Guidelines for Letters to the Editor
Letters may be edited for length, clarity, taste, and to prevent libel. Include the writer’s first and last name, phone number, and address for verification purposes. Your name and town of residence will be published with your letter.
Name: Larry Lahren
Subject: Ranchos Deluxe
We need to come to grips with the gentrified folk that have escaped to Montana to increase their investment portfolios and live the Owen Wister alter ego.
The California-born via New Jersey, governor of Montana sports the ever-present, over-sized, Freudian compensation, belt buckle with his ranch brand. A man that “cries macho” and exhibits masculinity by body-slamming a reporter half his size and dispatching a radio-collared wolf in a trap.
A candidate for a Montana U.S House seat, when he isn’t cribbing a travel invoice, is clad in cowboy attire with a black hat. This potential House Seat politico tries to portray John Wayne, but resembles a goofy ex-jock variety of Jethro of the Beverly Hillbillies.
The new women of the west sport over-sized belt buckles and sequin-laden clothing, resembling a hybrid Dolly Parton and Dale Evans.
Four civil lawsuits have been filed by these newcomers in my area: one, over the rights of an adjacent landowner to lease his land for hunting, one, against a neighbor that had been using a poorly defined easement to walk his dog for over thirty years (to the Montana Supreme Court), one, over a traditional stock drive route and one, when the newcomer attempted to close a county road.
Ironically, while benefiting from conservation easements, tax shelters, and property appreciation, they want to tell us “riff-raff” and “hicks” what we need to do to preserve the land and lifestyles. As Owen Wister notes, “ When a man ain't got no ideas of his own, he'd ought to be kind o' careful who he borrows 'em from.”
Name: Larry Lahren
Subject: Livingston Flooding
“The Yellowstone River reached its highest stage...8 feet 10 inches on gauge board on the bridge at the foot of Main Street...A dike protecting the Riverside Addition broke at South I street flooding the residential area as far north as East Lewis Street.” Livingston Enterprise, June 9, 1894.
After the 2022 flood of the Yellowstone River through Livingston, Montana, a number of assertions about flood frequency have been espoused, for example, 1 in 100 years, 1 in 500 years and 1 in 1000 years. The following floods in the Livingston area have been documented since the quote above:
1918- 32,000 cfs, taking out the 9th St. bridge, Harvat’s bridge and the railroad bed east of the railroad bridge.
1974 – 30,900 cfs.
1996 and 1997 – 32,200 cfs -two years in a row, Rustad family accesses their home with a row boat.
2011- 30,300 cfs.
2022- 54,700 cfs -hospital evacuated, storage units, animal shelter, etc. flooded.
According to the USGS, the 100-year flood is essentially an estimate of the long-term average, but floods “happen irregularly” and it is “all about chance”. The years 1996 and 1997, with the same flood levels attests to this conclusion.
In the Livingston area, seven major floods have been documented since 1894 (128 years) thus an average of one every 18 years. Noting that four floods have occurred in the past 26 years, or one every 6-7 years.
As plans develop to create a state-of-the-art Wellness Center in Livingston, Montana, it remains to be seen if the proposed location will be within the Yellowstone River flood plain. Indeed, will we have to learn the same science versus politics lesson that Nick Mott noted in 2022, “rising rivers don’t necessarily follow the lines on a map”.
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Flood plain hustle
Name: Larry Lahren
Subject: Flood plain hustle
The following events outline how a public health care facility, through political manipulation, became located on the Yellowstone River floodplain near Livingston, Montana.
The health care facility was originally planned for the west end of the City of Livingston, in a non-floodplain area, with in-place water and sewer infrastructure. Since there wasn’t an updated Growth Policy, the west of town location use-type could not be changed from its agricultural-use designation.
A dirt berm was constructed by the landowner, set back from the east edge of the river so Corps of Engineers permits were not needed, to apparently prevent flooding of a 20-acre area that would be donated for the hospital location.
The landowner then recruited a group of ”Concerned Citizens”- which were ram-rodded by a former county commissioner - to use the county required creation of a Growth Policy as a red-herring, socialist, property rights issue - along with lawsuits and a recall petition to check-mate the creation of an updated county Growth Policy. This political ploy provided the time needed for a portion of land east of the City to be annexed into the City.
Then 20 acres of the western portion of the annexed City land was donated for the health care location.
Oops, the donation of the annexed 20 acres of land was determined to be on the floodplain. However, 10 acres of land adjacent to the donated 20 floodplain acres, was purchased because: “the 1976 floodplain maps are not real … just a sliver is on the floodplain”… and it was “affordable” ($300,000 or $30,000 per acre). The City of Livingston rejected the Corps of Engineers and FEMA floodplain maps and hired a consulting firm for $270,000 to evaluate the floodplain boundaries as based on “elevations” and narrowed the floodplain area.
After the completion of the health care facility construction, the landowner put an adajcent 100 acres up for sale. In 2020, the additional 100 acres, adjacent to the health care facility, in the same flood water area, was purchased for an undisclosed amount.
One board member noted the flood water area in the 100-acre purchase could be used for “green spaces and roads.” In 2021, the local hospital health care board resigned because of Billings Clinic “interference”.
2022- Flood waters forced the health care facility to temporarily close its doors to the public and to transfer patients to another facility. An event that will occur in the future, depending on annual snowfall and run-off conditions.
How I came to Montana
Name: Larry Lahren
Subject: How I came to Montana
* The following story was found among some early records recorded for the Montana State Writer’s Project that was conducted in Montana during the 1930s. The following story was recorded by my grandfather’s sister-in-law, Clara Riley as part of the stories she put together for the Wibaux area. It is re-typed as the original form.
How I Came To Montana
Mrs. Mary Edighofer
My home was in Rapids, Minnesota. One day in January, 1912, I received a letter from my sister-in-law asking me to go to Wibaux, Montana, to care for sick cousin as she was unable to go herself. She sent me $25.00 for traveling expenses and thinking the prospects for work would be better in Montana, I accepted her offer.
On January 11, 1912, I arrived in Wibaux with my small son George.
It was 48 degrees below zero and bitter cold. It was so cold our lashes would freeze shut. George kept complaining he couldn’t see. I was loaded down with two big suitcases so I said “Rub your eyes good with your hands. Then you can see.” We finally arrived downtown and went to the only hotel we could see. The town was full of cowboys and ranch hands and we couldn’t get a room there. Then we tried the restaurant of Louie Foug, but he didn’t have any room for us either. There was a big cowboy, Scott Gore, taking in our predicament. George said “is he a cowboy, Ma? Look at those two big guns. Looks kinda tough don’t he?”. Mr. Gore stepped up and offered to find us shelter across the street. We followed him and found shelter at last. This place hadn’t opened up for business but they cleaned up a room for us and set up a bed. We were there four days.
On the fourth day Mr. Still took us thirty miles out in the country to Bill Still’s place and I worked there until some time in February. Mrs. Bill Still was my sister-in-law’s cousin.
One day in February, Mr. Port Willis came over and wanted to hire a cook. I went with him but with the understanding that I would only stay a month as I had to get back home to Rapids. He had a crew of twenty-six most of the time. George Carlson was flunky around there and slept in the barn. Mr. Willis had a large house with two bedrooms. We had one and Mr. Willis had the other. We never bothered his bedroom because that was supposed to be private.
After the third day I never saw Mr. Willis again for over a month. One morning, being curious, my son George opened Mr. Willis’ bedroom door and said “Ma, look. Look at all the dirty clothes in here”. I said, “George get away from that door and don’t ever open it again.” “Why,” said George, “that man ain’t here any more. Just look.” So to satisfy him, I looked. Well, there was a washing to get at. This was about the third week I’d been there and no sign of Mr. Willis, but I thought maybe he had business somewhere and hadn’t been able to get home yet. When Mr. Carlson came into breakfast, I asked him where our good-looking boss was. “Oh,” said Mr. Carlson, “he’s gone to the park. Left three days after you came. He’ll be back for planting.” This worried me. I wanted to go back to Minnesota and how could I with the boss gone? He was right; Mr. Willis didn’t come back until seeding started. He saw I was mad but he just laughed at me. I hadn’t been anywhere except to visit Bill Still’s one day. Neighbors were so scarce; I hadn’t seen a woman all that time.
Mr. Willis then offered me half of all the chickens I could raise and $25.00 a month to stay through spring work. That was more than I could make in Minnesota, so I stayed. You know, time went so fast I stayed through haying too. Domestic women of today think they have to work.
Well, I worked there. Up at dawn and to bed at 10 or 11 at night. Days that I baked bread I would set the alarm for different intervals in the night so I could get up and take care of the dough and have it ready to bake at breakfast time. Cook, wash dishes and bake, I had my hands full all day long.
After haying, I said I was going home now. I had to get back I thought.
Mr. Willis said, “Well, I sure need you. You can do more work than any woman I ever saw. If you’ll just stay through threshing I’ll give you $75.00 a month and half the chickens.” I had about 480 chickens by that time. So naturally I stayed. What was pretty good money then, you know.
On September 23rd, I went back to the Rapids but I didn’t stay. I worked for Mr. Willis 3 ½ years altogether. I filed on a homestead and here I am yet.
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