• A 1954 photo of Imogene and her husband Bruce Hansen, holding daughter, Susan Marie. Photo courtesy of Janet Fulkerson

    Montana is Calling

    Sent by Janet Imogene Hansen Fulkerson, on Nov. 21, 2013


    Dear Montana Magazine,

    Please find below a poem about Montana written in 2012 by my mother, the late Imogene Z. Hansen.

    She died earlier this month at age 86 in my home in the state of Indiana.

    I discovered the poem below on her computer AFTER she died when I was “cleaning out” files.  Imogene resided in Montana 63 years, and lived in the same house in Helena for more than 50 of those.

    Poor health caused her to move here so that I could care for her as her Parkinson’s disease progressed.

    Attached is a 1954 photo of Imogene and her husband Bruce Hansen, holding my sister, Susan Marie, and a truck load of furniture made by Imogene’s father in Louisville, Kentucky.  The young family was on its way back to Helena, where they were living in the basement of an unfinished house while Bruce was building the house next door that became their home from 1954 to 2010.

    Bruce was the son of first-generation immigrants from Denmark. His parents started in a sod house in the middle of Grant (nowhere), Mont., then moved to Butte, where his father worked in a copper mine and died of silicosis.

    Bruce, one of the “greatest generation”, came back from the U.S. Navy after WWII and worked hard to build a better life for his family. Imogene had a career a teacher in the Helena school system. Together, they raised three children who share their parent’s love for the state of Montana.



    Montana Is Calling

    By Imogene Hansen

    September 17, 2012

    My heart’s in Montana; my heart is not here.

    It’s in Big Sky Country so high, wide, and clear.

    From the mountains and prairies that I loved to roam

    Montana is calling, and I want to go home.

    I miss Montana which is far, far from here

    where the earth is too flat and the sky seldom clear.

    I miss the Chinook winds and the miles of fresh snow

    where the sun will be shining at twenty below.

    I want to be back in my Helena home,

    walk down Last Chance Gulch, see the Capitol dome

    while the giant who sleeps guards the valley below

    where I’ll lie at peace when it’s my time to go.

    I’d like to watch deer eat my flowers and grass,

    see antelope run through the fields as I pass,

    spot a lone elk or bear that might drift into town,

    gaze at glorious skies when the sun’s going down.

    I long to see places where tamaracks tall

    turn from beautiful green to bright gold in the fall,

    where summer brings wild flowers to each mountain side

    and the bitterroots bloom when spring greets the divide.

    I need to smell mountain air pristine and pure,

    watch mountain goats scamper on feet swift and sure,

    hear bugling elk call in the crisp autumn air,

    feel  the soft touch of snowflakes on my face and hair.

    In Montana great glories of nature are found

    and in Glacier and Yellowstone Parks they abound

    where the Going-to-the-Sun and the Beartooth climb high

    to the top of the world where the earth meets the sky.

    Montana has prairies that roll like the sea

    with Canada geese flying high in a v.

    It has Northern Lights dancing across the night sky

    and snow geese at Freezeout Lake waiting to fly.

    It has riches in minerals deep underground,

    and gold on the Highline in wheat fields is found.

    I long to return each time I feel it call

    for truly it is the “last, best place” of all.




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    Exodus Into Montana

    From Angelo Pecora, Seeley Lake, Montana, sent Dec. 5, 2013

    It took me 61 years to finally get “West” into Montana.

    I used to come every year via vintage Harley Davidson but to get here to Live, and I do mean, live, was truly a gift from God.

    I’m a Native American of Italian descent but I was born in Ohio. For Christmas (one year) I got a plastic set of cowboys and Indians, more correctly a set that depicted the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

    In any event in that round tube containing the figures was a very intense and informative booklet about the battle complete with historical photos. That started my love affair with the state and it never left.

    I would daydream even in high school of being a mountain man since I did long line trapping and on weekends would build a winter camp and spend Friday night, all day Saturday, and walk out on Sunday and get back home.

    I remember thinking I was up on the Continental Divide as I sat deep in the woods boiling my coffee, when in reality I was in northern Ohio.

    Then life got in the way, although I never forgot Montana.

    Starting in 1990 I started making forays here on my old scooter every summer for two to three weeks, mostly to the Yaak area.

    Fast forward to 2010. My wife retired from the state of Michigan, and we decided on a move.

    I was on the dock of the feed mill where I worked in Dexter, Michigan, and Kat (my wife) called.

    Her exact words were, “Hey gotta be in Seeley Lake in four days, can you get off and take me?”

    Why in the world do you have to be in Seeley Lake?

    “I have a job interview,” Kat said.

    I think I got home before she hung up the phone. She got the job.

    Now I, for 60 yrs have a preconceived idea of what Montana is and you or anyone else cannot change it.

    So when she said she found a place to rent we came up.

    The first home we looked at was kind of a subdivision south of town. The house was too nice for me

    I was disappointed

    “What do ya think?” she asked and like my father on his trip to Italy I said, “it’s ok.”

    Then she said, “well, there is one other place is you wanna go look.”

    We drove north out of town about 6 miles, turned down a quiet road and there, on the Clearwater was our home.

    Back in the timber, the river backs our place and borders it on the west.

    Now every morning, coffee in hand, I walk onto the back porch, stare off into the deep timber and think, “the eagle has landed.”



  • symphony of light and color-w600-h400

    Symphony of light and color: Cathedral of St. Helena


    Story and photos by Gordon Sullivan

    I entered through a set of huge oak doors. As I made my way down the main aisle under a spectacular Gothic canopy rising more than 40 feet above the marble floor, a remarkable beauty greeted and surrounded me.

    It was the first time I visited the Cathedral of St. Helena as a professional photographer. It was an astounding sight in many ways.

    To either side, marble pillars stretched heavenward while balancing delicate arches between their girths. The entire scene was bright and colorful.

    Despite the hugeness and staggering dimension of it all, the cathedral exhibits elegant symmetry portraying a feeling of strong balance and artistic flow. It’s much like individual notes that drift across a sheet of music to create the genesis for a precious symphony or a solitary stroke of an artist’s brush across an empty canvas that may be the first of an ageless masterpiece.

    Still, everything in sight seemed to be somehow upstaged by glowing stained-glass windows containing tiny slivers of light. Bordering the aisle, long rows of hand-carved oak pews were illuminated by the colorful spectrum flowing wavelike toward the alter. It felt as though I had entered an artistic cocoon, a special place where hundreds of converging elements united in a lasting opus, a visual symphony of light and color.


    Gordon Sullivan answered some questions about his work inside the Cathedral of St. Helena. Here’s what he had to say about photographing the beautiful space:


    What was your initial inspiration for A Symphony of Light and Color?

    For years as I traveled Montana as an outdoor photographer and I oftentimes found myself in Helena. It was on one of these occasions that I first visited the Cathedral of St. Helena and was blown away by the remarkable beauty I found inside the church. I also first witnessed the intriguing light that seems to set everything aglow.

    As the years passed, I visited often and became interested in the special patterns of light that drifted throughout the interior, light emitted by the stained glass windows. The more I watched, the more apparent it became that the stained-glass light, depending on the time of day, time of year or outside climate, was always changing and seldom remained static.

    Within minutes, depending on exactly which panel of stained glass the light passed, the scene inside the cathedral shape shifted in either a very subtle or very dramatic way and each time it did, the overall ambient light was effected.

    At times, the windows caused an array of color spectrums to spread throughout the interior as the sun made its way across the sky. These bands of color were very visible and interesting as they reflected off different features throughout the interior.

    That was when I got the idea of trying to capture the light photographically and attempting to portray the outstanding beauty it added to everything it touched.

    Very few places will you find natural light altered so intensely, so dramatically.

    As long as I have been a photographer I have been a student of light and no place I know better demonstrates the quality, tone and movement of light across a scene as does the cathedral.


    Tell us about the time it takes to get shots like you did.

    Once I set my sights on photographing the stained glass light, I first needed to study the patterns and determine what time of day or year would best demonstrate the effect I was after. This took some time and several dry runs and more or less pointed to times when the outside light was at its greatest angle to the windows. Mid-morning and late afternoon seemed to be prime – especially for the visible bands of light falling on inside attractions like marble pillars, oak pews and high contrast walls.

    Working inside the Cathedral of St. Helena requires both patience and planning, simply because a few special shots appear only during certain times during the day and in some cases vanish at a moment’s notice. Some of the shots were planned very carefully while others seemed to appear out of nowhere.

    Whenever I photographed inside the cathedral, no matter what time of day, I tried to compose images that in some way suggested movement or the advancement of light across cathedral’s interior. I felt the suggestion of movement added to the whole project.

    To make the project a bit more complicated it required the use of slow shutter speeds— sometimes one to five seconds per exposure. A sturdy tripod along with gadgets like an electronic shutter release, mirror lock up and even a polarizing filter were necessary. The polarizing filter helped define or brighten the muted color spectrums but also slowed exposures down considerably. Also, a lower ISO (100) setting was used to help expand overall color rendition.

    I would say that for every image saved on the original digital file ten or twenty were deleted simply because they failed to suggest  movement or failed to accentuate muted color passing through the stained-glass.


    How much time did you spend inside the cathedral?

    It’s hard to say just how much time it took to build the cathedral file simply because the task eventually became one of those photographic challenges more pleasurable than painful.

    Catching the right light at the right time is actually what successful photography is all about. Some of the shots went very quickly and were a matter of straight forward composition while others took a lot more planning just to get everything right. Most of the time was spent in planning as opposed to actual shooting, but it all turned out to be very enjoyable.

    Of the many, many hours spent inside the cathedral over the years, I can say with a degree of certainty that many more hours were spent studying the light, watching it drift across a wall, or fade inside a dark corner than were spent behind a camera trying to capture it.


    From a photographer’s perspective, what makes St. Helena so unique?             

    There are any number of features that make St. Helena’s so photographically unique. There’s the outstanding structural beauty and special patterns of illumination at work inside the church, the marvelous artistic ambiance enhanced by a century of existence and there’s the fascinating human story based on remarkable artisans and religious leaders. But for me, as a professional photographer, the most outstanding feature revolves around stained-glass light and the sublime tone it casts on marble, polished brass and carved oak. It is the technical challenge this type of light presents and the pleasure of seeing each image suddenly duplicated electronically for others to see.


    Do you have a favorite portion of stained glass inside the cathedral?

    I guess I have two favorite portions of stained glass inside the cathedral. The first is located on the southeast corner. Here low angle, morning light is particularly interesting.  The stained-glass panels featured in this section, from both the higher and lower levels, spread illumination across the interior in colorful bands. It lights up the east facing side of marble pillars and walls and sweeps nicely across the oak pews.

    Another of my favorites is the stained-glass panel behind the grated back-alter and crucifix. Here a mixture of brass and stained-glass is vibrant and provides a sense of texture, depth and physical dimension.  This panel however is best photographed in low light, allowing just enough illumination of accent color without getting bright enough to wash out detail. Both areas require long exposures, tight metering and a tripod.


    What is the best time of day for readers who visit the cathedral to see the splendor of the stained-glass?

    The best time of day to visit and witness the splendor of stained-glass light is when the sun’s outside angle is at its greatest, which means early to mid-morning or late afternoon. Morning light enters from the east and in afternoon it comes from the west. The sharper the angle, the better the reflections inside the church and the more possible it will be for the illumination to be contrasted by interior shadows.  Best time of year is autumn or early winter.

    Another very special “mind blowing” time to visit is the last hour before sunset when the exterior light is low, warm and angled. It is almost unbelievable what goes on inside the cathedral during a vivid sunset. The effect is quick but very impressive.


  • A Kalispell Kreamery dairy cow. Photo by Jessica Lowry

    ‘Cow bill of rights’ guides dairy farm in Flathead

    The Hedstrom family have got it right.

    They run the only surviving dairy in the Flathead Valley and as they told writer and photographer Jessica Lowry, their mission is to produce great dairy products using very happy cows.

    Lowry featured the family in a story for the March/April issue. The Kalispell Kreamery makes a range of products and is slowly expanding its reach as people discover the quality of it products.

    Did I mention they take great care of the their cows?

    Here’s the cow “Bill of Rights” the Kalispell Kreamery lives by:

    Cows are the reason for the business. We sell the milk so we can keep the cows.

    Hedstrom dairy believes in the humane care of their cows and realizes that in order to get the highest quality production and longevity from its prized milk cows they must be treated with a high level of respect and as a partner in the operation. We believe in and have instituted the following “Bill of Rights” on our place.

    • Animals should have the freedom from thirst at all times.
    • Animals should have freedom from injury and disease.
    • Animals should have freedom from hunger at all times.
    • Animals should have freedom from unnecessary fear and distress
    • Animals should have freedom to express a majority of their normal behavioral repertoire.
    • Animals should have room to move around freely.

    Here’s a list of Kalispell Kreamery retailers.

    – Jenna

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