Tuesday, September 8, 2009

View From The Bridge 9/9/09

“VIEW from the BRIDGE”
by Muncie Morger

If you were not at the contest between Chinook and Fort Benton last Friday evening, you missed a game that will not be soon forgotten. There was some doubt in the stands for most of the game and a real nail-biter but at the end, it was awesome.

We have a rule that we never leave a game until it is over. That brought to mind a Dodgers game in Great Falls when we sat through 15 innings. The stands were empty and it was near 1:00 a.m. but we hung in there. We saw some spectators leaving on Friday and they missed the last few seconds of the game when the Longhorns achieved the victory by 1 single point. The touchdown pass was caught by Klayton Sykes and the winning point kicked by Kayle Axtman made the stands go wild.

It was a beautiful evening with a full moon…the perfect football night. We seniors think that perhaps our singing of “Shine on Harvest Moon” may have added a wee bit of an incentive to the plays. You know we are behind you all the way. Go Horns, you have it made now.

Sorry, there were not enough sign-ups for the bus to travel to Stanford next Saturday. Will not be doing any more on this program since there is a lack of interest.

Ruth Carlstrom turned in this story last week. Gary was the artist who sculpted the “Cowboy” statue that stands next to the Old Bridge. He, with his wife and her sister, visited Fort Benton from East Glacier (where he does his artwork,) when Ruth was doing her shift at the Visitors Center. The women bought charm bracelets, several charms, and were given the “Cowboy” charm. Gary was given a chain with the “Cowboy” charm on it. Ruth did not have her camera with her but they took pictures of Gary and the statue and said they would send them to her. Gary told stories of working on the sculpture with George Montgomery.

George started the “Cowboy” self-portrait and had pieces of it lying all over the studio. It was at the time that George was having problems with perspective and keeping things in balance. Gary picked up pieces: a hand here and a foot there, put them in place and while George directed him, they put the pieces together. This story from Gary was “the rest of the story.”

The cottonwood trees along the Levee and in Old Fort Park are one of the attraction treasures that Fort Benton has been blessed with. The following article is my opinion about the trees and my remembrances of some stories about them. Keep in mind that I have a good memory but it is short and getting shorter by the day.

About ten years ago, while I was still on the Tree Board Committee, I had an incident that perhaps some of you remember. It was about 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, we had a few days of 90-degree weather (like this past week,) and I was on my daily walk. When I came off the Old Bridge, I decided to walk on the shady street rather than the sunny trail. (I believe that at that time the walking trail was not yet in place. When I reached the area across the street from the Price Rite, there was a very loud crack of a tree branch breaking off. (There is a reason that this happens with the high temperature and no wind but because of the Holiday weekend I could not reach the State Forestry Department. I will try to get that information for next week.) It hit the trail exactly where I would have been walking had I been on it.There was not a soul in sight and Art Bennett was working on his daughter’s house on the scaffold. He asked if I was all right and I immediately returned home to get my camera. I was in tears by this time knowing how closely I had come to being seriously hurt or the other consequence. Wally returned to the scene with me and he actually turned white when he saw the size of the limb. I called Tim (River Press editor) to take some pictures so he could develop them immediately for me to take to the Council meeting the next evening. I wanted the pictures for my own personal use and much to my surprise when the River Press came out on Wednesday; the picture was in the paper. That is why I think that some of you saw the photo and may remember the incident. I cannot remember if this incident spurred the spending of many thousands of dollars to have the trees on the Levee and in Old Fort Park trimmed but that was accomplished.

Two years ago I went to a Council meeting to ask that money be appropriated in the July budget to purchase some cottonwood trees. At the time I thought that replacement of many trees could be done and a more desirable 40 feet apart. Don Hazen explained that that would not be the proper way to do it because the smaller trees growing up with the old trees would not get the proper sun. I should concentrate on just replacing the trees that are missing. I was told, while a member of the Tree Board, that the cottonwoods would last another 100 years. I totally disagreed with that analysis.

About a month ago, I talked again with Don about replacement of five cottonwoods on the Levee that have been missing for a few years. He said that there were no monies available because of the bark beetle damage the last two years. There were trees cut down and others treated.
I then considered Plan B. I am going to ask five organizations in town to purchase one male cottonwood tree and the funds for the planting of the tree. Last week I attended the General Federation of Women’s Clubs with my request. It will be brought up to the membership at our regular meeting for a vote. I contacted one other organization to be put on their board meeting agenda but it was full and I will try again next month.In the meanwhile, I found that there is not a good selection of trees at this time, it would be more advantageous to wait until spring when there will be larger cottonwoods; they will be balled, and ready to be planted.

To strengthen this validness of this project was the breaking of another limb last Friday under the same circumstances (temperature and no wind,) The tree limb was completely rotten and fortunately it did not fall on Thursday when the Farmer’s Market was in progress. My two-eye witnesses on Friday said that it made a loud crash and fell into the street. Again, fortunately the nearest car was 10 feet away. It is so unusual for finding a parking spot on Front Street between the Grand Union and the Visitors Center Old City Hall is not always do-able.
I dearly love our old cottonwoods and if you feel the same, please support the motion when your organization brings it up for a vote. If you do not belong to any organization, please call the City Hall and let them know that you want the cottonwoods to stay on the Levee. I know that money is so tight now but there are some things that cannot wait. The trees are in bad shape and check it out for yourself.

I know that Tim will have a picture of the broken limb and I too have colored pictures. A reminder of the web site is http://www.fortbenton.com/, click on Birthplace of Montana, click on enter and the View is on the right hand side. While you are at the site check out the video on the Museums and the Old Fort, which are brand new and viewable at

Children’s Heritage Day is scheduled for Thursday, September 24, at the site of the Historic Old Fort Benton. Children’s Heritage Day is sponsored by the River & Plains Society in partnership with the Fort Benton Elementary School.

The morning sessions for grades 4, 5, and 6 begins at 8:45 a.m. and grades K, 1, 2, and 3 begins at 12:45 p.m. For the first time since some time before 1869, the Fort’s cannon will be fired to welcome the visitors to the Fort.

This year the students will explore the interaction between the Fort Traders and the American Indians…for instance how did they communicate when most did not speak the other’s language? What kind of survival skills did the American Traders learn from the Indian’s to enable them to survive on the Northern Plains? What kind of trade goods were made at the Fort because they were in demand from our trading partners?

The students will visit these stations where they will learn American Indian Sign Language, how to start a fire using only a piece of steel and a flint, and watch a blacksmith and silversmith create trade goods.

This year’s presenters are member of the Manuel Lisa Party of the Montana Brigade of the American Mountain Men. The presenters are Gene Hickman, Paul Degel, Walt Walker, Glen Goldthwait, John Kroskey, Mike Nottingham, and Bruce “Burnt Spoon” Druliner. Adults are welcome to stop by and observe.

By this coming weekend we will be half way into September. I wish someone could tell me how the days are flying by so quickly. God bless America, Montana, Chouteau County, and Fort Benton.