Blackfeet beader draws inspiration from talented children
By CAROL BRADLEY
Photos by DARRIN SCHREDER
On a typical evening, Jackie Larson Bread and her teenage daughter, Jade, will be working alongside one another in the living room of their Great Falls home – Jackie sewing a string of beads onto a square of smoked buckskin, Jade outlining a geometric horse with oil-based pencils – when all of a sudden, mother will turn to daughter and say “I’m stuck. What do I do with this?”
Chances are that, without the advice of her 16-year-old, Jackie would find a way to muddle through. After 30 years, she has more than mastered the art of beadworking. Her portraits of Blackfeet ancestors and time-honored tribal designs have earned her a pile of awards – more than 90 at last count – and wide renown in Native American art circles.
But probing the artistic instincts of her children is something she likes to do. There’s a bit of calculated wisdom in asking for feedback from Jade and her brother, Paris, 23, who’s studying media arts at the University of Montana. Paris now sees that being asked his opinion has helped him develop a sense of confidence about his own work, a feeling that what he thinks matters.
“Taking something that has no meaning and giving it meaning,” he said, “is what I’ve been taught my whole life.”
To read the entire feature on Jackie Larson Bread, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Spirits and brews of the Big Sky
Story and photos by Jessica Lowry
When Clarence John Montgomery returned to his Hilger ranch each evening after a long day working, his family remembers him sitting down in the old farmhouse’s worn kitchen so he could pour himself his favorite drink, a few fingers of Johnnie Walker Red old scotch whiskey and 7UP.
Over the years, Clarence’s hard work raising cattle and growing wheat, oats and barley grew into an expansive agricultural business that included seven ranches, stretching outside from Hilger south to Lewistown and across the Hi-Line and Central Montana.
Until he passed in 2013, his drink of choice remained the same.
What Clarence probably didn’t know is that his business acumen – close ties to the land and love of a well-made drink – would influence the career paths of not just one, but two of his 18 grandchildren.
Today, Evan Bowser, 29, as the owner of Bowser Brewing Company in Great Falls, and his cousin, Ryan Montgomery, 36, as the head of Montgomery Distillery in Missoula, operate businesses pouring finely crafted brews and spirits created from ingredients mostly found in Montana.
To read the entire feature on Montgomery Distillery and Bowser Brewing, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Tranquil Retreat: Thompson River Chain of Lakes
By GORDON and CATHIE SULLIVAN
A blanket of early morning fog hung in the air around us as we waited for the loons to wake up. Cathie bobbed quietly in her kayak about 100 feet from me, sipping warm coffee from an insolated mug, all the time her ear fixed toward a tiny island where the loons had built their nest.
There are not many places left in our busy world where the call of loons can still be heard, still relied on like clock work or the return of yesterday’s sun. But in northwest Montana the common loons – with their piercing ruby eyes and tuxedo-like black and white capes – have returned to Lower Thompson Lake every spring in recent memory.
The lake is a part of one Montana’s best kept secrets: The Thompson River Chain of Lakes. Like a brilliant string of emeralds, the lakes thread throughout 3,000 heavily forested acres pressed between the Salish Mountains to the north and the rugged Cabinet Mountains to the south.
Ready, Set, Go!: To the Thompson River Chain of Lakes
This set of 18 lakes can be found along Montana State Highway 2, sitting between Kalispell and Libby. The site includes 83 primitive campsites and 8 group campsites, all of which require a fee for overnight camping. Roads are primitive and not recommended for motor homes and large trailers. However, the 22 developed campsites at Logan State Park, located on Middle Thompson Lake, are suitable for large camping units.
To read the entire feature on the Thompson River Chain of Lakes, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Horses, trainers at Bitterroot Therapeutic Riding offer more than just time
By BRETT BERNSTEN
Photos by LIDO VIZZUTTI
On their first day in the arena after a long, harsh winter, the horses at Bitterroot Therapeutic Riding carry extra weight. Their bellies bulge from lazy, hay-filled days. Their saddle straps stretch to the outermost notches. But their largest loads, the ones they were carefully selected to burden, sit on top.
Astride a beige mare named Tonah, Abbie Jessop leads the exercise. Despite being born with cerebral palsy and nearly deaf, the 18-year-old Pinesdale resident rides independently.
She steers the patient mare next to a metal rack holding plastic rings. Reaching up with a shaky hand, she spears a ring and drops it onto a nearby cone like a gaucho in training.
Cheers erupt from her two instructors, Ernie Purcelli and Mary Cline. Jessop beams proudly.
“Does she want to keep riding?” Purcelli asks.
Cline relays the message through sign language and receives an immediate response.
“That’s a stupid question Ernie,” Cline said smiling. “She wants to ride like a cowboy.”
The scene marks another successful session at BTR.
For the past 14 years, the nonprofit has provided equine-assisted therapy for the disabled, joining a fast-growing field gaining acceptance from medical authorities. BTR is one of 850 centers around the world, including six others in Montana, certified by the Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International, or PATH Intl.
While therapeutic horseback riding has roots tracing back to ancient Greece, BTR Program Director Linda Olson said recent scientific studies lend credence to the method’s physical and mental benefits.
At the basic level, Olson explains, horses and humans share a similar stride. Riding stimulates nerve endings, supplying blood to multiple muscle groups in the rhythm and timing of a natural gate.
For Jessop, her cerebral palsy causes her muscles to overcompensate, throwing her off-balance. When she first started attending BTR at the age of 6, she was confined to a wheelchair. Now, after 12 years of regular sessions, Jessop walks unassisted and even helps saddle up before rides.
“She’s relaxed,” said Jessop’s mother, Robyn Warner. “It’s evened her out.”
BTR caters to a group of people with a range of disabilities, from disorders such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome, to physical challenges like muscular dystrophy and paralysis. But more than tangible benefits, the center offers an experience not available in any clinic.
Nestled among hills overlooking the jagged Bitterroot Mountains outside Corvallis, BTR provides a distinct home-on-the-range feel. A pack of farm dogs greet visitors with reckless enthusiasm. The sounds and smell of livestock fill the air. Hawks frolic among the updrafts surging through the valley.
It’s a foray into a tranquil realm where the pleasures of horsemanship soften the daunting realities surrounding disabilities.
BTR was founded in 2000, when two women who had attended a national convention on therapeutic horseback riding suggested forming a center in the covered arena on Linda and Donald Olson’s ranch.
The proposal came out of the blue for the Olsons. Donald runs the oldest bronze foundry in the Northwest, while Linda’s background ranges from fashion modeling in Beverly Hills to becoming one of the first female workers on the Alaska Pipeline.
But being horse lovers with the proper venue, the couple jumped on board. And although she had “no clue” about working with the disabled, Linda spearheaded the operation.
As program director, Olson runs BTR with a personality as bold as the view from her back door. She constantly mixes up the names of her students, and then atones for her mistake with a heartfelt shoulder squeeze or hair mussing.
“I’m the granny,” said Olson, who raised six children of her own. “I’ve seen a lot of these kids grow up around here.”
For the many of BTR’s all-volunteer staff, the job serves as soul-satisfying segue from previous occupations.
“This is the most rewarding work you can do,” said Ernie Purcelli, BTR’s lead instructor.
Purcelli entered the field from the rough and tumble world of competitive horsemanship. He roped in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for 11 years and was first introduced to the therapeutic side of riding while working as a horse trainer in Illinois. During his initial volunteer sessions, Purcelli experienced breakthroughs that hooked him for life.
“I’ve seen kids speak their first words,” he said. “Their parents were waiting in the stands with tears in their eyes.”
Purcelli joined BTR’s team after moving to Darby in 2003. He has since attained certification from PATH Intl. and has served as BTR’s lead instructor for the past three years.
His commitment is a labor of love. He volunteers up to four days a week at BTR and his lone certification keeps the center accredited.
But whatever soft spots Purcelli might have, once in the arena he reverts to his rodeo roots. There’s no babying in his lessons. If a student makes a mistake or misses a turn, Purcelli urges them to try again.
“I’m not a physical therapist,” he said. “I’m a riding instructor.”
Purcelli sets longterm goals for riders. For Jessop, it’s to show horses. For another girl, it’s to barrel race. This matter-of-fact approach augments the styles of other BTR volunteers.
“It’s sort of a combination between cowboy and mommy,” said Mary Cline, a consultant who specialized in hearing disabilities. “I’m more the nurturing one.”
But no matter how hard the instructors at BTR work together to create a supportive atmosphere, the other half of the staff often steals the show.
With the charm and disposition of a family dog, the 15 or so horses at BTR provide the perfect remedy for their riders.
“They are the most sensitive creatures,” Purcelli said. “It might sound crazy, but a horse can feel a fly on their butt.”
BTR receives all its horses through donation, but typically only one in 20 have the temperance needed to work with the disabled.
“This is very monotonous work for a horse,” said Purcelli. “You need ones that are pretty strong.”
Tonah, a Norwegian Fjord, fits the mold perfectly. As a small draft horse, she can carry heavy loads yet isn’t tall, making it easy to mount and dismount. Moreover, she has the calm, patient demeanor necessary for long days in the arena.
Tonah came to BTR on loan, but Olson said she’s so well suited for the work she’ll probably live out the rest of her days at the center. For Tonah and the rest of the horses, BTR acts as an equine retirement home of sorts, complete with endless attention and appreciation.
Cory Stalling, a 13-year-old boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, tries to get as much saddle time as possible.
“He wants to ride a different horse every time,” said Stalling’s mother Chris. “He thinks they’re like sports cars.”
For Sequoia Fitzpatrick the bond reaches deeper. Her autism makes it hard to concentrate, but when riding a horse she focuses on the task at hand.
Fitzpatrick’s mother Jessica said after Sequoia’s first riding session she fell asleep on the car ride home, a rare event for the rambunctious 9-year-old.
“I think it fills her sensory cup,” Fitzpatrick says. “I love it. I just know the peace it brings her.”
That sense of serenity permeates all those involved with BTR. It’s in the eyes of the horses, the words of the instructors and the smiles of the students.
During a break in the day’s riding sessions, Olson takes time to reflect on BTR’s path to success. She sits in her house a short drive down a dirt road from the arena. A wood stove heats a kettle of water in the corner. The snow-capped Bitterroots shine vividly through the living room window.
Despite growing steadily during the past 14 years, Olson says BTR still experiences significant financial hardships plaguing the industry. Although medical professionals are embracing the benefits of therapeutic riding, insurance agencies have yet to come around.
BTR sponsors students through scholarship programs and accepts Medicaid through Home and Community Based Services, but often it’s a struggle to scrape up enough funds.
“It’s usually me with my hand out, writing grants and hitting up my friends,” Olson said, adding with a laugh, “who now have started to run away from me.”
What support BTR does receive, though, comes in waves of selfless generosity. Fellow equestrians donate extra riding gear. Neighbors pitch in around the arena, leading horses and shoveling up waste. Even in tough times, community members give what they can.
Olson leafs through a photo album of BTR over the years. Her eyes light up as she goes from picture to picture, mirroring the elation on the pages. She looks as if she’s reliving the experiences again, journeying back down a path built on kindness and sympathy.
“There’s so much good around,” she said, her voice trailing into reverie. “When people start complaining about the government and this and that, I just can’t get on board.”
She smiles and gazes out the living room window.
“Just look at this,” she said, gesturing toward a scene where craggy peaks tower over a pair of horses grazing on the first grasses of spring. “Just look at what happens up there in the arena.”
To read more stories, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Montana Territory celebrates 150 years
By JESSE ZENTZ
The place we now call Montana faced an uncertain future when it gained territorial status 150 years ago, but what would eventually become known as the Treasure State held great promise in 1864.
Gold was king in bustling mining communities like Bannack and Virginia City, which pulsed with activity; while today’s larger cities were in their infancy or were simply nonexistent.
Vigilantes played the role of judge, jury and executioner. In a span of less than two months bridging 1863 and 1864, the Montana Vigilantes hanged 24 men as they ruthlessly wiped out Bannack Sheriff Henry Plummer’s gang, which killed more than 100 people and robbed countless others.
Agriculture only began to take root in places like the Gallatin Valley in an effort to support the expanding mining communities, but the territory’s isolation and other factors limited growth.
American Indians – Montana’s original residents – felt the initial squeeze of substantial white settlement and delicate treaties were often ignored by many homesteaders or settlers distracted by the thought of striking it rich.
Want to know more about Montana history? Here’s a recommended reading list:
Montana 1864, by Kenneth Egan (due out in September 2014), explores the year Montana became a territory in detail, giving special attention to tribal nations.
Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome, by Joseph Kinsey Howard, is a history book about Montana, but often reads like a novel and provides readers with detailed descriptions and a unique take on this state’s past.
The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology, edited by William Kittredge and Annick Smith, features a compilation of some of the very best writing about Montana, which is home to a surprising number of true literary artists.
Montana Territory and the Civil War, by Ken Robison, introduces readers to many of the people touched by the Civil War who populated Montana, demonstrating the incredible impact the events in the eastern United States had on the territory and state.
Montana: A History of Two Centuries, by Michael P. Malone, Richard B Roeder, William L. Lang, offers a general but comprehensive textbook-style history of Montana.
Territorial Politics and Government in Montana 1864-89, by Clark C. Spence, offers a close look at Montana’s early political landscape that eventually led to statehood in 1889.
Montana: An Uncommon Land, by K. Ross Toole, provides another take on Montana history that’s as enjoyable to read as it is informative.
Still need more about the Montana of 1864? Here’s some other resources:
Montana Historical Society
Founded only a year after Montana became a territory, the Montana Historical Society is an unrivaled historical resource. Located in Helena, the Montana Historical Society Museum is home to an incredible collection of fine art and historical artifacts. You can visit the museum throughout the year. Learn more online at www.MontanaHistoricalSociety.org.
At www.HumantiesMontana.com, you can find information about events happening throughout the state, learn about a variety of grants and resources available, and much more.
Your local library
Montana’s libraries are full of amazing collections about Montana history, and thanks to a great online resource at www.MyMontanaLibrary.com, finding your local library is only a couple mouse clicks away. Most of the books mentioned above are available, along with many others.
To read the entire feature on Montana Territory’s 150th anniversary, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
New Deal murals still hang in six Montana post offices
Lots of cool things came to Montana thanks to the New Deal back in the 1930s. The Civilian Conservation Corps helped build some of the most important infrastructure of Montana’s state parks and plenty other structures that helped shape the state.
And six artists were commissioned by a special New Deal program to paint murals inside Montana post offices in Billings, Deer Lodge, Dillon, Glasgow and Hamilton. The works of art are still hanging today and in most cases the artists who painted them went on to have storied painting careers that captured special moments of Montana history.
We ran a cool story about the murals in the March/April issue of Montana Mag.
Below is a location list of the six murals. If you’ve got business in one of the six posts offices listed below or are hitting the road and passing through one of these towns, don’t forget to take a few minutes to stop and appreciate the art.
Here’s where to find Montana’s six New Deal post office murals are spread across the state
– “Trailing Cattle” by Leo James Beaulaurier, Billings Downtown Post Office Station, 2602 1st Ave.
– “James and Granville Stuart Prospecting in Deer Lodge Valley – 1858,” by Verona Burkhard, Deer Lodge Post Office, 510 Main St.
– “News from the States” by Elizabeth Lochrie, Dillon Post Office, 117 South Idaho St.
– “Montana’s Progress” by Forest Hill, Glasgow Post Office, 605 2nd Ave. South
– “Flat Head War Party” by Henry Meloy, Hamilton Post Office, 150 North 4th St.
– “General Sully at Yellowstone” by J.K. Ralston, Sidney, Donald G. Nutter Building, 123 West Main St.
Montana slang: Montana photographer puts together an impressive list
Photographer Todd Klassy is known for the great images he takes across the state.
Turns out he’s a bit of a scribe, too. Klassy posted a great list of “Montana slang” terms on his website recently. It’s a pretty funny list that anyone who’s spent time in the Big Sky State will appreciate.
“Montucky” made the list. As did “Moose Drool.”
The first slang term (listed in alphabetical order) is “A bit nippy out: 20 degrees below zero or colder.”
I’ve definitely heard that one before. But there were a lot of terms (“can openers: spurs” or “Chesterfield: a sofa”) that I hadn’t heard before.
Whatever your fluency with Montana slang, it’s a fun list.
‘Montana is Calling’ a beautiful poem about missing Montana
Of all the emails, letters and phone calls we get about Montana Magazine each day, some always stand out. They’re the notes about the allure of Montana and the want of so many to come here, live here one day, or for the natives who’ve moved away, to come back one day.
These notes are always great to read, and many are beautiful and poetic too.
So we thought we’d start sharing some these notes, poems and stories in a section on MontanaMagazine.com called “Love Letters to Montana” (it’s under the More of Montana tab on the home page.)
We’ve put several love letters up and will add more soon.
One of my favorites came from Janet Fulkerson, who found writings by her mother Imogene Z. Hansen after Imogene passed away in 2013.
Imogene lived and raised a family in Helena before poor health forced her to move to Indiana to live with Janet. The photo with this post is of Imogene and her husband Bruce Hansen, and Janet’s sister, Susan Marie.
Her poem, “Montana is Calling,” was written in 2012. The full poem is here and a snipped is listed below. It’s worth a read.
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.