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AUG

27

Ever Tasted Frybread?

Spuds Cafe frybreadWhen I was in Chester, Montana (on US Hwy 2) the other day I was looking for a mid-afternoon sweet snack. Spud's Cafe was the recommendation I was given so I off I went in search of a goodie.

After looking at an extensive menu I decided on frybread. Frybread is, well, fried bread dough! Sometimes people eat it with honey, sometimes with cinnamon and sugar.

The waitress took my order and, in no time at all, there was a delicious piece of fresh, hot frybread and a small cup of honey on the table.

Mmmmm, it was wonderfully delicious.

Years ago frybread was made by our nomadic Plains Indian tribes. You can still find it at Farmers Markets, fairs and pow wows but I'm always excited to see it on a cafe menu.

I'll be back to Spud's Cafe for more of their frybread!

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AUG

19

Conversation With A Train Robber

Bud and TomAs I roam around Central Montana I meet a lot of folks in many different occupations.

I can now add Train Robber to the list!

Following is a snippet of the conversation I recently had with a fellow who has robbed trains routinely for quite a few years.

Me: so, Bud (full name withheld to protect the not so innocent), how many trains do you think you have robbed?

Bud: gosh, I'd have to sit down and count. Well, there was the year we robbed 22 trains. That was a lot of work! Although, it probably averages about 14 or 15 a year and we've been doing this a lot of years.

Me: how has this summer been for train robbing?

Bud: steady, real steady. Every couple of weeks or so we rob a train.

Me: same crew each time?

saloon girlsBud: you know, I'm trying to work my son in to the business. He's been around train robberies since he was just a kid but it would be nice for him to step up and help out with the business.

Me: is your son trained to rob trains (I said that as a joke but Bud responded seriously).

Bud: oh yes. In fact, he'll be riding with us tonight when we rob a train.

Me: well, I hope I can meet him.

Bud: you probably will. He's shy but he rides well.

Me (thinking to myself...a train robber that is shy??) 

Me: Do you try to stick to the same game plan with each train you rob?

Bud: sure. A couple of us always ride on the south side of the tracks and we have one rider who follows the north side. There is better coverage for us on the south side one riderbecause of a hill so we can stay out of sight of the train for quite awhile.

Me: doesn't the engineer ever figure out that they are going to get robbed?

Bud: yes, she (the engineer is a lady) always slows down for us after coming across the trestle and around a curve.

Me: sounds like a set-up.

Bud: yup, we are actually hired to rob the Charlie Russell Chew Choo every night they run!

OK, so much for my spoof but Bud's responses above were answers to my questions as we "waited around the bend" for the evening dinner train.

We heard the whistle as the Charlie Russell Chew Choo approached the trestle. They are required to do slow speeds over the trestles so it seemed like it took forever for it to cross and come around the bend. Or, maybe I was just excited to witness the holdup.

train on trestleI hid behind the saloon at the "stage" and peered around, trying not to be seen. The passengers I could see looked like they were having a pretty fun time.

After the train came to a halt the robbers entered the cars and gave out Charlie Russell Chew Choo dollars. Then they went back through the rail cars and robbed the passengers of the dollars.

After exiting the train a fight began, dance hall girls came out of the saloon and pandemonium broke out.

As you may imagine, the robber crew does have some "each man for himself" thoughts when money is involved and that creates an interesting end to the robbery.

It's all fun and games and, as Bud says, "when this is no longer any fun we'll hand it over to another crew of robbers".

Believe me, this crew has a good time.

For train schedules visit MontanaDinnerTrain.com or call the Lewistown Area Chamber of Commerce at 406-535-5436.

Oh, remember to bring your camera if you are riding the Charlie Russell Chew Choo. Beautiful scenery, wildlife, and a good natured crew of train robbers!

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AUG

16

It is Appropriately Called Awesome Autos Etc. Museum

yellow car ChesterLast week I was in Chester, Montana for a meeting. After the meeting and lunch we stopped in at a place called Awesome Autos Etc. Museum.

Located right on US Hwy 2 across from Chester's Lions Park, Awesome Autos was easy to find.

The neat and tidy looking metal building holds an absolute treasure of vintage and not-so-vintage automobiles along with some former business signs that will bring back memories.

I wasn't sure what to expect but I'd like to say right away that this museum exceeded my expectations by a million miles!

As you tour the museum you'll be reminded that the building parallels US Hwy 2, and right down the middle of rows of autos it looks like a highway complete with white striping down the middle row.

Each end of the building has the correct highway signage. One side has a US Hwy 2 West sign, the other has a sign saying US Hwy 2 East. Our tour guide pointed that out, Awesome Auto museumotherwise, I was so impressed with the autos I probably wouldn't have noticed until the end of the tour.

No detail has been overlooked in creating this museum.

As I entered the building my first glimpse was a beautiful jukebox. OK, they had me loving the place right there!

The entry floor and floors throughout the museum are large square black and white tiles taking me right back to the 50s and 60s. Yes, I'm "of that era".

Even the restrooms have been cleverly disquised as Ruthie's Diner.

Old parking meters, old gas pumps, I could go on forever about the beautiful details in Awesome Autos Etc. Museum.

But, the real treasure is learning "the story" behind each automobile.

One story was about an elderly gentleman who finally agreed to part with his vehicle. Chester autoHe had one last wish and that was to drive it again. He did just that and drove it around the field and onto the trailer that would take it to it's new life at Awesome Autos.

I saw cars reminiscent of the gangster era where the doors opened opposite of what my car's doors do. That makes it much easier for gangsters to fire their guns but if the wind is blowing it could take that door and send it flying!

I saw kit cars (I hadn't heard of them) but they are auto pieces in a kit that you build yourself.

Trivia I learned - license plates used to be attached to the front window of the auto. Actually, I learned so much trivia I need to go back and tour again just to absorb it all!

The website for Awesome Autos Etc. Museum says "when you have time, stop by". Then it says "Take Time".

I agree 100 percent. This place is truly a treasure and a must-see museum.

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AUG

5

New Coffee Shop In Conrad

Folklore coffee grinderI happened to be in Conrad, MT last Saturday and found out the day before that a new coffee shop had opened on Main Street.

Plans began formulating in my mind about how I should time my visit.

Did I want to get my first cup o' joe there or an early afternoon cup of tea? A homemade pastry for breakfast or a yummy brownie for an afternoon treat? Decisions! Decisions!

Since I had another commitment later in the morning I opted for an earlier visit.

Back up a minute - the name of the place is Folklore and that was carefully chosen by owners Andy and Anna based on their experience living on an island off the east coast of Africa. And, that's where the love of good coffee found a place in their lives.

Andy attended the American Barista and Coffee School and their dream of a coffee shop inched closer to reality.

The coffee shop is spacious, has super tall ceilings, wooden tables and chairs and also a Anna and Andy Folkloresofa for those who want to get comfy and settle in with a cup. The decor invites you enjoy your beverage and food, and also enjoy the company of friends.

They roast and grind their own coffee beans onsite in the bright red roaster shown above.

So - what did I have at Folklore?

Well, I had already had my limit of coffee for the day so I opted to try one of their pastries. My choice was a raspberry scone with a lemon glaze. I can still taste the fruity flavor of the scone, and the lemon glaze was delish!

Other tempting items included homemade yogurt, granola, bread, cinnamon rolls, a variety of scones, and brownies that were also calling my name.

I resisted a brownie to go but next time that will be on my plate!

Not a coffee drinker? Try the looseleaf teas or a smoothie made with 100% fruit or veggies.

Brownies at FolkloreEverything at Folklore is homemade!

Folklore is easy to find in Conrad. There is one stop light in town and they are located just before the light if you are coming from the east. 

Stop in when you are in town and enjoy the ambience, beverages and yummy pastries.

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AUG

3

The Delight of a Small Town Parade, Dupuyer, MT

Belgian horsesI pointed my wheels north this past Saturday for Dupuyer's annual Grizzly Day. I've been to the event once before and had a great time. Ditto for this last Saturday.

The parade was scheduled to start at 11am. Parade watchers lined both sides of the main street of Dupuyer which is US Hwy 89.

A few vehicles traveling the highway slowed down and looked to see what was going on. Some stopped, some continued driving. Those who stopped weren't disappointed!

A jeep carrying veterans was first, followed by the Grand Marshall in a horse drawn carriage.

There were plenty of horses in this parade and a nice variety too. 

The owners of the Belgian draft horses pulling a bright red stage told me a tidbit about Percheron horses. I had asked what kind of draft horses were pulling the stage and said I thought maybe they were Percherons but they weren't (first of all, wrong color). I was told that if a Percheron is born black, it turns gray as it ages. If it is born gray, it turns black. And, the only colors of that type of horse are black and gray.

Cows Grizzly DayWell, I liked the colors of the Belgians and I also liked the paint horses with single riders on them.

All of the horses seemed calm - no parade jitters in this group!

A favorite entry came along midway through the parade.

Two cows were adorned with lovely hats, and dresses were spread over their backs. Each cow had a matching halter. They seemed like they were just out for a walk and happily went down the highway, turned around with the rest of the parade and walked back.

Vintage autos, the Corvette Patrol cars driven by Shriners, beautifully refurbished tractors (and one not refurbished), fire trucks, and loads of candy all combined to make an awesome parade for Dupuyer's Grizzly Day.

Dupuyer is a pretty small town - there is one bed and breakfast there and the Dupuyer Cache (like a small general store). I stopped in to the Cache and a tourist was asking about the "Fresh eggs" sign. He wondered just how fresh they were - well, the answer was that they were gathered that morning. That's fresh!

tractor at Grizzly DayAnother favorite store in Dupuyer is located inside the Cache and it is called Beaverslide Dry Goods. They sell wool yarn (cleaned, spun and dyed) by the skein, and also knitted and crocheted garments. The wool is grown locally on Merino sheep. Merino wool is known for having long fibers so it doesn't pill like some wool. It's beautiful and the displays are done well.

The town also has some new construction going on with the development of a saloon, eatery and small 8 unit motel.  

What a fun day in Dupuyer. Our charming small towns are awesome!

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JUL

29

What I Learned At The Horse Races

horse racingI don't want to disappont anyone with my still-limited knowledge of horse racing. But, I managed to learn a little this weekend at the races sponsored by the Great Falls Turf Club. Probably the most important thing is, it's all a game of chance, no matter how much you weigh the odds!

Horse racing had been absent in Great Falls for three years until last summer when members of the Turf Club worked to get back on the race schedule.

Races a week ago had more than 3,000 fans at the betting windows wagering more than $150,000 during the two-day race meet. This last weekend saw numbers almost that high again. That's a tidy sum of cash and an impressive amount of people!

I opted to cut my losses before they even began and I didn't bet when I attended the second weekend of racing. I did listen closely to the tips given by the couple sitting next to me though.

The bottom line, it all seems confusing to me. Between the trifecta, superfecta, races for horses who had never won a race, there is a lot to keep track of. The learning curve is horse racing distantsteep and I'm at the bottom!

Sunday's event at MT Expo Park during State Fair had 11 races. Each race had seven or eight horses entered and there was a purse of $7,200 in one race for quarter horses. There were also thoroughbred horses racing Sunday.

I wasn't able to stay for the entire race card but I came away believing that we had some very excited horse racing fans in Great Falls and also that many people would travel to attend horse races!

Kudos to the Great Falls Turf Club for working so hard to bring horse racing back to the community.   

Will I attend the horse races again? Yes, I will but I may keep my wallet closed and just enjoy the frenzy of the race (and the race fans)!

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JUL

27

4th Annual Red Ants Pants Music Festival A Success

Red Ants StageMeagher County, specifically the Jackson Ranch a couple of miles from White Sulphur Springs, was THE place for great music, friends to gather and good times to be had this past weekend.

For the past four years Red Ants Pants clothing company (workwear for women) has organized this amazing music festival.

It is best described as a party in a pasture.

Let me explain.

A huge stage is moved in and set up in the middle of a cow pasture, a massive camping area is created, many porta potties are delivered and vendors from all over Montana form a backdrop with their displays.

A make-shift corral serves as a place to educate festival attendees about traditional horsemanship on working ranches.

Blacksmithing, horse shoeing, draft horse log pulling and a crosscut saw competition rider Red Antsround out some of the traditional work skills demos.

New this year was a kid's area with face painting, treats, some shade from the sun and changing tables/baby potties for tiny tykes. Yes, this is a family affair!

The town of White Sulphur Springs closed off a street for Thursday night's street dance. Two bands played and I heard it was great. I wasn't able to attend that event. Bummer.

Friday's schedule kicked off with a set by the side stage band that won a people's choice award last year.

The side stage is for those up-and-coming groups that hope to make it big someday, at least to the Red Ants Pants main stage! One of the bands scheduled in the Friday line-up had to cancel but an amazing replacement band was scheduled.

My long-time favorite Ian Tyson played and sang Friday night. I remember many of the 60s folk songs when he was half of the duo Ian and Sylvia. Tyson is a Canadian-born cowboy though and the songs he played Friday rang true to that.

Ian TysonIf Ian Tyson is a favorite musician, my most favorite recording by him is The Gift.

He didn't disappoint - about two thirds of the way through his performance he sang it.

The song is a wonderful tribute to deceased cowboy artist Charlie Russell. I can still hear him singing it and still remember the rousing applause. Yup, the crowd loved it too!

Saturday's schedule started at noon and ran non-stop until 11pm.

Sunday's music kicked off again at noon and wrapped after country artist/festival headliner Charley Pride left the stage at 6pm.

What a weekend! I could go on and on about the great musicians. Better yet, plan to attend next year - the 5th Annual Red Ants Pants Music Festival!

Red Ants Pants Music Festival donates proceeds from the weekend to the Red Ants Pants Foundation. Their mission is to develop and expand leadership roles for women, support and preserve working family farms and ranches, and to enrich and promote rural communities.

Crowd at Red AntsGreat goals, and an even greater weekend in the small rural community of White Sulphur Springs.

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JUL

25

The Wall That Heals

Wall That Heals peopleLast night I didn't go to the opening ceremony of The Wall That Heals for a reason - I figured there would be a crowd and I wanted some alone-time at the wall.

About 9am this morning I drove to Elks Riverside Park in Great Falls and was rather surprised to see quite a few cars already there. Although, I wouldn't say it was crowded.

Great Falls, Montana is a military town with many retirees from all branches of the armed forces. Probably many of them have served in wars, including Vietnam.

The display at The Wall That Heals included the wall and a semi-trailer with memorabilia from the war. It was spread out at the large park area. People were quietly walking about, reading names, looking at the displays.

The mood was somber, reflective and quiet.

A little bit of history - it is the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. For me, that's hard to believe.

Wall bootsA half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington DC is touring the country and stopped in Great Falls for a few days.

I was just entering my freshman year of high school when the Vietnam mess began.

This war deal seemed "far away" at the time but back then news reporting wasn't so in-your-face, so graphic, or so quickly reported. Fast forward a few years as my high school class aged and many turned 18 years old - the reality of the Vietnam War was ever-present.

We all had our own private thoughts this morning. I didn't want to talk to anybody and I'm glad people were just wandering and being reflective.

But, as I wandered around the park area I will admit that I wanted to know stories. 

Did the guy next to me, who seemed too old to have served in Vietnam, have a role in the war? Was he in the military at the time? Did he have, or worse yet, lose a child in the war? What was he thinking? Maybe he wasn't that old.

Wall bannerThere are 58,300 names etched on The Wall That Heals. There are many more than 58,300 stories to go with those names.

The Wall That Heals will be in Great Falls, open 24 hours a day, through Sunday July 27. Elks Riverside Park is on River Drive between 6th Street and 9th Street.

I encourage you to take some time, reflect, and yes...stir up some memories of those who served.

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JUL

19

Birdwatching with Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon Club

Beth with bird bookFor a Saturday morning, I was up and moving fairly early. My electrical power went off around 4:45am, at least that's when I noticed the clock blinking. I didn't get up then but it seemed like I looked at the clock almost 30 times between then and 6:15.

MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks had partnered with the local Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon Club for an escorted birdwatching event at Giant Springs State Park.

I always say I am a "wannabe birder" - someone who has an interest in birding but the learning curve seems incredibly long. Individual bird calls, very detailed species names, less than stellar optics, all seem to challenge my birding capabilities.

At Giant Springs State Park this morning I joined local vet Beth Hill (our Upper Missouri Audubon rep), a visitor from Colorado and another local gal.

I could tell right away that I was at the bottom of the learning curve when it came to bird identification. I am always eager to learn though! Binoculars were available from MT FWP and I chose to borrow from them instead of using my inexpensive and old ones.  

Audubon groupWe started in the manicured lawn part of Giant Springs State Park. Beth checked her bird book right away to determine a species and I believe it was one of the flycatchers (possibly the least flycatcher).

The next bird we saw was the pee wee. Beth identified this right away by it's call and we hadn't even seen it. Yup, I was impressed! It wasn't too long before we saw one of my favorites - a yellow warbler. Maybe it's the bright color that makes it easy to see, maybe it's because they are frequently in groups - but I can always spot them. They are little but oh, so colorful.

As we wandered towards the springs area of the park Beth pointed out a great horned owl. I've seen owls in the park before but gosh, they blend in with the trees and I had a difficult time finding this owl. It was just one young owl sitting all by itselt, but it still looked fair sized on the tree branch. And, I didn't really see the bird until we were on the other side of the tree. What beautiful colors with several shades of tans and brown on the feathers - thank you MT FWP for good binocs!

We worked our way down to the Missouri River, then followed the river west. I was Cliff swallowssurpised to see quite a few walkers, no other birders, and we saw one photographer. The photographer had his camera set on a tripod and it looked like he was photographing cliff swallows.

The cliff swallows were fun to watch. Jeez, there were a lot of them. They don't show well on this photo but they were busy! In and out, zooming around. We wondered if they had young ones they were feeding. This type of terrain seemed well suited for their little mud huts.

Further along the trail we spotted an osprey in the air. As we watched, we saw several small birds picking on him. The osprey kept trying to get away but the smaller birds kept at him. My photo just shows one little bird but there were several who kept attacking the osprey.

Bullock's orioles, white pelicans, Franklin's gulls and California gulls, a bald eagle, kingfisher or kindbird (can't remember which one), catbird...and I know there were more. I wish I had taken my notebook with me but I was already juggling binoculars, a water bottle and a camera.

OspreyWe walked as far as the back area (river camp) of the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. The area behind the center was filled with a variety of birds - we could have spent a lot more time there but Beth realized we were already over the planned time and she had to go to work.

Everyone learned something, we had a pleasant walk, saw an amazing amount of birds and made new friends. I'd say that was a good way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday morning!

Central Montana's birding brochure is available at http://centralmontana.com/birding/ or by calling 800-527-5348 to have one mailed. It is a great free resource for 12 different birding routes in Central Montana.

Enjoy watching the amazing birds in Central Montana!

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JUL

18

Pie Research Continues at Fairfield's Cozy Corner

Cozy CornerToday seemed to be a slow day in the office, or maybe I was just wishing it was. I decided to take a couple hours after lunch and drive to Fairfield, MT and do some pie research.

Fairfield is a small town about 36 miles from Great Falls. The town has about 700 people, many involved in agriculture. This community proudly states they are the Malting Barley Capital of the World. And, believe me, there is a lot of malt barley grown there. A massive irrigation system, Greenfields Irrigation, delivers water to all those barley fields so yields are high.

We hope to put together a pie trail throughout Central Montana, a fun way to showcase some of the great restaurants serving homemade pie. And...making homemade pies.

As I drove in to Fairfield I was amazed at how pretty the town looked. There were flowers in all of the planters on the streets and even US flags all down the main street. Then I saw a banner welcoming people to Fairfield's annual event called Swim Days, a fundraiser for the town's swimming pool.

Michelle Beachy pieIt's always great to have some one-on-one time with the pie baker at the restaurant and when I arrived they were really busy, especially because of their annual event. I repeat, really busy!

I told the waitress what I was doing after she gave me the list of pies in the cooler. I asked if the pie baker was available and the waitress quickly disappeared to check. The answer - of course the baker was available and I was welcome to go back in the kitchen and chat with her.

After visiting with Michelle, the owner and pie baker, I learned that all of their pie crusts are homemade, all of their pudding fillings are homemade and all of their fruit fillings are homemade. You can't beat that! She also whipped cream, none of that readymade stuff here.

The pie I saw being created was tripleberry with a layer of vanilla pudding (yes, homemade pudding), then the homemade tripleberry filling, then it was topped with real whipped cream. What a delight!

pie at Cozy CornerI asked what the local favorite pie was and Michelle said they all sold well, although favorites changed a bit seasonally. Then she said she thought chocolate cream was probably their largest seller.

They also own Golden Harvest Cafe in Dutton, MT and she said the best seller there was strawberry rhubarb.

Today's choices at the Cozy Corner included tripleberry, red raspberry, peanut butter and peach. I decided to try red raspberry and I was not disappointed. Yum.

The Cozy Corner is open Monday - Saturday from 6:30am to 3pm with longer hours until 8pm on Thursdays and Fridays.

If you are traveling along US Hwy 89 watch for Fairfield and...time your stop to have some homemade pie at the Cozy Corner. Well, anytime is pie time in Central Montana!

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