• Paul Fugleberg stands near the shore of Flathead Lake. Photo by Bryce Gray

    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?

    A: Home.


    Q: What three words describe Montana?

    A: Character. Beauty. Mountains.

  • CoMotion dancers teach through movements. Photo by William Munoz

    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.

  • Naturalist and butterfly expert George Bumann. Photo by Lynn Donaldson

    Butterfly Whisperer: Artist helps Yellowstone visitors learn about beautiful bugs

    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.

  • Combining backpacking and river floating, packrafting is an increasingly popular way to explore the wilderness. Photo by Bill Cunningham

    Lightweight packrafts provide adventure on Sun River

    Story and photos by BILL CUNNINGHAM

    It happened in a microsecond.

    Sable, my co-adventurer Jerad White’s black lab, flipped his tiny raft by jumping out in the midst of a swirling whitewater rapid.

    Jared was thrown into the watery mess as I, in an even smaller raft, came bearing down on top of him.

    After the near collision I scooped up floating gear while Jared and Sable swam to shore.

    This was only the beginning of our maiden packrafting voyage.

    Combining backpacking with river floating, packrafting is an increasingly popular way to explore the wilderness.

    Packrafts are incredibly light, durable and packable. My little butt boat comes in at a mere four pounds. Jared has a sleeker model that weighs only a few more pounds.

    Skilled paddlers can handle serious rapids in a packraft. But I’m fairly new to the sport.

    Still, Jared and I were set on making our first trek in packrafts on Sun River.


    To read the entire story on the packrafting adventure, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.

  • Whitefish is home to a growing number of tech-based businesses. Photo by Jessica Lowry

    Whitefish becoming a high-tech home base

    Story and photos by JESSICA LOWRY

    It’s 8:30 a.m. on a sunny Wednesday Montana summer morning as Henry Roberts, 40, grabs his 1971 Raleigh Competition bike for his morning commute. Clad in a green plaid shirt and blue Patagonia hat, Roberts glides by rows of quaint homes that line the streets of Whitefish.

    The resort town, once known mostly for ski bums and a close proximity to Glacier National Park, is starting to turn heads for a new reason: a growing tech industry.

    Roberts, who works as vice president of creative for The ZaneRay Group, answers to clients like Filson and Patagonia.

    “Our foundation was about having a great real world job but living in Whitefish, Montana,” Roberts said.

    He cites a short commute both to work and recreation, winter hockey league and fresh powder at Whitefish Mountain Resort among the amenities that made him fall in love with the tiny mountain town.

    His creative work at the web development company keeps him challenged with brands known around the world, while his location lets him relax without the traffic or expense of a more urban environment.

    Co-worker Dean Hamilton, a lead engineer, finds the same satisfaction in the work-life balance he’s found at The ZaneRay Group. He counters his time at work with skiing in the winter and camping and backpacking in the summer.

    “Quite honestly I don’t know how urban people do it,” Hamilton said.  “At least I can work crazy hours here and then be home in 10 minutes.”


    To read the entire story on the Whitefish tech boom, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.

  • A hunter walks through the mist inside the Absarokee-Beartoth Wilderness. Photo by Jack Ballard

    Montana wilderness areas continue to lure adventurers, support local businesses

    Story and photo by JACK BALLARD

    In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Act, bringing an eclectic mixture of previously designated primitive areas in the United States under a single umbrella of protection in the National Wilderness Preservation System, or NWPS.

    The Act originally created 54 wilderness areas in 13 different states. Of the original areas, five were located in Montana, giving the Treasure State claim to 9 percent of the original wildernesses.

    However, as a percentage of the total acres initially protected, Montana’s share was much more significant. Of the 9.1 million acres protected as wilderness by Congress in 1964, about 2.5 million of them (nearly 30 percent) were located in Montana.

    Of the 54 original wilderness areas, many commentators believe the Bob Marshall was the crown jewel. In the 1930s, three districts in the Flathead National Forest were given wilderness-like protection.

    These districts combined to form the 950,000 acres in the original Bob Marshall Wilderness. Subsequent additions to the Bob Marshall and the creation of the adjacent Scapegoat and Great Bear Wildernesses now comprise a 1.5 million acre expanse of contiguous Wilderness known as the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.


    The Montana Wilderness Association is hosting a handful of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, including the Wild 50th Fest Sept. 5-7 in Seeley Lake.

    The organization is hosting events across the state to celebrate the anniversary. Events include everything from hikes to festivals with music and educational displays.

    The Wilderness Association’s website has the full schedule, along with information about the Wilderness Act and all of Montana’s designated wilderness areas.


    To read the entire story on the Wilderness Act at 50, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.

  • Sunset Lake inside Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Peggy Hamlen

    Ongoing research allows for closer monitoring of Yellowstone’s famed supervolcano

    By Jack Ballard

    Photo by Peggy Hamlen

    To the informed eye, evidence of volcanism in Yellowstone National Park is everywhere. Vertiginous cliffs – over which plummet inspiring waterfalls, such as Undine Falls east of Mammoth – often mark the edge of lava flows from bygone volcanos.

    The world-renowned Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone displays numerous aspects of volcanism on its multi-hued tapestry of earth and stone. Igneous rock, formed by cooled magma, is rife within Yellowstone and the surrounding area. Prized for creating arrowheads and other implements, obsidian was actively traded by American Indians.

    A famous outcropping of this shiny, black volcanic stone is found in the park at Obsidian Cliffs. Thermal features, such as Old Faithful and a plethora of colorful, odorous hot springs bear witness to Yellowstone’s volcanic past, and the dormant, yet exceedingly powerful expanse of magma that lurks below the earth’s surface in America’s oldest national park.

    Scientists have studied Yellowstone’s geology and volcanic history for decades. Bob Smith, a professor of geology at the University of Utah, has labored at a task he loves for more than a half-century.

    “I’ve worked in Yellowstone since 1956. In 1963 we started using earthquake data in our research,” Smith said.


    When was the last time there was volcanism at Yellowstone?

    According to Yellowstone Volcano Observatory and U.S. Geological Survey information, the most recent volcanic activity consisted of rhyolitic lava flows that erupted approximately 70,000 years ago. The largest of these flows formed the Pitchstone Plateau in southwestern Yellowstone National Park.

    Researchers have long studied the Yellowstone area and the supervolcano. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Yellowstone Volcano Observatory has compiled a large amount of information about the area.

    The Q&A section has a trove of information, including an answer to perhaps the most asked question: What is the chance of another catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone?


    To read the entire story on Yellowstone’s supervolcano, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.

  • Chester’s welcome sign offers a tip of the hat to the anchors of its economy with a unique creative flair. Photo by Darrin Schreder

    Ready, Set, Go! To Chester: Small prairie town fosters big time creativity

    Story by CAROL BRADLEY

    David and Shawna Jamison’s family had barely arrived in Chester last summer when Shawna and the four kids discovered, to their delight, a coffee bar at the Liberty County Library, where a cookie and cream ice rage can be had for just $3.

    At the east end of town, a sparkling new swimming pool beckoned. The local arts center offers a 7-foot-long Yamaha piano if anyone cares to practice in style, and should any of the Jamison kids decide to take dancing, Catalina Carlon teaches classes. Her students are no slouches: come December, a group from Chester and Havre will head to San Diego to perform at the Holiday Bowl and march in a parade.

    Despite a population of just 850 or so and a setting that feels light years from city life – on U.S. Highway 2 along the Hi-Line, halfway between Havre and Shelby  – Chester is a magnet for music and art.

    It’s first and foremost an agricultural town; an imposing silver grain elevator anchors the north end of First Street, Chester’s commercial hub. And it’s isolating. The nearest airport of any size is 100 miles south, in Great Falls. There’s no gourmet grocery, and dining-out options are limited to Spud’s Café for breakfast and lunch, and the Grand Bar for dinner. (The Inverness Bar and Supper Club is another 15 miles east).

    But the tradeoff for residents is a creative clarity that seems to emanate from the scarcity of choices coupled with the anything’s-possible embrace of the sweeping, sand-colored prairie.

    “I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything,” said Carlon, the dance teacher who grew up in New York City but has fallen in love with small-town life. “Living here you can find yourself a little bit better and be who you are. I think Chester offers exactly what I need.”

    Chester got its start in 1891 when the Great Northern Railroad built a coal-loading station for its steam engines, but it really got going 20 years later when homesteaders flooded in. The first telegraph operator bestowed the name Chester in tribute to his Pennsylvania hometown.


    Culturally, the town got an enormous boost when native son Philip Aaberg returned home in 2002. A Grammy-winning pianist and composer who combines jazz, rock, bluegrass and other elements to create an energetic and eclectic style, Aaberg, 65, grew up in Chester with his mother and his grandparents. When, as a young boy, he surpassed the local piano teachers, his mother, Helen Ann, put him on a train to Spokane every other Sunday through Tuesday so he could study under Juilliard-trained Margaret Saunders Ott.

    Aaberg wasn’t the first gifted musician in town. His great-uncle played in a jazz band in the 1910s. Chester was the kind of place where “if you wanted to hear music, you made it yourself,” Aaberg said.

    He and his wife, Patty, and their toddler son, Jake, were living in Oakland, California, but Aaberg missed his old life.

    “I used to come back visiting family and as soon as I got over the pass into the plains, I’d start to breathe easier and I’d start to be inspired and I’d wonder why I wasn’t out here,” he said.

    When the Liberty Village Arts Center invited him back to Montana for a year-and-a-half long composer’s residency, courtesy of a grant from the state Coal Tax Trust Fund, Aaberg found himself captivated by Chester’s homespun charm all over again. The family moved back into his grandparents’ house, which Aaberg still owned, and when the residency ended, they stayed put.

    In the 12 years since, the Aabergs have started Sweetgrass Music, a recording studio located off a breezeway behind their house. Aaberg may be the only musician in America who’s managed to wedge a grand piano inside a grain bin, which is attached to the breezeway.

    They’ve opened the Great Northern Bed and Breakfast – in a renovated homesteader’s cabin, at the far end of the breezeway – and recently they updated the second floor of the historic Westland Bank building on one end of First Street, where visitors can rent more rooms, share a common space and make their own breakfast in a full-size kitchen.

    Their lodgings offer travelers to and from Glacier National Park a memorable place to stay. And for Aaberg, returning home has resulted in music that sounds both freer and bigger, a sound that seeks to capture the feel of that vast open space.

    “The intrusion of noise and city life not only takes more time out of your schedule, but it diminishes your intellectual capacity in the sense that it just takes a lot of energy to keep that stuff out,” Aaberg said. “There are some people who are stimulated by the city. I’m one of those who is overwhelmed by the city. And what I’ve discovered here is that I get a lot more work done.”

    His free Christmas concerts draw audiences from miles around.


    Chester has its own public radio translator, which in rural Montana is a fairly big deal. It has a fitness center and a monthly book group. Until she moved to Helena, Trudy Skari coordinated an Japanese flower-arranging Ikebana club.

    More than two dozen artists from a 60-mile radius display their work at the Liberty Village Arts Center, one of the first organizations of its kind in the state. The center operates out of what used to be St. Mary’s Catholic Church, built in 1910, and it’s the ideal place to stock up on the striking landscape photos of area residents Dean Hellinger and Janice Hendrickson, the metal yard work of Lowell and Denise Strissel of Hingham and more.

    Chaille Hooley, a Chester native now living in Kalispell, has also begun selling stunning photos of the nearby Sweetgrass Hills. Tucked on one shelf are jars of homemade pickles and jam, and each December the center hosts a Christmas Village featuring the works of 16 vendors.

    What you won’t find at the center are the delicate paper artworks of Katie Twedt. Cancer took the popular Rudyard art teacher last summer, on her 62nd birthday. The town memorialized her with a festive picnic at the Rudyard Park, where more than 200 mourners donned bright colors and dined on, among other things, chicken skewers with Thai peanut sauce (Katie had specifically asked that Tater Tot casseroles not be served.) Within two weeks, friends and neighbors had bought up every bit of Katie’s paper art the Arts Center had.

    The catering was Patty Aaberg’s orchestration and something she enjoys. When “Julie and Julia,” the homage to Julia Child came to theaters five years ago, Patty hosted a dinner party featuring some of Child’s recipes. Diners then drove to the Hi-Line Theater in Rudyard to watch the movie, where Patty surprised every member of the audience with another Child recipe, pesto-stuffed mushrooms, which she’d driven over earlier in the day. There were plenty to go around.


    In case Hi-Line living does start to feel a bit detached, Chester has an answer for that, too. Each year the Liberty Medical Center’s Foundation sells 300 tickets at $150 apiece as a fundraiser for the hospital. The event nets $25,000 or so, and once a month ticketholders have a chance to win a trip for two somewhere fun: to Hawaii, Costa Rica, the Kentucky Derby – the foundation delights in coming up with surprising destinations.

    “People can’t wait to see who won,” said Rlynn Rockman, who runs the local funeral home. “We put it in the paper the very next day.”

    Shawna Jamison spent a couple of years in Chester as a toddler and was happy to return when her husband, David, got the job as principal of the K-12 Chester-Joplin-Inverness School. She’d heard good things about the town, and not just because 20 neighbors gathered on moving day to help them unload. She’s thrilled with the children’s selections at the library, not to mention those lattes and Italian sodas.

    The library delivers its drinks to the clinic, the post office and the school, and they’ve proven so popular that the proceeds have paid for a new ceiling, lights, shelving and windows.

    “The Hi-Line people definitely use our library,” librarian Teresa Fenger said with a smile one recent morning as she watched a handful of patrons file in, take their seats at the computer stations and log on to find out what was happening in some other part of the world.

    Carol Bradley is a frequent Montana Magazine contributor. She writes from Great Falls.


    Ready, Set, Go! To Chester, Montana

    Chester is located on U.S. Highway 2 halfway between Havre to the east and Shelby to the west. Chester has approximately 850 residents and serves as the county seat for Liberty County.

    Chester is home to the Liberty Village Arts Center, the only arts and cultural center for a more than 60 mile radius. The center hosts exhibits and events throughout the year.

    The Prairie Painters, a group of local women artists, are scheduled be featured in an art show in September. In October, the center plans to present its annual quilt show.

    The Liberty Village Arts Center, located at 410 E. Main St., is open Tuesday through Friday from 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

    For more information, visit libertyvillagearts.org.

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