Quaking Aspens: The Gold Star of Montana’s Autumns
Thank the petiole, that disproportionately long, atypical flat stalk connecting the leaf of a quaking aspen to the stem. Because of it, not only the leaves tremble but also our emotions when we behold great groves of aspen fluttering shades of green in the summer and variations of gold in the fall. As the dominant deciduous tree in many areas, they distinguish themselves flamboyantly from the abundance of always green conifers.The beautiful and functional tree whose Latin name is Populous tremuloides can be found throughout Montana. The aspen is further differentiated as small tooth, because the one- to three-inch, heart-shaped to slightly round leaves have finely serrated edges. Montana’s collection was noted first by explorer Meriwether Lewis on July 20, 1805, near today’s Tosten. He spelled the trees’ name aspin.
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Pilots and Paws
Nine Labrador retriever puppies only eight weeks old yipped and barked, their yelps melding into the engine-rumble of a Cessna 182 awaiting them under afternoon skies at Logan International Airport in Billings. They regarded pilot Jerry Cain, chocolate-blue eyes peering as he loaded their crates into his plane. Moments later, the pups and Jerry were airborne.
The flight was originally planned for transport from Billings to Missoula, but this Pilots N Paws (PNP) mission in January had fallen behind schedule, and approaching darkness necessitated landing at the Lincoln Airport (S69). From there, Jerry drove the puppies to his nearby Smiling Gulch Ranch. Ground transport volunteers arrived an hour later to continue the mission. Jerry handed off the pups to them, thereby concluding his segment of another PNP mission.
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Rodeo Legende Alice Greenough Orr
In 1919, at the Forsyth rodeo in Rosebud County, a handful of rodeo cowboys dared 17-year-old Alice Greenough to ride one of the show’s bucking broncs.“They brought over a gray bronc and saddled him and turned me loose in front of the grandstand,” she wrote. “I didn’t buck off.”That was the beginning. Before she was finished, Greenough won several bronc-riding world titles, had been named one of the “100 most influential Montanans,” had been inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas, where she was one of the first three inductees, and in 2010 the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame, and had been chosen by Sports Illustrated as Montana’s top woman athlete.She had become, as was said of her at her Montana Hall induction, “hands down the Queen of Rodeo.”
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Architect Randy Hafer: Saving Montana’s Cities
One afternoon this fall, workers were knocking out old walls and strategizing how to build “snugs” – semi-private seating areas – in the Arvon Building, a one-time opera house and hotel on First Avenue South in Great Falls. The finished project will boast a restaurant on the first floor, a European-style hotel on the second, and, in the basement, a wine cellar for customers – a gleaming showcase of old and new.
Architect Randy Hafer is largely the one to thank. Over the last 12 years, Hafer has developed a niche for realizing the potential in turn-of-the-century eyesores that long sat empty or were “goobered up,” to steal his phrase, with newer out-of-character façades.
Dressed in his signature blue jeans and scuffed boots and wearing what borders on a handlebar mustache, Hafer, 59, even looks the part of a preservation cowboy. He’s not afraid of taking a few risks to save the old wood and brick buildings that capture Montana’s past. In the process, he’s adding new life to downtowns, helping reinstate the civic sense the older buildings bring.
“There’s a conversation between these buildings, and there’s a scale and a character and a kind of richness and variety” – the very ingredients that make being on that street a pleasant experience, Hafer said.
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Glacier Park Murals: The Challenge of Restoring Park Heritage
Plenty of mysteries surround famous works of art, and one of those is set in Glacier National Park.
Fifteen murals once graced the walls of Glacier Park Lodge, paintings that bear no signatures or date but that nonetheless preserve a slice of Montana history.
With documentation placing the paintings from the early 1900s, the murals depict Glacier Park’s trademark peaks, lakes and alpine meadows.
But at nearly a century old, the watercolor paintings show their years. So Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell acquired the murals to restore and return them to public viewing for the first time in about 60 years.
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Warrior in the Ring: Looking back with Marvin Camel
Marvin Camel’s story was centuries in the making.As a young man, Marvin Camel had many dreams, and by those dreams the course of his future was guided. His course would not be complete if set apart from the historical context of the American Indian.The truth is, he was born to boxing the way Satchmo Armstrong was born to music.It’s acceptable to call Marvin a “flathead.” Or, more accurately, a “Flathead,” for that’s the reservation from which he hails. His Indian name is “Strong Leader,” or that’s a close translation, according to Marvin.
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Paris Gibson in the Land of Opportunity
The enduring legacy of Paris Gibson — founder of Great Falls, United States senator, pioneering sheep rancher — began at a waterfall in Minnesota. Gibson was 24 at the time, enjoying a break from running his family’s homestead near Brownfield, Maine.
Two years earlier he’d graduated from Bowdoin College with honors as part of the class of 1852, and his father, Abel Gibson, a prominent farmer, lumberyard owner and former captain in the War of 1812, had encouraged his youngest son to leave the East Coast and build a home in “the new western land of opportunity.”
Gibson didn’t hesitate and headed west. He got as far as Illinois before receiving a message to return home immediately: His father had died.
Dutifully, Gibson returned home and took over the family farm, Gibson Place.To find out how Gibson made it to what would become Great Falls, find this issue on newsstands. To read more Montana all year, subscribe now.
Viva La Vida: A wheat success story
The hamlets of Vida, Montana, and Reeder, North Dakota, are isolated rural communities.
Vida, population 206, sits a few miles south of Wolf Point in northeastern Montana. Reeder, in the southwestern corner of North Dakota along U.S. Highway 12, is home for 162. This is dryland-farming country, where crops must tolerate weather and climate to survive or die.
The villages are located in this nation’s two largest spring wheat-producing states – think baked goodies such as bagels, scones, cinnamon rolls, home-baked bread. Yet the towns’ existence is not widely known.
Now, because of a desired trait in the wheat varieties named after them, Vida and Reeder may well become famous among plant scientists searching for foundational genes to combat looming higher temperatures in July – the critical growth period for spring wheat on the Great Northern Plains.
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