Ready, Set, Go! to Glasgow’s World Wildlife Experience
By Andrew McKean
Photo by Sean Heavey
A surly water buffalo stares down a dappled axis deer that seems to be slipping beneath the flowing flamboyance of peacock feathers, maybe in an attempt to avoid that malignant bovine gaze.
Across the way, a long-bearded Barbary sheep watches a Persian ram. Around the corner, a South African springbok arches its back in its raggedly gymnastic “pronking” vault.
Welcome to the highly concentrated world of wildlife, where dozens of species of familiar and exotic wild animals are frozen in place by time and taxidermy on the interior walls of an unremarkable building in downtown Glasgow that, until a short generation ago, housed the prairie town’s J.C. Penney department store.
It’s wildebeest meets pronghorn antelope meets catalog-order pajamas.
This isn’t Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History – not quite.
It’s missing the expansive vaulted ceilings and the dramatic painted dioramas that define that rarified space just off Central Park in New York City.
But eastern Montana’s newest wildlife installation has something that world-class museums lack: a sense of both singular purpose and wild improbability.
The collection of glassy-eyed mounts represents the efforts, affections and prodigious stalking skills of Skip Erickson, himself a fixture of Glasgow.
Erickson, 66, has been a hunter all his life.
He grew up exploring Valley County’s remote corners, and after a career with Grain Belt realty and insurance, he began pursuing his passion for hunting and fishing in equally remote quarters of other continents.
He brought back ostriches and antelope from Africa, stags and spiral-horned game from New Zealand, vampiric fanged deer from England, and a veritable Noah’s Arc of horned, antlered and clawed critters from elsewhere around the world.
For years, the hides and horns of those animals have been collecting dust and occupying corners of Erickson’s Glasgow home.
And they probably would have been joined there by other shoulder mounts and full-body poses had Erickson not been diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011.
That diagnosis reframed his priorities.
“I knew I always wanted to do something more or less public with this collection,” said Erickson, standing among his reconstituted menagerie just off Glasgow’s Main Street on 2nd Avenue South.
“I had been in discussions with our children’s museum even before I got sick. But once I got the diagnosis, this effort took on a different momentum,” Erickson said. “And I started hunting not so much for myself as for the museum.”
AN EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY
What Erickson recognized was the educational value of his wildlife collection for the public in general but specifically for the Children’s Museum of Northeast Montana, a homegrown collective that has created one of the most visited and acclaimed educational facilities on Montana’s Northern Plains.
The museum, under the direction of executive director Stacy Fast, also saw the educational potential of Erickson’s wildlife collection, a permanent exhibit entitled “World Wildlife Experience.”
The exhibit is scheduled to open this winter, though it will likely be expanded through 2015 and beyond.
“When Skip initially approached us, I was a little unsure,” said Fast, who balances a career as a medical professional and a mother of three young children with her oversight of the museum, which hosts between 4,000 and 5,000 visitors per year, mainly school groups from across the Hi-Line.
The museum was founded in 2005, and is the only children’s museum between Fargo, North Dakota, Great Falls, and Regina, Saskatchewan.
“I didn’t want this to be the trophy room of a globe-trotting hunter. I wanted the animals to be the vehicles for teaching the community about cultures, ecosystems, and the diversity of nature,” Fast said.
After years of discussion and accommodation, Erickson’s animals went into place this fall, in a wing of the museum that previously housed J.C. Penney’s catalog showroom. The vacant space was transformed with track lighting and durable carpeting, the animals arranged according to the hemisphere of their origin and their native habitat.
Along one corner of the space, a broad representation of Africa’s antelope congregates around a life-sized ostrich. The biosphere includes springbok, impala, hartebeest, wildebeest, and such unlikely critters as the small, shrill rock hyrax – a sort of marmot of southern Africa – and an improbably huge life-sized leopard, coolly assessing the room from a lofty rock.
The Africa collection morphs into animals from the Middle East, Europe and the Himalayas, which face other critters from the Old World, including Asiatic water buffalo, Indian blackbuck and axis deer, and that iridescently plumed peacock.
Around the corner are Western Hemisphere animals, including full-body, spreading-antlered representatives of all the elk subspecies, caribou subspecies and even an arctic muskox.
Wild sheep and mountain goats look on from the sheetrock ceiling, and around the corner, visitors are confronted with an immense bison bull, ringneck pheasants, sharp-tailed and sage grouse, whitetail deer and a golden eagle, its three-foot wings extended in takeoff. These prairie animals, familiar to a visitor from northeastern Montana, face a collection of maybe a dozen wide-antlered mule deer, the species that Erickson grew up hunting and which he still considers his totemic species.
“I’ve hunted around the world, but every fall, I still spend most of my time scouting and hunting mule deer where I grew up,” he said. “I learn something from mule deer every year.”
NAME THE GATOR
The walls of the exhibit space are sprinkled with saltwater and fresh-water fish, but what is arguably the centerpiece of the World Wildlife Experience is a life-sized alligator, all 12-foot, 6-inches of its scaly-skinned, reptilian creepiness curling toward visitors, who are alternately captivated and repulsed by its mossy teeth and prehistoric stare.
Erickson harpooned the giant gator in Florida a few years ago, and after recovering his breath and his wits once he boated the beast, he knew it would someday anchor the exhibition.
“Stacy and I want to hold a community contest, asking kids to name the gator,” said Erickson, his eyes lighting up as he describes his epic battle with the water dragon. Then he walks around the room, commenting on every hunt for every animal on the walls. It’s clear that, for Erickson, the animals in this collection are intensely personal and his experience with them are frozen in moments of pure effort and achievement that only fellow hunters can understand.
What Erickson and Fast hope they can transcend this personal connection with the animals into something more universal.
For Fast, that includes context.
“It’s neat to see these animals, to experience their diversity, and to be able to notice differences between an Indian antelope and a North American deer,” she said. “But I hope that these animals will be the vehicles that convey information about world cultures and habitats. Ultimately, I’d love for a kid from Malta or Nashua to look at an African animal but to see right along with it a Bushman spear or a Kalahari drum. That’s the way we start to broaden the horizons of our visitors.”
And that global window, both Erickson and Fast agree, is the ultimate value of the wildlife collection.
“Not everyone is going to be able to travel the world and have the experiences that I’ve had,” acknowledges Erickson. “But I hope that when a kid looks at these animals, that they are transported, even for a few minutes, from Glasgow, Montana to the Himalayas or to Central Asia or to Australia.”
Fast’s goals are equally ambitious.
“In a rural community, a facility like ours has a disproportionate impact compared to a museum in a larger city, where there are other educational opportunities outside school,” Fast said. “We think the wildlife exhibit can really catch the attention of our visitors and give us the ability to deliver an educational message that they may not even realize they’re getting. That’s the goal of any museum, and especially a children’s museum in a small town.”
Andrew McKean is the editor in chief of Outdoor Life magazine. He writes from Glasgow.
Children’s Museum of Northeast Montana
The Children’s Museum of Northeast Montana in Glasgow was established in 2005 as a result of community power serving a community need. It is a nonprofit 501c3 organization with a mission to offer hands-on learning in a fun way. To learn more about the museum or to donate, visit www.nemtchildrensmuseum.org.
Pioneer Pilot: Esther Vance was Montana’s first licensed female pilot
By Jon Axline
Photos from the Montana History Society Research Center Photograph Archives
Airplanes and pilots captured the American imagination in the early 20th century. Americans loved the new technology and the feats of young men and women who attempted to tame the sky in airplanes.
Stories about aircraft and the exploits of daredevil pilots filled newspapers after World War I. While the aviation industry was dominated by men, there were several notable female pilots who took to the skies and become pioneers in the emerging field.
Amelia Earhart is the most famous, but she was certainly not the only female pilot flying in the United States in the post-war years. Montana had several; including Katherine Stinson and Maurine Allen. But the most famous and influential was Esther Vance, the state’s first licensed female pilot.
Born in Indiana in 1903, she moved with her family to Sidney at the tender age of 2. Her father, Billy Combes, was Sidney’s undertaker, movie theater owner and landlord with an interest in technology.
In the early days of aviation, many itinerant pilots who displayed their fearless flying abilities in traveling shows throughout rural America also offered rides to residents. These daredevil barnstormers gave the first airplane rides many people experienced, and for some, it installed a lifelong love of flying.
To see the entire story on Esther Vance, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Celebrated novelist Mildred Walker used Montana as inspiration for books
By Carol Bradley
Photo courtesy of Ici Schemm
The yellow bungalow on Great Falls’ north side is devoid of frills and unpretentious – the type of house motorists might drive right by without a second glance. There’s no hint that at this spot, more than half a century ago, author Mildred Walker penned some of the most realistic novels ever written about the West.
From her desk lined with pigeon holes in her bedroom at the rear of the house, Walker created complex portraits of ordinary characters wrestling with below-the-surface dramas.
Her books evoked vivid images of Montana and other locales. She wrote about family relationships, the changing roles for women and children, and how lives changed when people migrated across country to the sprawling, still somewhat unsettled Intermountain West.
She wrote 13 novels in all and is best-known for Winter Wheat, the stirring story of a young girl’s efforts to make sense of herself and her family as she comes of age on a Montana dry-land farm.
“Mildred Walker writes with distinction,” the Los Angeles Times enthused when the book appeared in 1944, “and this penetrating story…is a sincere, honest, and substantial novel, superb as a picture of family life and as a view of one part of rural America.”
To see the entire story on Mildred Walker, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Elk camp provides family of hunters more than a place to sleep
Story by Jack Ballard
Photo by Lisa Ballard
“Home is where the heart is,” or so the threadbare, but penetratingly truthful, saying goes.
Where one sleeps for the night may define his or her place of residence. The tiny space on a vast planet to which one is most emotionally connected more appropriately qualifies as home.
On the Thursday prior to the fourth weekend in October, I yearly depart the location described on various legal documents as my “physical address” to return home, perhaps for 5 days or as long as two weeks.
The moving truck, laden with all the earthly possessions required for the relocation spins beyond the houses and lots of Red Lodge, past towering cottonwoods clinging to their last few golden leaves of autumn along Rock Creek, then westward through a range of hills covered in prickly ponderosa pines to Interstate 90.
Hours of work are left undone in the office. The 6 a. m. scheduled departure occurred just before noon. Gas mileage be damned. Even with a loaded pickup it seems imperative to inch the speedometer a wee bit beyond the speed limit.
At Whitehall, my course veers southward from the state’s four-lane, east-west transportation artery onto ever-narrowing roads.
To see the entire story on the Montana elk camp, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
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.