Missoula

Posted by Ellen

On Saturday, May 17, Hank got his diploma from the University of Montana College of Forestry. Shown here celebrating with him are his brothers Allen and John and his sister-in-law Bonnie.

That very same day, Hank's cousin Andy Koehler also completed his college studies. Andy's degree, from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, is in music.

Posted by Ellen

In the mountains north of Missoula, Montana, is an old ranch that once supported healthy cattle on healthy grassland but currently lies more or less abandoned; several species of invasive plants had crowded out the native grasses, leaving nothing for animals to eat and also leaving much of the soil exposed to erosion. This summer, ecological restoration students from the University of Montana will work at this site, trying out various strategies to help the land recover.

Recently, the students visited the land to see how it had come through the winter. One elk, at least, did not do well; perhaps weakened by the cold and the poor fodder in the ruined grassland, it was apparently attacked and eaten by hungry predators. The bones looked fresh but were stripped clean.

Posted by Ellen

Heed this warning. It looks like a brick patio there on the campus of the University of Montana. Most people wouldn't be driving their cars there, off-road, amongst the campus walkways and picnic tables. But somebody might try to get in close to a building to make a delivery, say. We can hope they'll see this sign and stay off the brick patio.

Because it is in fact a brick roof; deep underground below the patio are two big lecture halls. If the brick roof caved in under the weight of a vehicle, hundreds of students could be at risk.

Not only that, but one of our sons used to work as a janitor cleaning those underground lecture halls late at night. There's just no good time for driving onto the brick roofs of Missoula, Montana.

Posted by Ellen

The only summer in American history drier than this summer of 2012 was 1936, the time of the Dust Bowl. In South Dakota, home to the family of Vernon Evans, pictured here, the drought was compounded by a grasshopper plague. The crop failed, the bank took the farm, and there were no jobs to be had. "You couldn't even buy a job," according to Evans.

They had $54, and no idea how they were going to get by, when they piled into their Model T and headed west. The first day they only made  six miles before breaking the crankshaft; fortunately, a nearby farmer had a yard full of dead Model Ts; he told the Evanses to find themselves a crankshaft and take it, no charge. 

They were on the road again a day later and made good time for the next few days, averaging about 200 miles a day till they reached the outskirts of Missoula, Montana, where they passed a car at the side of the road with a man sleeping in it. They honked at him, "just having a good time." The man woke up quickly, started his car, and chased them down, waving frantically for them to pull over. They thought he was a cop turning them away from Missoula; many communities had posted guards to try to keep the Dust Bowl migrants out of town.

"Well, here's where we go back home," the Evanses said to one another. They had $16 left. 

But the cop turned out to be Resettlement Administration photographer Arthur Rothstein, who introduced himself, explained that the sign on the back of their car had caught his eye, and asked if he could take a picture. They told him they were headed for Yakima, Washington, hoping to arrive in time to find work harvesting hops.

Rothstein snapped eight poses there on the road to Missoula, which the family recalled seeing in newspapers and magazines a few months later, when they were newly settled in Oregon, working for the railroad.

Posted by Ellen

The snowline has retreated most of the way up the hillside above the campus of the University of Montana in Missoula, and the well-tended campus lawns have turned seriously green.

Still, the sky sometimes spits snow, and the trees daren't yet display a hint of green. If on some afternoons the spring air is gentle enough to warm an upturned face, you can take it to the bank that a few minutes later the wind will stir and whip and sting, and push the people back indoors.

Must be May in Montana.

 

Posted by Ellen

The cancan line shown here was photographed during a dress rehearsal for this weekend's performance at the Super Bowl University of Montana Foresters' Ball.

Every February, students in the Forestry School at the University of Montana stage a dance with an Old West theme. They spend months preparing: chopping down trees, hauling the logs to campus, building a wild-west town with saloon and jail and dance hall and helicopter launching pad. The helicopter dropped cardboard all over the campus oval, prize pieces of which had Foresters' Ball tickets attached. As always, the event sold out.