Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Meeting the Montgomerys and visiting the historic Grant-Kohrs Ranch

We actually had an anxiety-free drive on Monday from the Gallatin National Forest to Deer Lodge, Montana.  Nothing broke, overheated or went flat.  A couple of on-going issues were present, but the drive was pleasant and about 160 miles in length.

As we pulled into our site at Indian Creek Campground a good-looking blond lady came over and said to Sandy:  "Are you Sandy?"  It was Jane Montgomery.

I "met" Jane's husband Jim on the RV-Dreams Forum well over two years ago.  I figured that anybody who called himself "Gummy" had to be an interesting person.   I was right. We went to dinner Monday night and then visited within each others motorhomes.  Jim and Jane are like old friends.  They are fun to be with, easy going and the kind of people who make unpretentious friendships.  We like them.

Me, Sandy, Jane and Jim Montgomery

Now for the ranch part.

Jim works a few days each week as a chuck wagon cook at the nearby  Grant-Kohrs Ranch which became a National Historic Site by an Act of Congress in 1972. At one time the ranch contained 30,000 acres.  Today it is 1,000 acres in size.   Tuesday afternoon Jim and Jane accompanied us on a tour of this active working cattle ranch.  The buildings are in great condition and the original home and addition built by Conrad Kohrs are exceptional.

While this is a rear view of the cattle baron's home, it depicts 
the 9,000 SF home better than from the front.

The home had all of the modern conveniences of the 19th century.  Unfortunately,  photographs are not permitted and lighting inside the home is kept low to preserve surfaces and finishes. 

One of the spectacular household items we saw was a work of needlepoint  by Augusta Kohrs, Conrad's wife.  It resembles a fine drawing and should really hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The bunk house exactly as it was when used by cowboys.  Many
were just teenagers or in their early twenties, and 
found an honest wage for honest work -- usually between $30
and $40/month when driving cattle on the trail.

We did get to take a bit of ranch history home with us:  a recipe for gingerbread in the handwriting of Augusta Kohrs.  Sandy said she has all of the ingredients.  Hmmmm.  Could there be some gingerbread in my future?

The steer in the center is a Texas Longhorn, noted for the 
distance between the tips of their horns.  This bull's horns 
measure 84 inches between tips. 

Conrad Kohrs kept meticulous records of transactions and correspondence and today those documents present a 130-year-history of cattle ranching in Montana.  During our guided tour of the home, we learned that there were actually document copiers back in the 18th and early 19th centuries.  Letters were written using a special type of ink, then placed into a press along with a damp sheet of translucent paper.  The pressure of the press transferred the ink to the second sheet, resulting in an exact copy.  This correspondence and business records were bound into annual journals.

The park ranger who took us on a 30-minute-tour of the home gave a thoroughly engrossing oral presentation.  Seems like this is always the case with rangers.

On Wednesday we drove to Missoula in order to have a problem on the big 450 HP Cummins engine checked out first thing Thursday morning. Then it is on to Thompson Falls. 

Stay tuned.

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