would be willing to accept his proposal to produce photographic work for the coffee table book featuring eastern Montana. His explained his vision, concept and reasons for the project and we soon reached an agreement.
How did you decide where to go when traveling to make images for the book?
I began with extensive research, which allowed me to gather the knowledge necessary to cover the region based on the criteria we wanted and the message we wanted to portray. Beyond that I relied on past experience regarding what is necessary to represent a region in photographic images. Dr. Al’Hafez trusted me to make these decisions, which was very nice from a creative perspective.
What was a typical day like when you were out on the road capturing images for the book?
I think there are to many variables to describe a day and refer to it as typical. The subject matter, time of year, weather and location all come into play when deciding how to proceed to achieve the best possible results. One day might involve traveling hundreds of miles of country roads, another could be spent hiking and the next making arrangements to shoot a cattle roundup or observing the movements of wild horses. Regardless of the circumstance, the photographic artist has to become conversant with the subject to be portrayed in images.
The photos are so diverse. How did you choose the images that went into Eastern Montana?
We wanted to accurately represent eastern Montana’s scenic beauty, culture and historical significance.
What’s your favorite image from this book?
I wouldn’t want to pick a favorite as many have special significance and I remember the circumstances for every one.
What do you think – imagery wise – defines Eastern Montana? Why?
Each image is meant to accurately represent a specific aspect unique to eastern Montana. Clearly the natural landscapes are unique and a huge amount of effort and research went into creating the work in an attempt to do justice to the region. But of course the culture and historical significance also play a role in defining eastern Montana. I think in its entirety, the book will give the reader the sense of being there quite well.
To see the entire Portfolio on Eastern Montana, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Big Sky Spotlight: Meet Paul Fugleberg
Story and photo by BRYCE GRAY
You wouldn’t know it from the newspaper awards that cover walls of his Polson home, but Paul Fugleberg’s 61-year-and-counting career in journalism had inauspicious beginnings.
“When I was in college, I took one semester of journalism. I didn’t like it at all,” Fugleberg said.
Luckily for his faithful readers today, Fugleberg, 84, had a change of heart after taking that Los Angeles City College course. He switched to a focus on history at UCLA, but dropped out to join the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Only after being assigned to the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls and getting involved with the base newspaper did Fugleberg’s love of journalism take root.
While in the Air Force, Fugleberg also struck up two other lasting romances – one with his future wife, Mary Lou, and another with Flathead Lake and the surrounding community where he would later become enmeshed.
The latter connection began on a Labor Day visit to Woods Bay in 1953, when Fugleberg was so transfixed by the beautiful lake and mountains that he turned to a friend and said, “I’m gonna live here someday.”
After holding newspaper jobs in Roundup, Canton, South Dakota, and Bishop, California, Fugleberg made good on that statement in 1959, when he was hired as editor of the Flathead Courier in Polson.
Although Fugleberg has remained in Polson ever since, his role as a writer has varied. He juggled responsibilities as editor and co-publisher after buying the Courier in 1963, and also bought the Ronan Pioneer in 1971. Fugleberg sold the newspapers in 1980 and transitioned to a prolific freelancing career, including having his work published in more than 40 periodicals and major newspapers around the nation. He has also authored several books, including Proud Heritage, an illustrated history of Lake County.
The Pioneer and Courier eventually merged, forming the Lake County Leader, where Fugleberg would later return as a copy editor and columnist. He retired from working full-time in 2008, but still submits his wildly popular column entitled “Among Other Things” for publication every other week.
Fugleberg originally began writing the column for the Courier in 1959. Its subject matter runs the gamut, spanning anecdotes from local history to lake monster sightings, baseball, and the occasional collection of puns that leave readers groaning.
Fugleberg often uses images from a meticulously gathered and extensive photo archive, which includes his own photography and thousands of donated historical images from around the area, to complement his written work.
Despite his career successes, the ever-modest Fugleberg is quick to deflect credit to a long line of mentors and colleagues, or even luck in some cases.
“They said they got over 3,000 inquiries from that story,” he said, perusing a clip about the Mission Valley that made the front page of the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday Travel section in 1989. “I got lucky on that one.”
Though the newspaper and the reporters around him have changed, Fugleberg and his flair for detailed, witty writing have remained the constant in Mission Valley journalism for more than a half-century.
While Fugleberg has achieved a rare career balance – equal parts historian, storyteller and journalist – he refrains from labeling himself.
“I’m just an observer,” he said.
An observer, among other things.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for columns and other writing projects?
A: From “mining the morgue,” browsing newspaper archives, planning vacations and making sure the itinerary includes museums, community anniversary dates, summer theater, and keeping in mind items of interest to family members.
Q: How have you come to amass such an extensive collection of historical photos from the Mission Valley?
A: By making people aware of my interests, I’ve been given photos that people would’ve thrown away otherwise. Old glass film negatives, for instance, from pioneer photographer Herman Schnitzmeyer were discovered beneath old floorboards of a lumber office that was being torn down in Polson. I shared those ones with the state historical society.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring journalists?
A: Keep your eyes and ears open. Something is new or different each time you leave the house. Be aware of what it might be. Read the newspapers wherever you go.
Q: Where in Montana do you go to relax?
Q: What three words describe Montana?
A: Character. Beauty. Mountains.
Who says you can’t go home again?
Submitted By Pamela Zortman-Rogers
It was the winter of 2005 and I was sitting at a file cluttered desk in my law office when the phone rang.
At that time, I had been practicing law for about 5 years in a large city 30 miles north of Boston. I expected the call to be from a client or from someone related to a client’s case but instead I heard a woman‘s voice with an accent that I wasn’t yet familiar with.
“Is this Pam Zortman?” she said with a soft almost Midwestern twang but with a Southern twist. Definitely not the Boston accent I was used to, especially since she had pronounced the “r” in Zortman. Even more unusual than the accent, the woman was using my maiden name which I myself hadn’t used since my marriage some 7 years prior.
I hesitantly replied in the affirmative.
“Well this is Candy Kalal. I’m from Zortman, Montana. I got your name from a relative of yours and she told me to call you.”
At this point in time, she had my full attention, not an easy feat.
“Zortman Montana!” I said with a shock, considering that Montana is clear across the country from where I sat in Massachusetts AND that the town shared the same name I was born with. My mind immediately went back to something my Grandpop had told me years earlier when I was a young girl.
He said there was a town out West, in somewhere like Iowa or Wyoming, maybe Montana, and it was named after a relative. He said it was a big gold mining town and went on to tell me about a fortune that his distant cousin had found in gold. I can remember listening in awe to a tale that seemed to me, to be as magical as Cinderella.
When I got a little older, I researched this seemingly tall tale and found out my Grandpop was right. There was a gold mining town in Montana named Zortman, after Oliver “Pete” Zortman, a distant relative of mine.
Candy continued on despite my lack of conversation due to the peculiarity of the call and the wandering of my mind to times long gone by.
“We want to dig up Pete Zortman and have him buried back here in Zortman and we need your help.”
Now I was laughing to myself, the call had gone from surprising to crazy.
How could I possibly help? Did she need to borrow a shovel to dig up a dead body? And who was the relative that gave Candy my name and number, I’d have to call them later and share a snarky “Thanks”!
“Wow!” I said, unsure as to what else to say. With trepidation, I continued, “How can I help you?”
“Well, old Pete is buried in Big Timber and we need a blood relative to fill out some forms with the town clerk to have his remains dug up. ince you’re a lawyer and a blood relative, your cousin Lois told us to call you.”
I paused for a moment, while all this sounded logical, it also sounded insane.
“So you want me to call the clerk and then fill out the forms?” I was kidding myself if I thought this was the only involvement I would have in bringing Pete home.
And that’s how this crazy and fun journey began for Candy and I.
Along the way, we filled in some historical blanks, solved a mystery, made new friends and found a member of the family that we didn’t even know existed.
Oliver “Pete” Zortman
“Pete” was born Oliver Zortman in 1865 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
He descended from Alexander Zartmann, the Zortman family’s patriarch in America. Alexander had two sons, Alexander II and Jacob. Pete and I both hail from the Alexander II branch of the family.
Our family history book states that Pete went west looking for gold. And after many attempts, Pete did find gold and he struck it rich, running a successful mining company in the town that would soon be named after him.
He married Rose Finn, a Wisconsin born school teacher and they had two daughters, Lucille and Helen. It is noted in a history book that Pete is one of only a few men who left Montana with a “good sized fortune.”
Not much is known about Pete after that. We do know he was a Mason from the Chinook lodge and when he was buried in Big Timber in a pauper’s grave, he received Masonic last rights.
It appears that Pete died alone in 1933 from prostate cancer.
So as crazy as it all seemed, I was on board with the disinterment of Pete’s body in Big Timber. I can remember placing the call to the town hall, it went something like this, “Uh, Hi…My name is Pam Zortman. I want to have the body of Pete Zortman dug up from his grave and I was told to call you.”
It was awkward to say the least.
Since my dad was still alive and technically one generation closer to Pete than myself, I had him fill out the clerk’s forms and I returned them to Big Timber.
We were told that Pete had been buried in a “pauper’s grave” in a local cemetery. There was no sign of a grave for his wife, Rose, or of his two daughters, Lucille and Helen.
Where they were was a complete mystery to us, one that would not get looked into until a later date. But first, we had a body to dig up and bring home.
Since I live about 2300 miles from Zortman, I was only able to help by making calls and sending emails.
I would wait patiently for Candy’s calls or emails and revel in all the details of the big Homecoming scheduled for August.
I contacted lots of Zortmans, from Fowler, Kansas to Hollywood, California, about the big event. I would tell them what was planned, see if they could make it and get them in touch with Candy if they could.
We wanted to make sure that lots of Zortmans were at the event. And since Zortman is so remote, we knew that only a few relatives would actually make the trip.
In late August, Candy let me know when Pete was dug up. A few days before the big Homecoming, some local veterinarians went to Big Timber and had a back hoe dig into the just located area where Pete was buried.
After awhile, they hit some wood splinters and some bone.
Apparently the casket had broken into pieces under the weight of water and dirt over some 72 years. But the body was found and brought back in a new casket. Pete was kept in the town fire hall for the big day.
On Aug. 27, Pete Zortman Days began in the tiny town.
I was told by a few relatives who were there that the event was moving. The ability to return a person’s remains to his rightful spot on earth was powerful.
A horse drawn carriage took Pete to the Zortman cemetery. A gravestone paid for by local Masons marked Pete’s final resting place.
I couldn’t make it to the Homecoming due to work but I read about it online and received calls and pictures from candy and relatives that were there. I was a bit surprised when the reburial made news around the world.
The Final Resting Place
I was finally able to make it to Zortman in July of 2013. On a beautiful July day, my husband, John, and I drove from Lewistown to Zortman and just stared in amazement at the beauty that surrounded us as we drove.
Living in the Northeast we are not accustomed to long flat drives on empty highways. Nor are we accustomed to the sheer beauty of big sky country. It was possibly the most amazing drive of my life. I was in awe.
After about an hour and a half we came across a sign on Highway 191 that said “Zortman” and my heart skipped a beat.
The place that my Grandpop had told me stories about, that I had researched myself as a young adult and then that had come to life through my talks with Candy Kalal was now becoming a reality. We drove down seven mile road, which looked to us like an abandoned dirt road leading to nowhere.
We went directly to the Zortman Motel and we were greeted by Candy Kalal and her husband John.
Even though we had never met before, I felt like I had known Candy my whole life due to the homecoming planning and all the calls we shared during the past 6 years. Candy and John showed us Zortman memorabilia, dinosaur bones, and gold nuggets.
We ate lunch at the Miner’s café where their daughter was our very pleasant waitress.
John shared stories of Zortman with us, fully explaining how gold mining worked. He then drove us in his Ford F350 all around the original claim that Pete owned. There were times when I had to take a deep breath and just go with the flow.
I think it was apparent to John that I wasn’t exactly a backwoods type of girl and Zortman is most certainly in the backwoods.
At the end of the tour, John took us to Pete’s grave in the Zortman cemetery. It was situated in the most beautiful spot you could find in town. As I approached the grave, the trees swayed close by, the fields were as green as green could be, and the mountain views were breathtaking. I declared it was a fit place for a great man. And I was thankful he could rest in this beautiful spot. I then took a moment alone to kneel down by the grave and talk to Pete.
I wanted him to know I was there with him. Pete is family to me even though we’ve never met, but we share the same blood and that means something to me.
I was proud to have helped him to get home. And I was even prouder to share his last name.
As one can imagine, records kept in a mining town during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s are hard to locate. That left Candy and I with a lot of questions about Pete and his daughters and what happened to them after they left Zortman.
That’s where Mary Hackett came into play. Mary is a Zortman by way of her mother. Born in Ohio, like many Zortmans, her dad moved them to Montana when she was a little girl and she now lives in Stephensville with her husband, Harvey, a true cowboy. Mary has the same nosey streak in her that I have. We just have to know and in turn, we will stop at nothing to figure it out.
Through countless hours of research Mary was able to find out that Rose had left Pete at some point in time after the turn of the century. There are census records that show Rose and the girls in Washington state, Iowa, and even Hollywood, California.
Mary even uncovered a newspaper article from Big Timber that said that Pete and Rose had renewed their wedding vows. No mention of the girls.
So why did the Zortman girls move so much? We still don’t know. Where did they end up? That we did find out.
It appears that Rose passed away in Santa Rosa, California around 1965. Her obituary mentions both daughters and a grandson, Richard Fugett. Daughter Lucille passed in 2001 in Seminole, Florida. She had no children and never married. Daughter Helen passed in 1962 and was divorced, with one son.
Mary was then able to find a death certificate for Pete’s grandson, Richard Fugett. t stated that he passed away in 1995, from prostate cancer, the same cancer that killed Pete in 1933. It didn’t mention any next of kin so Mary and I just sighed, fearing a dead end.
Mary decided to send me Richard’s death certificate in order to see if there was something she missed. And lucky for us, there was. As I scanned the certificate, I noticed a woman’s name listed as executor. The name didn’t mean anything to me, it was Mary Hermans. So I googled the name with Santa Rosa attached to it. I let out a loud sigh as I found another death notice. This one was from 2007.
It appears Mary had passed but left a husband and a few children. I went back to google and put in Dr. Colin Hermans. I quickly found many links and more importantly, an email address. Not knowing if it would lead to anything, I sent out another “awkward” email, basically asking if he knew a Richard Fugett from Santa Rosa, California.
I was shocked when I received a quick reply. It turned out that Dr. Hermans was Richard’s college roommate. And boy, did he have some stories to tell! It turns out that Richard, a former member of the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division, was quite a colorful character.
He told me “Dick” had passed in 1995, a fact I already knew.
Dr. Hermans offered his telephone number and I phoned, thankful that he was willing to share his time and memories with me.
Thirty minutes later, I had an overabundance of stories about Dick Fugett. It was obvious that Dick shared Pete’s genes. Pte had led such an adventurous and colorful life, so had Dick Fugett. With a heavy heart I thought of the two men, both relatives whom I wish I had gotten a chance to know but now, never would. But all hope wasn’t lost.
I found out from Dr. Hermans that Dick had a daughter, Kerry.
Named after the county in Ireland where Dick’s maternal grandparents were from. He thought she might be in her early twenties, probably living in California. Another Google search led me to my new relative.
Kerry and I have been communicating via emails since she lives in Ecuador, working with bears at a city zoo.
I smiled a weary smile when I initially communicated with her. It had been a long journey to find her, about 6 years.
Conflicted, I was overjoyed to have found Pete’s great-granddaughter and filled with sadness that she was all that was left of Pete. But the best part of talking with Kerry is that she knew nothing about Pete or the Zortman family and I’ve been able to enlighten her about her famous ancestor. I’m hoping to visit Zortman with her next summer.
Looking back on that first call from Candy Kalel, I never expected all the gifts that have come my way because of it.
I never expected to get to know Pete as well as I have. I most certainly never expected to solve the mystery of Pete’s lineage. I never expected to welcome a new Zortman to our family. Nor did I expect to make new friends or visit new places. I most certainly didn’t think I would visit a remote town in Montana and find it to be one of the most special places on earth with the most special people.
All I can say now is that I’m happy that Pete is home where he belongs.
Who says you can’t go home again?
Me and the Ol’ Man
Written and submitted by Zach Pallister, Helena:
What I remember most was the blissful quiet of the forest. The snow had fallen heavily and some feathery flakes still drifted lazily to Mother Earth. My 11-year-old legs plowed through the snow up to my knees. I followed the Ol’ Man’s footsteps as best I could. Outside his track was the fresh, never-trodden snow, so beautifully blanketing the rocks, roots and slick limbs hidden beneath.
Outside the cover of the forest on North Wilson ridge, we felt the stinging bite of the cleansing wind as we traced the edge of the old growth Douglas fir forest heading east for a mile or so.
I thought of the mountain men of old – Kit Carson, Jim Bridger and the like – how their yearning for freedom got them here and how I itched to be like them. My mind fantasized glorious days of trapping and hunting with old Hugh Glass as my mentor. Anyone who could live through such a scrape with a grizzly had to be a tough old bird.
I spent my youth reading of all the mountain men and the Indian chiefs, never tiring of American history during the infancy of our country and of those who blazed the way. I immersed myself in their lore. What a world it must have been! Survival was all that mattered. All the “things” we have now days seemed so unnecessary – and only serving to complicate the meaning of raw existence. Give me the Wind and the Rain, the Mountain and the River, the Sun and the Moon; by God, that’s all I need!
Suddenly the Ol’ Man stopped walking and I bumped into his back. Daydream over! He chuckled and pointed to the fresh elk sign in the snow, by now the perfect texture for picking out clean tracks. In a whispering voice, he took the time to teach me how to read the sign. Hoof direction, what was a cow, a calf and maybe one was a bull because the prints were more rounded at the front. The cow’s urine splattered from the rear and a bull made a hole from his center. The larger pellets were from mature animals, the calves had pellets the size of grown deer. Pellets piled when standing and scattered when moving. Looked like a dozen head or so.
The adrenalin kicked in immediately as the predator instinct tuned the senses. I knew we would follow these elk tracks to where their makers were bedded and we would see elk up close. It just couldn’t happen any other way. Any bull could be taken in those days with an over-the-counter license at a cost of about five bucks.
The Ol’ Man hadn’t taken his bull yet which was unusual. It had to have been mid-November by then and lots of trails had been traveled. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that eight of my brothers were eligible to hunt at the time.
My four younger brothers, like me, weren’t old enough to hunt yet. My one lonely (and lovely) sister gave hunting a try for a year or two and decided to leave it to the boys. When you got to be 11, it was OK to ride around with the bunch and learn the ropes. The hunting excursions we made in my youth were what cultivated my desire to tramp the Great Outdoors.
Mom and Dad would load up a pickup and a suburban with kids, food, gear and guns and off we’d go to Ekalaka for antelope, Libby for goats and bear (or berries in the summer), California Creek near Sheridan for mule deer and anywhere close to home before and after school and every weekend throughout hunting season.
Our summers were filled with gardening, building the cabin on Bull Mountain, camping at Elder Creek, arrowhead hunting, picnics, swimming and fishing. We always had hard work followed by the reward of an outdoor experience.
With 12 brothers and a sister, the occasion to spend any one-on-one time with Dad or Mom was precious, for certain. Maybe that’s why this experience has prickled my feathers for so many years.
The wind was slight inside the timber and blew from out of the north. The elk couldn’t scent us and the snow made silent our approach. A squirrel sounded his warning and the Ol’ Man gave him a knowing look of respect. We stopped until the squirrel decided we weren’t quite the threat he had surmised.
Gray jays or “camp robbers” as we called them flitted from snow-laden, grandparent fir trees along our trail, curious as to our approach. The jays loosened the snow on the tree branches and it filtered lazily to the forest floor in a beautiful ghost-like veil. The tree moss was heavy, it’s chartreuse color contrasting flawlessly with the snow.
The elk trail followed the contour northwesterly where Bull Mountain wapiti had coursed this forest thousands of times.
The only trail alterations happened when danger scattered a herd in fright or a natural barricade, like a fallen tree, caused a slight deviation. The scent of the elk reminded me of black licorice and it lay heavy in the closeness of the dense forest. That smell excites me today and always readies me for another spiritual encounter with my favorite critters.
We closed the gap in a hurry I realize now, but back then it seemed a subliminal eternity. Dad put his gloved forefinger to his lips and we crept as silently as my Bass waffle stompers would go.
Then, there they were! The Ol’ Man cautiously dropped to his knee and we huddled together as we shared the moment. The elk were bedded, except for one old cow with her nose up and her eyes bugged out, alert for any drift of a dangerous scent or a predator’s approach. Her nose was wet and it quivered as it worked the air currents, her ears moved forward and back trying to detect the danger. I’ve relived this moment in reality countless times; watching a lead cow up close, tending the flock.
Dad slowly raised his trusty, well-worn .300 Weatherby rifle and looked through the scope at all the elk and elk parts.
“No bulls”, he whispered.
We rose carefully to upright and watched the bunch for a minute or two. Then they just kind of wandered away, not sure of what danger was present, but instinctively sensing it all the same. Dad looked at me and said, “How’d you like that?”
I answered with the expression in my eyes.
I don’t remember much about the long walk back to the cabin, just that I was fulfilled to the max and excited to share the story with mom and my brothers. That same sense of spirituality fills me up whenever I experience the wild of the outdoors.
“Filling my spiritual tank” as my oldest brother Jeff calls it.
That brief walk in the woods with my Dad, affectionately known as the “Ol’ Man” amongst all us brothers, happened nearly 45 years ago. The memory of that experience has sharpened and tuned my outdoor savvy and helped me gain independence of spirit; passed on to my sons and now to their children. What we gain from Nature is freedom of spirit, communion with life in all forms and that sense of completeness individually gained through release of self.
The Ol’ Man’s choice to end his hunting career at age 87 was out of respect for the animals he cares so deeply for, not wanting to wound them. The tunnel vision in his right eye, some tremoring in his hand and a troubled spine made clear his decision. Nearly 94 now, he lives on the family Jaybird Ranch on the edge of Boulder with the memories, having planted his spiritual passion in each of us.
I love you, Dad.
CoMotion Dance Project redefines curriculum through movement
Story and photos by WILLIAM MUNOZ
Five second graders walk carefully into the open space in the classroom as their peers sit quietly as the audience. Music begins and they perform their science-inspired choreography of evaporation, condensation, accumulation and precipitation.
Curled up on the floor as molecules, they lightly swirl and rise to standing. Soon, the clouds condense into the long wispy shapes of cirrus clouds. The 7-year-old performers spread out and twirl softly to the ground as snowflakes and freeze.
The students have just danced the water cycle.
Different from the science classes many remember, these students are participating in the CoMotion Dance Project’s long-term residency program, which uses creative movement and dance to reinforce elementary school curriculum in math, science, social studies and language arts.
The CoMotion Dance Project was launched in 2006 by Karen Kaufmann, professor of dance at the University of Montana, to support the philosophy that movement can enliven the learning experience for many students, especially those who don’t learn easily through traditional methods.
To read the entire story on CoMotion, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Butterfly Whisperer: Artist helps Yellowstone visitors learn about beautiful bugs
Story by CORINNE GARCIA
Photos by LYNN DONALDSON
A wildlife tour in Yellowstone National Park has often been compared to an African safari. But instead of zebras, lions and elephants, Yellowstone guests look for bison, elk and bears. Some even see a wolf if they’re lucky.
For many park visitors, seeing these large animals graze beside brightly colored hot pots and amid steam from nearby geysers is so out of the norm that it’s easy for them to overlook the smaller, more elusive creatures that exist amongst them.
But for Gardiner-based artist and wildlife biologist George Bumann, it’s the butterflies that intrigue him the most, and he’s helping other park visitors understand their significance. It’s not only the butterflies’ beauty that fascinates him, but also by their role in the park’s overall ecosystem.
“In Yellowstone, people get attached to those mega animals: the elk, bears and wolves,” Bumann said. “But what’s really amazing about this place is the tie between geology, plants and animals as they relate to each other; it’s a very tight-knit system.”
With 134 known species of butterfly living within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (out of a total of 725 in North America), the diversity inside and around the park is uncommonly high. For this reason, Yellowstone makes it onto most butterfly hobbyist’s bucket lists.
Yellowstone’s resident butterfly expert George Bumann introduces Hayden’s ringlet
Favorite butterfly: Hayden’s ringlet
Why? It is known as a Yellowstone area endemic, meaning it is found here and nowhere else outside of the region. The species derives its name from Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, leader of the U.S. Geological Survey expedition that documented the wonders of Yellowstone in 1871, resulting in its establishment as the world’s first national park.
What are some of its signature markings? The Hayden’s Ringlet is identified by its smooth, warm, gray color above and below, but when you see the underside of this quarter-sized insect’s hind wing, it has a wonderful row of orange eye spots near the back edge with large black pupils and silver-white centers. (Another signature feature) is its “fatalistic” flight pattern. When flitting about the open meadows of Yellowstone, the Hayden’s ringlet flies as if it is catching itself from a fall with each wingbeat. It’s a most dramatic thespian!
What is its migration pattern? This butterfly does not migrate, as with most species found in Yellowstone, but is limited to the mountainous areas of the northern Rocky Mountains. Thankfully, where you find it, you may find lots.
To read the entire story on the butterfly whisperer, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.