Tom in Montana
By 1945 after several years of drought there was no grass on the Trigg Ranches, and
Steve and Uncle Dan hunted for pasture to lease; they found a nice ranch on the
Yellowstone River in Montana, near Custer, bought it, and shipped all their cattle up
there. Steve and Nana moved north. A couple of years later Tom, aged eleven or so, was
invited by his bachelor uncle to come spend the summer.
As soon as school was out Tom boarded Braniff (Frontier?) and flew all day – Amarillo,
Denver, Cheyenne — to Billings, landing toward midnight, and was met by a cowboy
with a bushy black beard. There must have been something familiar about the eyes,
though, because despite gunfire at the terminal — welcoming a movie star arriving for
“Frontier Days”, as it turned out — he stayed.
One of the tasks of the summer was helping with haying in the lush pastures along the
river bottom, and it wasn’t long before he found himself driving the tractor hauling the
haywagon to and from the barn. He found time to fish in the slough behind the cookhouse
and provided some big catfish — 27”? — to fry for dinner.
Exploring the far corners of that beautiful ranch was always interesting. Among the
treasures Tom collected were several foot-long light bulbs discarded at the foot of a tall
airline beacon, and they were carefully packed in his suitcase for the return. Along with
them in the overweight suitcase were a number of large, fascinating rocks.