I love love love this part of the world. It feels magical. I will say that I have not endured a winter in Northern Montana though. Montana winters shape people and culture, ultimately forcing submission as well as a greater drive for survival. I love places where people know they are not in charge. Montana is that. Tourists flock to Montana in the summer then move here not understanding what a Montana winter is. Winter keeps the population low here, it also produces some super burly peeps. However, this is about summer, but you don’t get summer without winter :).
I would call my in-laws up in Valier burly peeps. They live and ranch on the Blackfeet Indian reservation in the heart of grizzly country. Let’s just say they have lots of stories! We camped up here when we went to North American Indian Day’s on the Blackfeet Reservation which you can read about in this link. They can see multiple grizzlies in a day on the ranch. As does most everyone else around here. The image below is what you would see driving away from their house. This is their road/driveway. They just leased 1000 acres of this riparian zone to the federal government for 20 years dedicated solely to wildlife habitat, aka a major grizzly zone. I love this as Grizzlies are a hot topic in this part of the world; there is no middle ground.
This year grizzlies were delisted from the Endangered Species List, however, they are still protected up here through state management. According to my friend Bonnie, who heads all bear issues for the Sierra Club, state bear management in this part of Montana seems to be positive. A lot of this has to do with how they are counting bears. She feels it is an accurate estimate. Contrary to southwestern Montana and Wyoming where the state establishes population numbers based off of hunter reports, which can obviously be skewed if they do not like the animal to begin with.
Below is a nice little pic of their house. I love how the trees dwarf the place. I feel it speaks to the point that their house is only a little piece of what they call home.
Below is an image I took from their backyard looking out onto part of their property. Jordan, my niece, took Emerald and I horseback riding on a couple of the horses in this photo. She went and rounded up the horses from wherever they were and off we went. We got to run and ride bareback. It was really fun.
I asked Jordan, my niece, how many acres they have and she said she didn’t know. Bonnie later told me, and my husband who grew up on a ranch confirmed, that this question is not always received well by ranchers. Travis said it’s like asking how many head of cattle you have, or how much money you have in the bank.
Apparently, Jordan likes getting her horses from the reservation because they are survivors. Life on the reservation can be tough for everyone, including animals. When we were there, Jordan’s friend who is staying with them for the summer, brought a puppy home from the reservation with a broken leg.
The backyard badger. One evening as the sun was beginning to set I braved the bugs and cruised around to take some photos. Jordan had told me about a badger her dogs had killed while we were riding horses. Well, here it is, in the backyard. Sophie the pup in the back was proud of this kill. It’s bigger than she is!
One thing I really value about traditional ranching culture is life and death awareness. Death is a part of life and happens a lot. I think ranchers can get a bad wrap for what is ultimately the consumer drive for more meat. Ranchers are having to keep up with the “Jones’s” (so to speak) more and more to make a living. By keeping up with the Jones’s I mean efficiency. Ranchers are always working to improve efficiency and there are always new things coming out to do this. Trent and his sons work all day every day all summer long. All day starts at 5 am. Work ethic is legit in these parts!