Bozeman, Montana: August 17-24, 2011

Reminders: 1. Posts are in chronological order with most recent on top. 2. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and then using the back button (not close) to return to the text.

Around 6:30 pm on Monday, August 15, while we were still in Great Falls, the sky suddenly turned dark and belched out a short but violent storm. As it passed, and the sun reappeared around its fringes, we were treated to a beautiful show.

We didn’t realize at the time that it was an omen. The pet lovers among you are likely aware that after their last breath on earth, our four legged friends cross the Rainbow Bridge, where they are completely healed, romp and play, eat whatever they want and wait for the day when they can once again be at their master’s side.

Teddy crossed the Rainbow Bridge on Monday, August 22, in Bozeman. It was a pastoral scene, with the gentle help of a compassionate vet who made us feel she had known him all his life. Postponement would only give us a short time and give him pain. It was the right time. He was two months short of fifteen and had stayed around long enough for us to celebrate his ninth anniversary with us a month earlier.

On Wednesday, when we left town, we waited around long enough to pick up his ashes. Teddy, therefore, retained the distinction of being on board every time we’ve relocated our RV. He also never slept a single night without one of us. How these beautiful beasties worm their way into your heart.

Despite our trauma, we took in Bozeman as best we could. Teddy was still up and around, though barely eating. He still managed our ritual bed-play routine on Saturday night, though feebly. He took a walk with me on Monday morning and showed nuzzling interest with another Schip – not ours – in the campground.

We did some visiting in and around town before his death. On the day after it, I had to do something to occupy my mind, so I drove back about 30 miles to the Three Forks, a significant Lewis & Clark site that’s the headwaters of the Missouri River.

We also found Bozeman one of the most charming towns we’ve visited. Downtown is alive and vibrant; the surrounding malls, including Walmart, haven’t diminished its value. On Thursday nights, throughout the summer, they close Main Street to traffic, line it with street vendors, add a loud local band, and bring new meaning to the National Night Out program!

Bozeman was founded in 1864, after John Bozeman blazed a new trail off the Oregon Trail that went up to the Fort Benton area. Three years later, he was murdered, allegedly by Blackfeet, while traveling with his partner Tom Cover. There’s serious suspicion that Cover himself did the deed; he, too, was murdered a few years later under unknown circumstances. Bozeman’s death may have saved the town; shortly thereafter, Fort Ellis was instituted to defend the area against Indian attacks.

The town was chartered in the 1880’s. The other significant name around town is Story. Nelson Story, who had become a successful gold miner, decided to go into the cattle business. He drove a herd of 1,000 longhorns to the Gallatin Valley, outwitting both the Indians and the Army forces who tried to turn him back because of the danger. He built a mansion in town that cost over $110,000 eighteen ninety dollars! It demised sadly when the family sold it for a pittance to the local school board that demolished it to make room for a school.

The Pioneer Museum

Located on Main Street in the heart of town, The Pioneer Museum is housed in the 1911 county jail. They occupied part of it starting in 1977 and were deeded the balance when a new facility was built in 1982. The Museum combines exhibits with a major research library and a book store. The exhibits include features of the building’s original purpose as well as historical stories and artifacts.

Most prominent in the first room is the gallows. Attached to the platform were four ropes, leading through a small hole to the next room. Only one was attached to the trip lever, so the four citizens who pulled them could not be sure who the actual executioner was. It was used only once to execute Seth Orrin Danner, accused of murdering a husband and wife, the Sprouses, with whom he and his wife were camping. In 1923, three years after the Sprouses disappeared, Mrs. Danner led authorities to the graves and testified against her husband. The area also contains a still and other timely pieces.

As you move in further, you’re confronted with normal cells, female cells, solitary cells and holding cells. There were exhibits, on the main floor the mezzanine and the top floor. The aforementioned Ft. Ellis (model below) was established in 1867 and was manned until 1886. Two significant disasters hit the area; a fire destroyed Main Street in 1888, and the 7.3 Hegben Lake earthquake in 1959 that changed the Yellowstgone and surrounding landscape dramatically. The right hand picture below is a photograph of the lake and an inset highlighting the section of the mountain that fell in the landslide.

Another display highlighted the Swee’Pea Festival, an annual event that heralded the fact that at one time, the Bozeman area contributed 75% of the nation’s edible and seed pea crop. Still another area emphasized the influence of rodeo activity in the area, including the thrill rides of the “rodeo gals.”

And then there was Bozeman’s claim to Hollywood fame. Frank James (later Gary) Cooper graduated from Gallatin County H.S. in Bozeman in 1922. He briefly attended college, but he became fascinated with Charlie Russell’s art when his distant cousin married him, and that, plus the encouragement of teacher Ida Davis, inspired him to follow his family to California. He was cast in his first role in 1924, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Around Town

The Chamber of Commerce promoted two tours, one of the cemetery and one of the historic homes district. We tried to follow the former, but the map wasn’t very good – though we did get to see the most prominent founding families, like the Bozemans and the Storys. The house tour was better; it really was a building tour because it included an apartment building, churches and a cultural center. Mostly built between 188 and 1920, they were heavy into Colonial, Victorian and Queen Anne. In some cases, individual buildings were in the National Register; some, on the other hand were collectively as a “Bon Ton” neighborhood. The fanciest was the T. Byron Story Mansion, built in 1910 by one of Nelson’s sons, who with another brother had taken over management of their father’s industries. It was owned by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at Montana State University, the local Ag college, from 1923 until 2001, and it’s now owned by the city and apparently underused.

The Museum of the Rockies

The Museum of the Rockies is located on the campus of Montana State University. Its stellar feature is the Siebel Dinosaur Complex, funded by the Tom and Stacey Seibel Foundation. Tom founded the high flying Siebel Systems in the late nineties, and he was my last full-time employer!

One needn’t even go inside to view the first of its treasures; Big Mike graces the front lawn. He was discovered in 1988 by Kathy Wankel of Angela, Montana. The Museum excavated him and made the mold for this bronze directly from his bones. Many of his former friends and associates are found inside, organized and posed to lead us through their evolution. The Museum also found a treasure trove of T-Rexes in 2000, in the Hells Creek Formation in central Montana. This story is far too long to relate, but the first specimen removed, by jack-hammering it out of the side of a cliff, turned out to be a She-Rex!

Some specimens are tiny; others, like Mike, tower above you. They are many, and the stories are endless and command your attention. Some exhibit track growth and show the size of an animal’s bones in various stages of growth.

We also learned that all extinct mammals are not dinosaurs (woolly mammoth, for example) and that dinosaurs live today (birds are dinosaurs).

Ribbit . . . ribbit! A visiting exhibit, on display until Labor Day, was supplied and installed by an organization called Reptilland in Pennsylvania. It presents fifteen species of Frogs – over 100 of the little critters in total. We learned that frogs have teeth but toads don’t, that some species have opposable thumbs, and which of them are poisonous (NB: a single terribillis holds enough venom to kill 20, 000 mice or 10 humans). The largest guy on exhibit, Jabba the Bullfrog, can grow to 8 inches across. We also learned about the world wide diminution of frog species and an increasing occurrence of mutations. Frogs are apparently harbingers of environmental crises.

Other exhibits validated the name of the museum. The new balloon house construction was popular in the region because of its lighter construction and lower skills requirement. An original 1935 Ford 48 Woody Station Wagon was in excellent condition (be sure to view the sign picture right after it). Other exhibits included early communications, gold and copper mining equipment, and a Pietenpol mail order kit airplane — an actual plane, not a model — that hung from the ceiling.

The American Compputer Museum

The American Computer Museum was also adjacent to the MSU campus. It’s in a complex of town-house like business offices and thus is divided into a number of smaller rooms. Each one is themed; it’s possible to track computing not only back to the abacus but to a monk hand-creating bible copies with his feather and inkwell. The museum is, at the same time, the annual presenter of multiple Stibitz & Wilson Pioneer Awards. Those not consummate cyberheads might like to know who they are. While a mathematical physicist at the AT&T Bell Laboratories, Dr. George Stibitz (1904-1995) built a binary adding circuit on the kitchen table of his home using two telephone relays in 1937; his continued exploits and presentations earned him the mantle of Seminal Pioneer of the Modern Digital Computer. Dr. Edward O. Wilson, known as the Father of Biodiversity, heads the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

Those of us at the other extreme can view a presentation on one wall explaining binary code in simple terms. Then we can wow at how much things changes — and how most of this technology s younger than we.

Herman Hollerith? He’s the guy who invented data entry by punch card, an idea he adapted from the punch tapes used by The Jacquard Weaving Mill to create fabric patterns. Despite a significant increase in population between 1880 and 1890, Herman’s effort cut census processing down from 8 years to less than one and saved the government $5 million in the bargain.

Like Hollerith, names — other than Edison and Bell — are far less familiar than the pioneering works they provided. And I was again amazed, as I first was in Houston last year, how such small amounts of antiquated computing power got us to the moon and back. Or how bulky a 1964 Motorola car phone was. Or that smart phones have been around since 1994. Or that the power of the 1946 30 ton ENIAC, with its 17,468 vacuum tubes and 140,000 watts of power consumption, could be duplicated with a few watts of power (and minus 30 tons of weight) the fifty years later on a tiny chip.

Three Forks of the Missouri

After conquering the Great Falls, the Lewis & Clark Expedition headed south through what Lewis commissioned the Gates of the Mountain, a passage through high cliffs that ran straight down into the water. Today a tour boat ride through this ride is a must-see. A little further south, Sacagawea began to recognize features of her homeland. And there, they ran out of Missouri. It branched to three rivers, which the Expedition named the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin for the president, vice president and secretary of the treasury. At this point, Sacagawea recognized many featuers of the area and provided guidance. The Gallatin meanders southeast, passes close to Bozeman and runs through today’s Yellowstone National Park. The Madison is thin and also heads south into Yellowstone. The Corps explored all three and wisely proceeded up the Jefferson. Forty five more days would pass — meeting the Shoshone, negotiating for horses, and making the difficult trek up the Salmon River — before they started the even more challenging passage over the Bitterroots at Lolo Pass.

The meandering paths of the tributaries has made it difficult to define the area; the tributaries don’t literally come together at one point. But hikes up several rises leads one to viewpoints that have descriptive signs explaining what you’re looking at. The area was calm and rather breathtaking, and it helped sooth my hurting soul.

On the way back home in 1806, Captain Clark and his contingent were contemplating their route just east of Bozeman. Sacagawea suggested and alternate from her early memory, and it not only proved to be better but received an accolade in Clark’s journal.

We pulled out of town the following morning, one last time down Main Street and out to the vet’s office where we waited about an hour of Teddy’s urn. Placing it in his crate, we turned south for West Yellowstone, our last Montana stop.

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