Skier Caught Filming Jump off Roof of Trego School

It was mid-afternoon on Friday (December 23rd), at Trego Elementary School. The temperature was below ten degrees Fahrenheit. A few people were wrapping presents to gift to the students and had been hearing some odd noises on the roof when school board member Clara Mae Crawford arrived and informed them that there were people up on the roof.

Surprised, one of the folks present (Matt) stepped outside and explained that they really couldn’t be allowed to be up there, doing that, since it was a liability issue, and if they would not stop, he would have to call the police. Since they didn’t leave, after being asked to depart twice, the police were called.

In the meantime, Clara called fellow school board member (and board chair) Mike McCurry.

“It was about 3:20 on Friday, December 23, when I answered a phone call from Trego School.  The gist of the call was that there were people on the school roof, skiing, and that when Matt (the maintenance guy) had asked them to leave (twice) they were still there, so he had dropped a dime and called the police.

I had just gotten out of some cold, wet jeans, and got into the car ASAP, thinking either I’m going to show up at the school to see another board member laughing “Got you this time.” or I’m due to meet some people that are crazy enough that I’ll end up wishing I had a pistol in the pocket.  The second was the reality.”

Mike McCurry

Mike spoke with the people outside until police arrived. He’s somewhat hard of hearing- but here is his summary:

“I initiated the conversation with the standard query: “Who are you and what are you doing here?”  I met a short middle-aged man with delusions of significance – he introduced himself as Tanner Hole, and told that they were making a ski movie . . . apparently thinking that this should impress me.  Claimed he was a high school dropout and had made a living skiing all his life – and that he’s 39 years old.  One of his compatriots was telling me that the woman in the school had given them approval to do the stunt and filming (neither of the women in the school agreed with that statement).

I heard the argument that the school was public property – so I thought I should square that away, explaining that I’m the chair of the school board, and if they had asked for board approval I would certainly, by God, remember it.  Mr. Hole informed me that he had over 100,000 followers on some social media, that they never ask permission, that’s part of his culture . . . and I replied that I didn’t give a flying ___ about his culture – in mine he was trespassing.  He offered to show the film of his jump – I explained that their best move would be to be gone before the police arrived, that all I wanted to see was the tail gates of their pickups headed out.  He angrily headed toward his pickup.

Later, Mr. Hole approached me again, and seemed to anger up as I described him as a cockroach.  Frankly, I was relieved when the deputy showed up before he got closer . . . at 73, I’m a bit beyond my prime for a physical altercation.”

Mike McCurry

Mike misheard the name- but a man with that sort of Instagram following (Username: TannerHall420) isn’t hard to find, and his public photos were recognizable.

Who is this guy, anyway?

Tanner Hall is a Kalispell native, age 39, apparently known for freeskiing. Media coverage of him in publications about skiing is glowing, with the words “legend” and “icon” tossed around quite a bit. His legal record appears a bit more colorful in various local papers.

Hall’s wikipedia lists a substantial number of 1st places in various competitions from 1999 to 2012- at which time the list ends abruptly. In 2016, he had an interview to the Magazine High Times, around the same time he was sponsored by a marijuana producing company which sold a “420 kit” complete with wrapping papers featuring his likeness.

It’s hardly Hall’s first time seeing police at a school, nor is it a recent habit. In 2008, he was ticketed outside a Colorado high school in the early morning hours where police noticed people performing “extreme ski stunts” and smelled marijuana.

Were any laws broken?

We’re not police, or lawyers, but it seems probable that some were. If nothing else, given Hall’s admitted marijuana habit, it seems quite likely that he had drugs on school property.


Montana Improved Californians

As Walsh-Groves company moved into Trego to start work on the tunnel, I learned an unexpected abbreviation – CIO, California Improved Okie.  Since the Okies had made the mass exodus to California less than 35 years earlier, and those California Improved Okies that stayed have been our neighbors here for over fifty years, I got to thinking how they became Montana Improved Californians . . . virtually indistinguishable from long-term residents.

The first oddity I recall was a CIO grandparent hunting squirrels.  Obviously this was a holdover from the Okie or Arkie past – but out local Trego squirrels are Douglas squirrels, or Chickarees – and just too small to be a reasonable food item.  The Montana Improved descendents of the CIOs no longer hunt and eat squirrels.

We’ve a long history of Montana Improved Californians – from the early days, if we look at Montana’s Cowboy Hall of Fame, we encounter Granville Stuart.  He arrived in Montana after first trying California: “In the spring of 1852, along with his father and a brother, Granville journeyed to the California gold fields; his father later returned to Iowa. In the spring of 1857, Granville decided to return home to visit his parents. On June 14 of that year, the journey home to Iowa encountered an unexpected delay. Brigham Young, president of the Mormon Church, had declared the State of Utah free and independent of the United States. In fact, he had seceded from the Union, and United States troops were sent to squelch the uprising. Because of this, Granville Stuart decided to reroute his trip and headed north to Montana, crossing the Rocky Mountain Divide on October 10, 1857, then spending the winter in the Beaverhead Valley. Granville and his party spent Christmas Day 1857 with Captain Grant at the present-day location of the Grant-Kohrs Ranch.

Granville’s trip to Iowa was permanently delayed when he discovered gold at Gold Creek the following year. Gold Creek was located in Missoula County, at that time a part of Washington Territory. He is often credited as the first man to discover gold in Montana.”

The occasional harsh winter selects for the Montana Improved Californian – the less resilient head for warmer climates, while those who stay learn to drive icy and snow-packed roads, get their firewood early in the year, and handle being snow-bound without cracking to cabin fever.

Will Rogers claimed that when the Okies moved to California, it raised the IQ in both states.  I’m not sure this happened with the California migration to Montana.  I hear it more from the new migrants – folks who ask who does somebody with education talk with here.  After living here a while, you learn that there are some intelligent people in the backwoods who might, or might not, have formal education. 

The Montana Improved Californian has moved from an area with a lot of restrictions on guns to an area where the only restrictions are federal.  In the early years, that means using that new freedom . . . as time goes on and the Montana improvements take a stronger hold, the firearms become more normal and less seen.

Driving?  The Californian (or Texan for that matter) never gets concerned about traffic in Montana.  Malfunction junction doesn’t even register on the timid ones.  Those who stay learn to drive in Winter.  Those who don’t, Winter drives south.

Some come from parts of California where country-western is the norm. . . and that’s OK.  In general, the Montana Improved Californian is an acceptable neighbor . . . and, the reality is that our state is young enough that a lot of us came from somewhere else. 


What’s My Share of a 1.7 Trillion Dollar Budget

I read of the US Senate passing a 1.7 trillion dollar budget to keep the government from shutting down.  That’s a big number, and I’m not sure how much it’s worth to keep the government running.  Then I got to thinking – we need to personalize this.  There are about 330 million people in the US – so all I have to do is the math.

The first problem is that Genevieve Guitel built the chart, and on the short scale, a trillion has 12 zeros, and on the long scale a trillion has 18 zeros.  It’s confusing – both scales are the same for lower numbers like a thousand and a million – the scales diverge on a billion – in the short scale a billion is 10 to the 9th power, on the long scale a billion is 10 to the twelfth.  These two scales usually don’t get into the way of my calculations.  I’m going to treat the budget as if it’s the short scale first – if a trillion is 1,000,000,000,000 then the budget is 1,700,000,000,000 dollars.

First, to make it personal, if I spent a million dollars an hour, it would take just under 699 years to spend a trillion dollars.  Then the math:

1,700,000,000,000 dollars
330,000,000 Americans

So I cancel 6 zeros top and bottom and come up with 1,700,000/330      

Cancel two more zeros and I have 17,000/3.3

At this stage, my calculator can handle the math – this latest spending bill is $5151.51 for every man, woman and child in America.  Of course if the pundits are using long chart trillions, we would need to add six zeros . . . but our politicians wouldn’t sneak that sort of a definition change into a 4,155 page bill . . . would they?

If I read things right, it includes a new building for the FBI headquarters.  Hopefully our lobbyists can get it built as a community development project between Butte and Anaconda.          


Bird-feeder: Cat Enrichment Device

Indoor cats get bored; In fact, probably everyone gets bored when it’s subzero outside. That said, a bored house cat can make the life of everyone else much less boring, very quickly, so it’s worth avoiding.

In order to avoid the consequences of cat boredom (we have two, and they are young), I braved the cold weather to set up the cat enrichment center. In other times of the year, the shepherds crook hosts a hummingbird feeder. In cold weather, I’ve installed a suet feeder.

If the bird feeder was for me, I’d be disappointed. Even with bird identification taking place in the same part of the brain as faces, and thus being extremely difficult for me, I haven’t had any trouble. This is because there is precisely one bird that attends the feeder. It’s a Flicker.

Photo by Karen F on

The cats don’t care. They aren’t bored by it. They sit in the window, tails lashing, and watch the thing for hours.

I’ll admit that the bird feeder getting the bird to (finally) stop knocking on the house and waking up the dog feels a little bit like providing a payout to a protection racket. That said, he’s also providing my cats with considerable entertainment.


Hungarian Lentil Stew for a prosperous New Year

Once, when I was a small child, growing up in eastern South Dakota, my father took my siblings and me to see reindeer in the parking lot of a Lewis Drug. One of the better customer-drawing gimmicks I had seen, at that point. While there, my father overheard a tall, dark-bearded fellow conversing with his two children in a strange tongue.

Now, my father is very fond of languages, and enjoys learning more whenever the opportunity presents itself. I’ve early memories of him carrying one of his foreign-language Bibles to Church on Sunday, reading along with the sermon, albeit in a different tongue. The Estonian Bible was his most frequent church companion, I think.

Anyway, the language this tall, dark-bearded father was speaking was as foreign to my own father as it was to me. So my father waited for a break in the conversation, and then went over, and asked that fine-bearded fellow what language he was speaking – might it be Hungarian? It wasn’t a language he was familiar with, but it had its similarities to Finnish and Estonian.

As it turned out, Dad had guessed the language correctly – helped, no doubt, by his fondness for Finno-Ugric tongues – borne out of his Finnish heritage. While Dad shared his love of languages with me, and I’ve extensively pursued Latin and Greek, I’ve yet to spend much time on the tongues of my northern forbears.

We ended up becoming close friends with that family of Hungarians, and were both guests and hosts many times over the next few years, sharing many meals. Friendships we’d never have had without Dad being inquisitive about language, and eager to have new, chance acquaintances over for coffee. And, of course, the help of a couple of reindeer.

Here’s a traditional Hungarian recipe from the mother of that family.
Something to eat on New Year’s Eve to bring fortune to you and yours throughout the next year.

Lentil Stew:
3 cups Lentils (for prosperity – see how the lentils look like little coins?)
2 Tbsp Yellow Mustard
Paprika powder
1 medium Red Onion, quartered.
1 small lemon, halved.
5 bay leaves
Garlic (either a generous sprinkling of powder or about 2 chopped cloves)
Salt and Black Pepper to taste.
A little smoked meat (if memory serves, smoked turkey was used the first time I had this, though lean pork is most traditional, especially cold smoked shortrib – Pork is supposed to bring good luck)

Cook this assemblage in water until lentils are done – I like it to have the consistency of a porridge.
Remove the onion, bay leaves, and lemon before serving with the following sauce.

Paprika Sauce:
Place 1-2 Tbsp flour in 2-3 Tbsp of hot oil, whisking until homogeneous.
Add red paprika powder generously, letting it bloom in the hot oil.
Mix with 1/2 cup sour cream and some milk, until desired consistency is reached.
The sauce should be smooth and a bright orange in color.

I suspect that this was how the mother of our Hungarian friends substituted for Hungarian Paprika Paste, being unable to get it in the American Midwest. She later brought us some Univer Red Gold paste as a gift, after a visit back to Hungary. What a treasure that was!

The completed Lentil Stew with Paprika Sauce!
May your New Year be filled with flavor.


The Shortest Day

At 7:32 am, the sky can be recognized as blue yet the trees and mountains are black – or perhaps should be described as lacking color that can be identified.  Light shows over Brimstone, and over the next several minutes I can identify it as the top sliver of a waning moon.

At 9:18, I have the sun risinging over the southern high point on Brimstone – from today on it will continue to move back north.  It is easier to spot the southernmost point – dawn comes so early at the summer solstice that I am not always awake and coffee’d adequately to observe it.

The day is dedicated to fixing the tractor’s ignition switch – replacing ends on the wires where the switch rotation earlier pulled them loose.  The last time I did this was worse – then the neuropathy that accompanied chemotherapy made it a task that had to be accomplished without feeling in my fingers.  This time, I had a brief time when I could feel what I was doing before the sensitivity was utterly whelmed by the cold – but the memories of how to do the repair meant I only needed a short time.  Life is good when you can fix your tractor on a cold day.

Then a bit of snow plowing as the day warms – the farm-dyed diesel is close to a gel point, so it’s a quick task to get a little done, then home and park where gelled fuel won’t leave the machine stuck in the way – a magnetic engine heater, set on the bottom of the diesel tank, will correct that problem as things warm up.  The wood rack on the porch will need refilled – and the snow is blown from the trail I will use to carry it in tomorrow.  I’m extremely chilled after less than 2 hours plowing snow . . . and I remember the young man who, 50 years past, could handle long days of sub-zero on snow surveys.  I’m not sure what happened to his stamina, but it’s no longer there.

Before 5, the sun is down and the sky is darkening.  I don’t see sunsets from the house . . . and the sunrise, in a valley between two ranges, only shows after full daylight.

The following day it got cold – memorable, but not fun.  


Trego School’s Holiday Program, 2022

This past Wednesday (14 December 2022), the kids of Trego School’s drama class put on their holiday play, a rendition of The Christmas Crocodile, a book by Bonny Becker (link is to the book listing at Lincoln Co. Public Library).

Despite technical problems with the sound system, the kids carried the play off without a hitch. The narrator seemed unfazed by the speaker problems and kept all the other kids on pace, the actors knew their positioning on stage as well as their lines – many even gave their characters special voices. The stage crew did a wonderful job of shifting the scenery around – they were quick and very stealthy in their black clothing!

After the upper grades wrapped up with their play, all the assembled kids gathered together on stage and serenaded the crowd with several Christmas carols. The kids covered “Up on the Housetop”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Jingle Bell Rock”, and finished off with “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”. They sung exuberantly, and did quite well in the absence of a sound system.

After the caroling finished, the staff of Trego School had treats for the kids and audience alike to enjoy. Delicious, as per usual.


Low Hanging Fruit and the Bronze Age

I think I answered a question almost correctly a couple of weeks back – it was what kept the American Indians from developing industry that could rival 16th Century Europe . . . and I keep coming back to Bronze.  In Iraq (Mesopotamia) and the Indus Valley, the Bronze age began about 3300 years BCE.  At the same time (or even earlier), evidence around the Great Lakes shows that Native Americans were also working metal, in what archaeologists term the Copper Complex.

The different development fits in with what was available – the copper deposits around the Great Lakes were pure, or nearly pure large nuggets.  They didn’t require smelting to purify the ore – a pair of flat stones was enough for the early American coppersmith.  The second aspect of development is tin – while the Greeks, Levants and Mesopotamians found potential tin mines within 40 miles of their copper mines, their counterparts near the Great Lakes would have had to travel to El Paso to find an equally accessible source of tin. 

On the other hand, the copper available in South America had sulfur contaminants, required some level of smelting, and tin was available in Peru, Chile and Bolivia.  The native population there did develop bronze – there is a century-old article on the topic.  Still, the iron resources that would have been the next step into industry were abundant . . . by the Great Lakes.

If I recall correctly, our nation’s first oil well – in Pennsylvania – was not quite 70 feet deep.  Low hanging fruit – the resources you can exploit without much investment.  The time was 1859, and whale oil was getting to be more costly.  Now, 160 years later, the low hanging fruit has been harvested, and continuing a culture based on fossil fuels requires considerably more complexity.

The problem with looking at natural resources in terms of low hanging fruit is exactly as it sounds – the easy stuff has already been harvested.  In 150 years, we’ve gone from 70 foot oil wells to fracking.  By the end of the bronze age, tin was coming to Greece from Britain.  We have to be culturally ready to take advantage of those resources – and looking at the copper of the Great Lakes, sometimes the lowest hanging fruit can’t lead to the next step.


Kids’ Programs at TFS Community Hall take a hiatus

In the face of a stretch of poor weather and heating difficulties, kids’ events at the TFS Community Hall will pause until early-to-mid January.

The Hall does not yet have a HVAC system. While the Hall Board received a grant to purchase and install one this past year, they experienced shipping delays in receiving the pieces. While all the parts necessary to build it have finally come in, Bakkila Plumbing & Heating has been, quite understandably, focused on restoring heat to individual families. It’s a poor time of year to be without a source of warmth, and I’m sure many families are grateful for their priorities.

Presently, the TFS Community Hall’s board expects its new HVAC system to be installed some time in early January. In the meantime, the Hall continues to rely solely upon wood heat. With a slow heat time due to a large space to heat, draftiness, and old insulation, event organizers must begin heating the hall several hours in advance, and feed the fire continually throughout.

In light of the Hall’s small chimney fire this past Friday, and events canceled on account of it, its patrons are looking forward to new heating systems more than ever.

This proposition is made more tenuous by questionable roads and lengthy travel times, especially in the case of Kootenai Gymnastics. And, in the case of Trego Kids Learn & Play, that extra time spent heating the facility in the early mornings, and the recent rash of colds going around the local kids, make this a sensible time to pause, let kids get healthy again, regroup… (and pray for a HVAC system)! Both programs shall return in early-to-mid January.

Let’s take a look at what the kids programs at the TFS Hall have accomplished – these ongoing programs, in addition to single-day events, have been a great way for kids to build and develop friendships in what has been a comparatively isolationist post-Covid world.

To give some sense of the scale of their efforts, in less than a year’s time, Trego Kids Learn & Play has served 56 kids from 43 families, and I suspect its second year will serve even more.


Sincere Apologies

I was reading Van Der Leun’s American Digest blog, and realized that, at sometime in his life, he has definitely been ordered to write an apology.  The man has a far better way with words than I – just look at these phrases, from an article titled My Boilerplate Apology to Demented Americans I have Offended, Am Offending, or Will Offend:

“I am sorry, as always, for what I said. It was thoughtless and rude. It wasn’t really what I meant or felt in my heart. Many have taken my remarks to mean other than what I said. So true. Even I   meant them to mean other than what they meant when I said them.

Well, the damage is done and I can’t undo the past.

All I can do is stand here strapped in the pillory of the present as all those whom I have so wrongly and without malice slandered cry like the little girly men they are; yes, even the girls. Their pain is now my pain. I cringe to see them writhe in agony. I regret the raw wounds I ripped open by harsh and ill-considered remarks. +Mean Words. I shudder as my victims are mentally keel-hauled through ten linear feet of salt mixed into a horse trough of vinegar. I know that’s gotta smart.

I feel really bad about this. I feel even worse that I, through my abject failure to realize how deeply the dull hatchet of my speech would chop into them — even, yea, down to the living blue-veined bone — that I simply stood by and allowed the searing acid of my senseless scorn to pour without limit into their raw and festering souls. I am, as I said, deeply sorry — and feel bad beside.

Also, should the forensics prove unhelpful to my case, I would like to say for the record, that I did not know the gun was loaded.”

I mean, when I was ordered to apologize, all I came up with was a bunch of variants on the theme “Dear Bob:  I’m sorry you’re an ass.”  Van Der Leun is so much more creative.

This article is available to subscribers only – but the subscription can be free.  Frankly, phrases like

“To these wounded souls I offer, in deep and abject humility — since I am, because I spoke those hurtful, hurtful words, lower than a cockroach’s stool stuck to the bottom of a homeless hermit’s shabby sandal in the storm drains of Las Vegas — I offer these tender buttons, these delicate little bunnies, my most sincere if unworthy apology.”

are worth the effort of clicking on.

Then you can read more comments like: “I am so wretched to have said the bad words to you. They may well have been true, but I forgot that your feelings, no matter how puerile, always trump the truth in this world. So I admit that even though they were true, my words were unworthy of me and hurtful to you. I see your raw suppurating feelings oozing to the top of your mind and erupting from your mouth wrapped around your screams. I shall carry that Polaroid with me for the rest of my days right next to the organ donor card in my wallet. Can I fill one out for you?”

Give Van Der Leun a read – he is a bit of a classic, and I doubt the world will see his like again.