Posts Tagged ‘Montana’

You’ve Got to be Kidding

May 16, 2012 11 comments

Yaks! (Photo credit: bdearth)

Yes, we are having a heat wave here in NW Montana. It hit 87° F. here today while we were out on photo safari. That’s rare for mid-May up here.

Today’s safari took us to places we don’t frequent often, to see what was available for the lens and the Muse. We visited The Garden of the Thousand Buddha’s down in Arlee before moving west. It’s a Buddhist temple area sitting on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The Garden is coming along, though inclement weather isn’t doing it any favors in exposed areas around the central huge Buddha.

A bison roaming about at the National Bison Ra...

A bison roaming about at the National Bison Range in Montana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people suspect that we have bison ranches. In fact, we have the National Bison Range just southwest of the town of Charlo. Did you know that we have ranches running musk oxen and yak? Yep. We scouted out one such ranch down in the Camas Prairie area of Sanders County.

Along the way, we picnicked along the Flathead River and watched kayakers braving deep spring run-off waters. Osprey fished along those same turquoise waters, daring bald eagles to infringe on nesting territories.

Squirrels warned off those who came too close and pileated woodpeckers took their time with smaller trees a few yards from the car. Young quaking aspens waved at us, not having aged enough to rustle in the breeze. Smoke from a suspected new wild fire in the mountain range south of Highway 200 filled the valley with tension; not uncommon, merely early in the season.

Overall, it was a good day.

A bighorn ram following a juvenile ewe.

A bighorn ram following a juvenile ewe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The hours of our journey didn’t allow for seeing deer or elk. It was too hot for the bighorn sheep to be down out of the hills. Everywhere people were taking advantage of the day’s warmth. Storms are forecast for the next several days.

You’re asking yourself, “What does this weather report have to do with anything?”

Honestly, it has little to do with writing or the state of today’s world. It isn’t an opinion or earthshattering news. It is a snippet of prospective background material.

Think about this. One of the basic tenets of good writing is that the background setting, activities, characters, etc. must be, at the very least, plausible. But, what happens when a writer uses facts that don’t fit “plausible”?

Montana is known for bison, eagles, osprey, bighorn sheep, and the rest. What about Yak or Musk Oxen? Oddly enough we have lots of exotics around here.

Title: Nunivak Musk Oxen in Defensive Formatio...

One rancher runs only Yak.

What for? Meat and textile material. The hair works up nearly as well as sheep’s wool and makes marvelous felt with fabulous insulation quality. The same can be said for Musk Oxen. These may not be the most attractive animals, but they have great value to the right people. According to one local, Yak meat is one of the most healthy, lean red meats available.

The question that arises is “What reader is going to believe a story set on a Yak ranch in cattle country, surrounded by mountains full of bighorn sheep, with a large river running through it, and situated on the Camas Prairie where herds of wild horses used to roam?”

And yet, all of that is true. The entire statement is fact, but few who’ve never been here would believe for one minute that anyone is raising Yak or Musk Oxen in the U.S. So, what’s the writer to do in order to use this material?

One thing I can think of off the top of my head is to write the story as a diary, a journal, from the main character’s perspective. It could be a romance, a mystery, adult or children’s, creative non-fiction, or poetry. The deciding factor is in how to approach the reader with reality and create the plausibility needed for it to be believed.

Ask yourself “What are the most implausible facts you’ve witnessed capable of creating a fabulous foundation for a rollicking good story”?

Now, share them here for all to see.

I’m  also proud to announce a special treat. Tomorrow I have a guest blogger here to entertain you all. Meena Rose Muro is a writer, poet, and business analyst, who will fill your time here with images and questions about your own take on the world. Be sure to stop by to see what she has for you.

You won’t regret it. You might even learn more about yourself in the process. She will answer questions and comments for those who take the time to pose them here.

I’ll see you all soon. A bientot,


Poetry Prompts: We’re Having a Rendezvous

April 27, 2012 2 comments
Authentic historical reenactor in buckskins

Authentic historical reenactor in buckskins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the hardest realities for me is that almost anything can trigger a story or poem. I don’t have to go looking for something. A prompt will always find me. I’m writing this post instead of my usual one for a reason.

I’m out of town for three days. Yes, it’s true. I went to attend a rendezvous: the annual Mountain Man Rendezvous here in Montana. It’s been many years since I attended such an event, and I find a great sense of anticipation toward this one.

In case you don’t know what a Mountain Man Rendezvous is, I’ll give you the quick skinny on one. Take pioneering/explorer types from the modern world; dress them in period 18th Century mountain man costuming; hand them black powder rifles and hand axes; and tell them to find out who shoots the best and throws the straightest, and you’ll have the makings of a Rendezvous.

Sprinkle in skills test for both men and women from those days from history, and you have a great weekend. When you combine the whole thing with one town’s annual celebration of town-hood and the like, you have a free-for-all from two countries. Yep, those mountain men and women will be coming down from Canada, too. It’s going to be great!

Therefore, in honor of our weekend activities, I thought I’d put a few poems prompted by the coming events to hold everyone over until I return on Monday. I hope you enjoy the fare here during my absence. Be sure to leave a comment to let me know if I’ve hit the target or not.

It’s All in the Wrist

How many westerns have passed

Behind my mind’s eye, pointing out

The Throw–the flight–the target

Smacked a solid THUNK!

Tomahawk embedded, buried

To mid-point up the blade?


How many times did baby bro

Recreate those scenes, practicing

The Throw, closer to center each time,

Always taking a step back to lengthen pace?

Did he have plans for needing an axe

Or just a need to prove himself to self?


Watching both men and women take

Places on the line, raise arm, tomahawk

Shaft gripped with purpose, steady–strong,

I see that need to prove to self, to others

That history can repeat itself, can come alive

To find a place now, appreciated and honored.


© Claudette J. Young 2012


Slow Antique, Still Deadly



Black powder report,

Smoke drifts from lock’s contact,

Sulphur permeates with each repeat.

So goes the rifle shoot out

Made for mountain men,


© Claudette J. Young 2012



Calling All “Relatives”

February 1, 2012 2 comments

The first day of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month) is officially begun. This month’s theme is “Relative,” which means daily posts related to one’s family, however the writer defines “family.”

I will say up front that my definition of “family” is a bit broader than many, but more limited than some. Confused? Don’t be. I figure that if I love, care for, and am concerned about, a person, I consider them family in one sense or another.

Also, I’m a perverse person at times, who regularly reads magazines and catalogs from the back to the front. While I know that today’s suggested prompt is “mother,” I intend to save her for last.

Having said all of that, I’m going to begin with surrogate family, before moving on to real, blood-related people.

Many years ago, I was privileged to teach at a small Native American College here in Montana. The first class I taught there, Intro to Sociology 101, was peopled with mostly matriculated students, both Native American and White.

One who sat close to the front was a marvelous character who had an imp of the Irish within and a laugh that carried everyone along for the ride. Lou was bright, inquisitive, and talented. He played guitar in a band to help support his family while he went back to school for a degree.

A couple of months later I found myself sitting at Lou’s dining table for a Thanksgiving dinner. There was always room at the family table for another diner, with/without an invitation. Drop in and you were invited to partake in whatever meal was being served.

That was a marvelous day, filled with laughter and discovery as to who these new friends were, who were making a place for themselves in my heart.

Over the next year, Lou and I discovered some peculiar links between us. The more we talked, the more “deja-vu” things became. We’d both lived in Jackson, WY, at the same time, went to the same places, knew some of the same people, and yet, had never met. We knew the same woman in Detroit who owned a business just outside the boundary of Greektown. I’d been there several times during a period of residency in Rochester.

Those were just two of the oddities. It was as if our lives had been entangled in this family way for so long, while neither knew of the other’s existence.

There are those who posit that people connect with those whose souls have always been close to them over time and in past lives. I cannot refute that any more than I can prove it.

All I can say is that this man is as close to me in some ways as a brother of blood would be, that I hurt if he’s in distress, and that his family is as dear to me as the one into which I was born.

I don’t get to see him often enough. We live hours apart now, but when schedules and weather permits, I go to see this other family of mine. I get to talk with both Lou and his wife, two of their children, and get to know the grandchildren now. And while their trials are their own, as mine belong to me, they will always hold a piece of my heart and thoughts and reside in my prayers each night.

I love you all, Lou, warts and all.


Listing Year’s Winners

December 15, 2011 4 comments

Well, my friends, we’ve come to another holiday season. There are those looking back to count accomplishments. Others are making goals for the coming year. Lists are popping up everywhere.

Since that’s the case, I’ve decided to make a list of my own, or more. Why should I stand back and let everyone else have all the fun?

List 1: 2011 Accomplishments

  1. Visited with family and friends across the country during the winter and saw things totally new to me.
  2. Arrived back in Montana with all fingers and toes from the research trip from Hell. Sanity somewhat dented but still workable.
  3. Procured livable apartment and had money to pay for it and the food to keep us going throughout the rest of the year.
  4. Managed to have many submissions accepted for magazines and newsletters
  5. Reinvested in my craft through university coursework
  6. Got through another rewrite on The Moon Sees All and began what is hopefully the last rewrite before being submitted.
  7. Came to a point where I can see the blessings that grew from this past year’s trials on the road.

List 2: 2011 Blessings–The Short List

  1. Repeat List 1 for emphasis
  2. Can still say that I’m healthier than many I could name
  3. Learned more than I ever thought possible about too many things to mention
  4. Watched the struggles and accomplishments of friends and family, knowing that they came through whole, if dented, and I can still enjoy them
  5. I have a home, food on the table, clothes to wear, work to do that makes my heart sing most days, friends everywhere, family that I love, and I’m moderately warm for a snowy day.
  6. My country hasn’t imploded yet, even if it is shaky in some quarters
  7. I’ve lived long enough to appreciate the simple things of life

List 3: 2012 Goals

  1. Repeat List 1, numbers 1 and 4 through 7
  2. Get everything that’s already on my computer—stories, essays, poetry, children’s books, etc.—submitted somewhere
  3. Finish travel book and get submitted
  4. Finish women’s mystery novel and get it submitted
  5. Finish YA fantasy novel and get it submitted
  6. Finish “Failures to Blessings: Finding the Silver Lining” and, you guessed it, get it submitted
  7. Survive to write another day

Assuming I accomplish the items on this last list, I will be satisfied with life for another year. I say that because I plan 2013 to be busier than ever in the writing department, and I’m going to need all the energy I can get to deal with it.

There you have my obligatory lists for this year. I hope you have a satisfying time doing your own lists, whatever they contain. Let me know if you’re ready to either celebrate or need commiseration. I can accommodate either situation and will do so happily.

A bientot,


When Life Shows You a Curve in the Road…

June 7, 2011 2 comments

When life shows you a curve in the road, drive forward and see what’s on the other side. Sister and I did that the other day. We started out for a two-three hour tour of the shoreline of Flathead Lake. It’s one of our favorite drives and BJ was in the mood to take photos.

We stopped in to gas up. I know. The needle showed we had half a tank, but one never knows when inspiration will strike and another hundred miles will get tagged onto the trip somewhere along the line. That’s how our little drives turn out.

We got ourselves something to drink, had a full gas tank, and no need to hurry.

Somewhere between Kalispell and Big Fork we changed our destination. Told you that’s what happens sometimes. We chose to go down to Swan Lake instead. When people say The Swan, they refer to the Swan River. Swan Lake resides on the south leg of that river. A town by the same name accommodates tourists and full-timers without prejudice.

Swan Lake

The entire area exudes mountain charm and calm reflection, both of the water and the mind. The sunshine struck peaks still swallowed by late snow and left breath-taking to those reflections in the river and lake. Along the way horses and cattle grazed, unconcerned with those taking advantage of marvelous Saturday weather.

We had to stop at the Hungry Bear restaurant for a meal. It’s expected of any who’ve ever eaten there. A person simply can’t pass by without stopping for something to eat. The food’s too good for that kind of rudeness.

After we waddled out under the influence of Western Omelets and coffee supreme, we made our way south once more. Another lightning decision. Since we’re this close—well, thirty or so miles—we’d just drop on down to Seeley Lake. That small community with its own lake of the same name and a murder mystery on one of the islands carries its own charm.

We didn’t bother spending too much time there. Yep, you guessed it. We thought we might as well run over to the east side of the mountains to see what we could see.

It was after noon by then. We drove, took photos of cool scenery and made our way around the big loop. Up Highway 200 we finally, after another 100+ miles, came to a town some might know called

First Dam of Breaks

Great Falls. Once in the city, we stopped for a quick meal and proceeded to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Giant Spring Park along the Missouri River.

That park also runs along the edge of the Missouri Breaks. The Breaks are a series of dams and natural cliffs where the river tumbles through and makes a run for the Greater Mississippi. I can tell the fishermen out there, that those Breaks have some mighty fine fishing alongside and in them. Most who can, fish the Breaks for giant rainbow trout.

We began our serious wildlife photography of the day along the Breaks. The average person doesn’t

First Group of Goslings

expect to see pelicans in Montana waters. They’d find surprise in that stretch of water. Montana sports both white and brown pelicans. Canada geese are always around, and this year must have created a bumper crop of goslings. Those little buggers were everywhere.

Later on, when we drove Highway 89 back toward Glacier Park to get home, we came across other species. Elk, deer, antelope, and sand hill cranes all made their appearances. When we got to Goat Lick on Highway 2, BJ got more photos of Rocky Mountain goat, as well.

We had a great day and finally got home around 9:30 pm. We drove around the curve to see what was on the other side and made some marvelous discoveries.

I hope all of the curves in your life allow you such discovery. Until next time, a bientot,