Business Bigwigs in Butte

Butte, a mining town almost a century removed from its heyday, is the unlikely landing spot this week for some of the business world's biggest names.

Google's Eric Schmidt and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg will be joined by CEOs from companies like Ford, Boeing, Delta Airlines, FedEx, electric super car-maker Tesla, ConocoPhillips and Hewlett-Packard.

The glittering luminaries, drawn by the invitation of retiring Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, will be joined by other business leaders in an economically struggling city that was once one of the largest west of the Mississippi and dubbed "the world's richest hill." The Democrat readily admits his sway over tax and budget issues gets the business leaders to his home state.

Butte is about a third of its peak size today, at about 34,000 citizens. Gone is the bustle and famous red light district. Although it remains a colorful place, its aging population hasn't kept pace with improving economies elsewhere in a state that features one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

For at least two days this week, though, it again becomes a bustling hotbed of entrepreneurial dynamos as several thousand people are expected for the Montana Jobs Summit.

MORE>>>San Jose News

For the Birds!

Montana bald eagleA chart on the wall lists all of the raptors admitted, why they're there and if and when it was released. The Montana Raptor Conservation Center sees an average of 150 birds a year. This time last year, they were at 108 birds. This year, they're at 141.

BOZEMAN, Mont. -

A raptor rehabilitation center in Bozeman tells NBC Montana it's on track to help a record number of birds this year -- all with just two paid employees, private donations and grants. When we found out just how busy these folks are, we wanted to find out why and how they're keeping their doors open with limited resources.

Montana Raptor Conservation Center Director Becky Kean and Assistant Director Jordan Spyke are caring for a young osprey who just made it to the center Wednesday. When they responded to the call, the bird was tangled on bailing net, high in its nest. It had a swollen leg and, possibly, a fractured pelvis.



Oh-oh Here Come the Bears!

Montana black bearsOfficals are warning that a poor crop of whitebark pine seeds will bring bears to lower elevations this fall. Unlike the last two years, which produced abundant crops of whitebark pine seeds, this year few cones were produced by the high elevation trees.
An increase in human-bear encounters in the backcountry is expected this fall as bears seek alternative foods common at lower elevations. In the last week Park and Forest officials have observed a significant increase in bear activity at lower elevations near trails, roads, and developments where bears are foraging for berries, bison carcasses, digging ant hills, and ripping open logs for ants. Berry production has been especially good this year. In addition, apple trees have been highly productive this year. However, berry producing shrubs and apple trees are generally found at lower elevations more frequently inhabited by people.
Whether enjoying a day with friends hunting on National Forest System lands or hiking on your public lands remember to follow food storage guidelines. These guidelines have been in place for many years in Yellowstone National Park, the Gallatin National Forest, and the Beartooth Ranger District of the Custer National Forest and are intended to help keep both you and bears safe.
When hiking on National Park lands or hiking or hunting National Forest System lands, carry bear spray, hike in groups of 3 or more people, be alert for bears at all times, and make noise so you don't surprise bears. If you encounter a bear, do not run, slowly back away to put distance between you and the bear. This often diffuses the confrontation. If the bear charges, stand your ground and use your bear spray. In most cases the bear will break off the charge or veer away. If the bear makes contact, drop to the ground face down on your stomach, with your hands clasped behind your neck and lie still. Make sure the bear is gone before moving.
When camping in the backcountry, hang all food and garbage from food storage poles or bear boxes that are provided at every Yellowstone Park backcountry campsite and some National Forest campsites. Food should be hung at all times except during preparation and consumption. If a bear approaches your campsite, yell and bang pots, pans, or other objects to discourage it from entering.


A Treasure Trove of Old Photographs

By Kathleen Clary Miller

Kathleen Clary Miller has written 300+ columns and stories for periodicals both local and national, and has authored three books ( She lives in the woods of the Ninemile Valley, thirty miles west of Missoula.


          “Who’s this?” asked my twenty-eight-year-old daughter, Clary.  She, her year-younger sister, Kate, my sister, and my niece had each traveled from a different state in the nation to celebrate my sixtieth birthday.  Our party favors had arrived a few days earlier in a box my sister sent ahead filled with five pairs of matching flannel pajamas. 

It was raining outside, so at noon we were dressed in them, my girls and I snuggled in front of the fire ogling old photographs while the other two hunched over jigsaw puzzle pieces laid face up on the corner table.  They only interrupted their concentrated effort to take a look at any picture of particular interest we’d unearthed. 

               “That’s your grandmother,” I replied after looking over Clary’s shoulder at the black and white image of a knock-kneed and awkward pre-teenager dressed in a droopy white dress, her blunt haircut adorned with a crooked veil.  “It was her Confirmation.”  Small wonder her granddaughter could not recognize in the sour expression of the girl who stood akimbo and squinted into the camera that glamorous woman who all their life had smiled gaily while whisking around in crisp petticoats beneath Grace Kelly dresses, wearing high spike heels to plant potted daffodils.

            When I was growing up, my mother stored her uncategorized cache of family photographs in the deep bottom drawer of her mahogany bedside table.  There was well-intentioned talk of albums in which she would someday house them—annually, her New Year’s resolution.  But organization was not mama’s forte.  The surfaces of our house were paragons of tidiness, but if you opened her desk drawer, you risked the ability to close it. 

            Once a year or so my sister and I would sit Indian style for hours on the floor of our parent’s bedroom—sanctified ground with plushier carpet than even in the living room—to gingerly open the infamous drawer and randomly select black-and-white streaked and smeared Polaroids from the hopeless jumble of recorded memories.  As we grew, our trips to the stash revealed more recent poses.  “Welcome to Yosemite” advertised the roadside sign that we’d reluctantly flanked, wearing the matching red, white, and blue outfits my mother had purchased for the road trip.  Like Dorothy skipping into the poppy field after days in the dreary forest, suddenly we were in color!

            At some point during my college years, being the “Type A” daughter I stepped in, dumped the drawer on its side, piled the passage of time into stacks, and tidily inserted them into leather bound books merchandised at our local stationery store.  By this time, my own penchant for snapshots that well might now be diagnosed as Instamatic Mania required I become a steady customer of the establishment, and my father build more bookshelves for the upstairs attic. 

            After my mother died and the family home had to be sold, I thought twice about hauling dozens of bulky photo albums to my own home with inadequate storage space.  On an especially emotional afternoon between the signing of real estate documents and close of escrow I peeled carefully arranged pictures off their sticky backgrounds and slipped them from their plastic sleeves —to drop them untitled and willy nilly into cardboard boxes with lids that could stack neatly in any closet corner.  Whenever we got around to looking at them, I thought, we’d pick them one by one and out of any order—each curled-edge square a time-machine surprise.

            “What in the heck were you doing here, Mom?”  Clary burst out laughing and pointed to the tissue paper flower arrangement the size of a beach ball tethered to my noggin and atop my body clothed in nothing but skin-tight green leotard and tights—at an age where my tummy still protruded and my braces glinted in the sun.

            “My mother’s idea of the perfect Halloween costume—I’m a flower!”  I said as I rolled my eyes.  It’s vital that a mother save such incriminating evidence of her own “bad phase” so that her own children are comforted by images of theirs that they consider she cruelly captured on film.  Not to mention that by comparison, their memory of my having permitted them any costume of their choosing proved considerable parental benevolence on my part.

            “Look at this one, Mom!” Kate exclaimed while producing the one of me sitting at her third birthday party, my hair in a long, blonde, French braid, “You’re so young!”  I knew that was coming. 

            Despite experiencing childhood in different eras, my daughters couldn’t help but notice the resemblance to my sister and me—color-coordinated outfits, poses on a bench in the front yard, sitting side by side wearing red coats and holly berry wreaths in front of the decorated Christmas tree. 

            It’s a senior thing to say, but nowadays pictures abound in staggering numbers.  They are flopped by the hundreds into folders on computer laptops, accessible at the click of a mouse—no spatial storage necessary.  I must admit the bright screen enables enhanced, colorful and dramatic viewing.

            “Still,” Clary mused when she passed to me a frozen moment in time showing her as an infant so I could please explain whatever had possessed me to put her in that baggy dress, “there’s something about reaching into a box, picking out a picture, and then fingering it in your hands.”  Indeed.

            Hours later, after tripping through time and generations, we set the first box aside and left the second one for tomorrow.  Meanwhile, the five of us gathered together in our pajamas, operated the automatic timer on my digital camera and saved the moment after discarding, right there on the spot any frames that didn’t suit our fancy.  I immediately connected a power cord from camera to laptop and e-mailed our top five selections to each of them.  They dragged them into a folder marked “Reunion,” or some other such title for the precious and fleeting time we would spend together.

            The morning I ferried them all to the airport to fly to their respective homes, once again my throat thickened and my heart ached with the loss.  I drove to Kinko’s and transferred the digital images until they slid from the machine through its slot, metamorphosed into glossy photographs that I promptly mailed to each of their addresses.  But before I stamped the envelopes, I jotted a quick note.

            To begin your own cardboard box.



The Biggest Lake Island West of Minnesota

Wild Horse IslandDon’t be fooled by the scale of your map Wild Horse Island is massive.

The forested isle off the west shore of Flathead Lake is home to 2,160 acres of old growth Ponderosa pine, trail labyrinths and families of bighorn sheep, mule deer and, yes, wild horses.

It’s the largest island in the biggest freshwater lake west of Minnesota and one of 10 primitive state parks in Montana, meaning almost all 2,100 acres of habitat are open to the public but sustained like a wilderness.

A year-round day-use state park is on site and visitors are welcome to take part in bird watching and other wildlife viewing as well as hiking, fishing and swimming.

The hermetic isle remains an historic landmark for the Salish-Kootenai Indians, who once pastured their horses on site.

MORE>>>Flathead Beacon

Before I Missoula

Missoula artIt’s not every day that you get to announce your most intimate life goals to the community on a public art installation. But for the next month Missoulians are encouraged to write what they want to do before they die on a giant 24-by-7-foot chalkboard hanging on the west side of the Central Park parking garage on West Main Street downtown.

Part art installation and part community activity, the board was officially unveiled to the public Friday afternoon by Mayor John Engen and Syann Stevens, co-founder of, a community bartering website.

“At first I wanted to write, ‘I want to eat mayonnaise with a spoon,’ ” Engen joked as he walked up to the installation, self-conscious about his penmanship.

Instead, his vision was a tasteful “Before I die, I want to leave this place a little better than when I entered it, like so many before me have done.”

MORE>>>The Missoulian

Roving Tires, Skateboard Roofers, Toothpaste Bombs, Miniature Donkey At Large (?)... and a Black Pillow

Montana police reports Flathead County Sheriff's and Kalispell Police Reports

just another day....

09-06-13 Tuesday 9/3/2013

10:30 a.m. A stray husky with a “yellow head” was captured on Three Mile Drive.

10:32 a.m. Another loose husky was stirring up trouble in a Martin City trailer park.

12:47 p.m. A Kalispell man found a bag of pot in his house.

1:20 p.m. A camper on the North Fork reported that someone stole his flashlight and sleeping bag out of his tent.

1:43 p.m. Reportedly, someone in Evergreen rolled a couple of tires down a hill into the highway, nailing a blue truck and narrowly missing another vehicle.

2:04 p.m. County inmates were caught constructing “toothpaste bombs.”

2:45 p.m. A local man reported that he had been pushed and shoved. When a deputy contacted him, he was too busy to talk.

2:52 p.m. A Bigfork woman reported that the neighbor kids frequently skateboard on her roof.

3:44 p.m. Someone spotted a dog on the side of the highway. A deputy found a black pillow.

7:31 p.m . Three burros and a miniature donkey were at large on Demersville Road.

8:30 p.m. A local man claimed that the mother of one of his children was stationed in the back of his truck, refusing to move.

MORE>>>Flathead Beacon

Photographing Fire

By Jenna Caplette
Jenna Caplette migrated from California to Montana in the early 1970s, first living on the Crow Indian reservation, then moving to Bozeman where she owned a downtown retail anchor for eighteen years. These days she owns Bozeman BodyTalk & Energetic Healthcare, hosts a monthly movie night, teaches and writes about many topics. 


I just returned from a few days in Red Lodge, where the Rock Creek Fire burns just north of the scars from the Willie Fire. My daughter and I attended the Willie Nelson concert in August, 2000 and watched that fire blow up. Seems like most years since, fire has been a staple late-summer presence in Montana and the Rocky Mountain West.  
Fire makes a compelling photographic subject, one of eerie beauty.  To photograph wildfire:
  • Photograph at a distance. You’ll need to because fire zones are protected both because you need to stay out of the way of fire fighters and because your safety is essential.
  • Use the sports mode or a similar setting that uses a fast shutter speed to produce sharp, detailed images. Slow speeds give softer looking images. Experiment.
  • Fire is particularly dramatic contrasted against an evening or night sky.  Avoid distracting artificial lights like yard lights and headlights.
  • To help get clear, sharp photographs, use a tripod to stabilize your camera. Or hand-hold using a lens with built-in vibration control. Why? Vibration kills sharpness as surely as a bad lens or bad focusing. If you plan to take long exposures, be sure to use your tripod and turn off your vibration control.
To photograph smoke, isolate a particular cloud of smoke, thinking of it as if you were photographing a person. Frame the photograph to best express the smoke plume’s presence. To create an effective image of a wider smoke pattern, consider what you should exclude from it rather than what to include. Taking several photographs may be the best way to train your eye. Study each to learn what you do or don’t like about your results. Make notes. Try again.
Perhaps the safest and best way to practice photographing fire is with your safely-contained backyard campfire. And you’ll still get some dramatic results. 
By the way, where are most of your photos right now? Stockpiled on your camera’s memory card? Stored in a box or boxes stacked in a closet? Any emergency, flood or fire, reminds you to consider where and how to safely store your photographs.