I’ll leave the existential mystery of the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives for a later date. However, during a recent visit to one of the “largest and most notorious copper boomtowns of the American West, two visitors sought to answer some questions about their father’s boyhood.
The visit to the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives was unplanned – there’s not much else to do. The Archives organization is obviously well-funded and the people there are helpful and patient. Thanks to his natural brevity and taciturn nature, all that’s known about his time here, in his own words: “I lived in Butte.”
Now we know that Grandma, Dad, and his older brother Bill, attended Butte Public Schools for three years, they lived in an apartment on South Montana Street, Apartment #1, demolished and replaced by modern, attractive duplexes. A lot of questions remain unanswered. For example, what propelled Grandma Vera to leave a railroad worker husband, and an extended family, in Palestine, Texas to travel 1700 miles to Butte? Why would a woman choose probable shame and social condemnation by voluntarily becoming a single mom with 2 young kids in the 1930’s?
Some interesting information was uncovered. Dad’s s school records contain a birthdate different from the one celebrated the 48 years I knew him. A little pencil work provides a possible explanation; as a November baby, he would have been a almost a full year behind peers in school. A simple adjustment to his birth month would have moved him up a grade.
And a possible bombshell in the school census from the fam’s first year in Butte – Dad’s sex is listed as “F.” Now I guess I have to say, Yep, my dad was trans.”
FROM A 1934 SCHOOL CENSUS – BUTTE-SILVERBOW PUBLIC ARCHIVES
LEGEND ROCK – WYOMING OLD & NEW GLYPHS
I love looking at these petroglyphs. Thousands of years old, open for interpretation, their location on a remote vertical outcropping in the middle of central Wyoming is as mysterious as their content. A helpful descriptive brochure points out some possible interpretations of what the pecked-in-stone drawings; warriors, spirit animals, and several other well-supported possibilities. Could be, but what if?
The figures at Legend Rock are thought to be 10,000 years old. Of course, debates about WHO is responsible and WHAT the images actually represent are ongoing. I like to imagine the group above left, and maybe all the other bizarre anthropomorpic figures are some young person’s attempts to create an artistic legacy. Some of the images may have been here for as long as 10,000 years; archaeologists theorize the red sandstone cliffs attracted the artistic imaginations of many individuals from many prehistoric tribes. That means any single glyph may have taken several years to complete, or that more than one person may have added to one or more carving, like some kind of ancient “Exquisite Corpse” exercise.
A persistent 40 mile-per-hour west wind blew unfolded maps, used Kleenex, and other road trip detritus out of the Pathfinder as soon as the doors were opened at Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge Sunday morning. Northwest of Missoula, on the Flathead Indian Reservation, the refuge is a select nesting habitat for grebes, great blue heron, Canada geese, and various duck species. As in much of rural Montana, grasses and a Great Plains-type environment means long-distance views, huge skies, and an immediate, unavoidable sense of solitude. From the entrance, the diminishing shores of a great body of water appear, then disappear beyond the tall, windblown grasses.
The water has receded this late in the year, so the flocks of birds are less visible, further away from vistors and predators like ospreys and grizzly bears. Walking along the exposed lake bottom feels like resilient playground surfacing, but the loam doesn’t bounce back.
Two miles northeast of Yellowstone lake, away from tour buses, commerce, and strife, is a vast open meadow, interrupted by mounds, cut and carved by meandering streams. Pale grasses wave in the breeze, and the sun and sky are forever. I’m prone in the tall Buffalograss and sedge, pale yellow for fall, crunching an excellent apple. After spotting solitary bison ringing the buttes and valleys around me, I noticed a lone wolf scampering in a wide arc about a quarter mile away, the black tail easy to spot in the immense, pale, and lovely grasses covering the valley . Though the black wolf occasionally passes the odd bison laying in the grass, they ignore each other. The wolf travels quickly, stops frequently, and, like me, seems to have no other purpose than to be in the certain serenity of the Pelican Valley. All around the valley, elk bugles echo, warnings or calls to battle. Loud and close, eerie howls from packs of wolves arise, punctuated by barks, responses from unknown rivals far away, and the eye is drawn to the tree-lined edge of this massive haven. Distant black predators are spotted – two, then ten, moving along the edge of the forest. Distant, yet closer than I have ever experienced. Call and return, motion and stillness, prey and predator, sun and grass. That’s my perfect Yellowstone day.