Tuesday, August 18, 2015

View From The Bridge 8/19/15

VIEW from the BRIDGE
By Muncie

On Tuesday the 11th I did my usual shift at the Visitor’s Information Center from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. A young man and his wife came in and in the conversation he said that his mother was coming to visit Fort Benton on Thursday. Her name was Mary and she was, (and still is,) an attendant for about 10 years at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell. She had never been to Fort Benton before and wanted to see where the Conrad family came from.

I alerted the volunteers due on shifts to call me when she arrived. I wanted to show her where the Conrad’s Honeymoon Cottage was and then direct her to our other attractions.

She actually arrived early on Friday morning after staying overnight in Great Falls to see the Louis and Clark Interpretive Center. I was called about 10:30 a.m. on Friday and when I arrived at the Center and met Mary, she asked, “How did you know my name and when I would be here?” I told her that her son told me on Tuesday and she was surprised. Her son travels around Montana on business and she had not spoken to him. I showed her and her husband Bob, the cottage and sent them on to the Museum of the Upper Missouri to start their tour.

I spoke with Mary today, Monday, and she said that she loved Fort Benton and enjoyed her visit immensely.  If you are making a trip to Kalispell and you have not been to the Conrad Mansion, it is a must. The top floor is filled with pictures and items from Fort Benton. Not only is the Mansion beautiful but the grounds are a pleasure to view. Be sure to tell Mary that you are from Chouteau County and hello from Fort Benton.

Also on that Tuesday, a man and his son came into the Visitors Center. I always ask where they are from and the father said that they were from Atlanta, Georgia. I said that I had a son who worked in Atlanta but lived in a small town called Suwanee that is a suburb of Atlanta. The man looked at me in surprise and said that he knew where Suwanee was as he lived there for 15 years. What are the odds that he would come to Fort Benton, Montana that is a suburb of nowhere and talk to someone who also knew where Suwanee, Georgia was located? It’s a small, small world.

My affair with the Chouteau County Fair is honest and true. I came to Montana from the Detroit area in the state of Michigan and I had never heard of a County Fair.

I attended my first CC Fair in 1993 and was told excitedly by my Sweetheart, that we would be going to the Demolition Derby on Sunday evening. What! A demolition derby, what in heavens name was that? Well, now you will know who screamed the loudest and had the most fun. It was me who knew nothing about County Fairs, farming, ranching, wheat, never learned to can fruits and veggies, ever entered a single baked goods item to be judged, or even knew what a blue, red or white ribbon stood for.

I still have never learned to can but those of you who do, please forgive me. I have other talents. I don’t know what they are as yet, but they must be out there somewhere. I did sew most of the families clothing for about 14 years but gave it up when my daughter graduated from high school. I made her prom and graduation dress and that was the last time I ever used the sewing machine.

I took a quilting class once and made a pillow that I still have. That was the end of that.  My eyesight was not good enough for those tiny stitches. I really enjoy checking out the quilts that are on display at the fair.

In the area where the canned goods are displayed, are shelves from one end of the room to the other. They were filled, in the old days, with bottles. Not today. This past weekend there were perhaps two dozen bottles and most of them were entered by the same woman.  (I wonder if I could pay her $100.00 an hour, if she would come to my house and doing canning for me. Actually, no amount of money could compensate the work that canning involves.)

There was a minimum of baked goods and compared to the first few years of my residence here and it was sad. Another section had each town in Chouteau County had displaying a fruit and vegetable type stand. We truly enjoyed looking at all those products of hard work.

What is happening here? The Chouteau County Fair should be the most exciting time of the year for farmers and ranchers. I am not excusing town folk either. I love the getting together with old friends and neighbors. I witnessed a lot of that this past weekend. Do you realize how lucky you are to live here in this rural community?

I came from an area where there were 3 or 4 million people. When I moved from my old neighborhood to a new one in Michigan, I only knew the neighbors on either side of me and never knew them well enough to consider doing anything in the world to help them. I was a stranger in a strange town.

There were no open spaces and you drove from one town right into another. My move to Montana was the best decision I ever made. God bless America, Montana, and Fort Benton.

I am ashamed of myself.  I did bake a couple of years ago but this year I said, “Oh it is too hot to bake.” I promised myself to do more next year if I’m still around. I will bake when it is cool and put it in the freezer. (I hope that is allowed.)

My friend Nancy L. entered the wild flowers from the garden this year and I won 4 blue ribbons and 3 red ones. It was exciting. I am going to try to do what I can to promote the CC Fair. Can I get you excited enough to do the same? Only your cooperation will make next year the 104th CC Fair a greater success.

Another event I am questioning is the attendance of the Saturday evening entertainment.  The audience was very sparse. Where were all those people who complained about not having entertainment on Saturday night?

This is a quote that I overheard, “People pay $14.00 just to go through the gates to the State Fair in Great Falls and they will not pay $14.00 to see great entertainment in Fort Benton.”   It is expensive to bring in good entertainment. If you are a Country Music fan and were not there in the stands on Saturday evening, you missed a terrific show. I have loved country music since I was a teenager and it was called Hillbilly music then.

As I contemplate the Fair today, Monday, it is now here and gone for another year. Next year wouldn’t it be great if each family would enter one thing. I will suggest to the Fair Board to wrap that theme around, “All for One and One for All.” How do you like that idea?

My mother taught me about WEATHER. “That room of yours looks like a tornado went through it.”