Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.

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December 24, 2012
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Gwen Petersen: In a Sow's Ear 12-24-12


It’s time for Christmas letters. Of course, if the world ends on December 21 as somebody predicted, this won’t reach an audience. If the prediction is another “Oops!” read on.

Dear Everybody (still on the planet),

One of my favorite forms of garnering a good time, a satisfied feeling, a collection of warm memories is attending the annual Montana Stockgrowers’ Trade Show which took place last week.

The event was held in a building so huge one could hold a rodeo, a football game or a three ring circus should one wish to do so. Booth after booth after booth hosted vendors touting everything from irrigation pipes to ear tags to insurance to modular housing to leather goods to artsy stuff to …. on and on.

As for the crowd, it was a bit like floating in a tide pool of tall hats, sports coats worn with blue jeans and vests and every foot shod in boots. (My kinda folks).

One overhear conversations such as “... how’d your steers do this year?” Or someone with a cell phone clamped to one ear, asks, “Are you still wanting to sell those replacement heifers ...” Or, “... nearly had a wreck loading that last bunch ...” Or, “... yeah, Charlie couldn’t make it. His hired man quit so he had to stay home to feed ...”

Stockgrowers are family men so they bring the whole brood. Far as is known, only Shep the Cowdog stays home. I watched a tiny little cowgirl wearing a pink crinoline skirt (with pink cowgirl boots) discover a booth where the vendor was selling stick horses. She immediately took over and for the next hour or so, she changed horses, naming each new mount she selected.

Three highlights stood out for me. The Montana Stockgrowers Association published a book titled: “Big Sky Boots, Working Seasons of a Montana Cowboy.” The author, Lauren Chase, “tells the Montana ranch family story through a five-volume tabletop set titled ‘the Montana Family Ranching Series.e_SSRq” This first volume “features ranching men, documents their lives throughout one year, follows as they feed hay in breezing winter conditions, gathering on branding day, trailing cows and calves to pasture and as they sell their steers to markets.”

Stockgrowers — and agriculture endeavors in general — are faced with the task of teaching the world how food happens. Lauren’s book does a top notch job through amazing photography coupled with elegant narration. Shortage of space here limits my enthusiasm. Suffice to say, I eagerly await succeeding volumes.

Another book I’m shouting about — purchased at the Trade Show — is “Slidin’ Along with Lonnie Bell,” a fantastic history of western music full of terrific photos and stories. In his late 80s, Lonnie is a living legend. He’s done it all and still ramrods a Sunday morning radio show on KGHL where he plays classic old-time western music, recounts yarns about characters from his long life and invites recitations from cowboy poets.

And perhaps the most touching highlight of the Stockgrowers Trade Show for me was helping out in the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association booth featuring the program: Big Hearts Under the Big Sky. This program works to provide Montana outdoor adventures — fully guided and outfitted at no charge — to military wounded veterans and their families; and to individuals diagnosed with a life threatening illness and their families . To learn about this incredible organization, visit www.BigHeartsUnderTheBigSky.com. Their stories will make you smile and maybe cry and for sure make you feel good to the nth degree.

So, if the world doesn’t end on Dec. 21, Happy Christmas and ditto New Year’s!

Yours truly,

An Outrageous Old Cowgirl ...❖

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The Fence Post Updated Dec 24, 2012 04:10AM Published Dec 24, 2012 08:59AM Copyright 2012 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.