A Science for Everyone, Community, Demography

Our Communities by ACS Numbers

I listened to a comment about the median household income in Trego – and defaulted to my professional statement before retirement – “That’s American Community Survey data, and it’s not very good for small communities.”  When I checked it, the $36,458 median household income for Trego translates as “somewhere between $27,478 and $45,438.  ACS data has its uses, but it has to be used with a lot of caution.

So here’s a little ACS data on our communities – you can check for margin of error (MOE) here.   I wouldn’t recommend using any of the numbers without reviewing MOE – but just sharing the data shows the variance.  It’s safe to admit that my household was one selected for the ACS. With two retirees at home, I didn’t hurt Trego’s school enrollment rate, I raised the percentage of bachelors degree or above, kept the employment rate down, and raised the median age.

Trego CDPFortine CDPEureka CCDRexford Town
Median Age60.527.950.153.3
Median Household Income$36,458$68,036$40,827$30,481
Bachelor’s Degree or more26.10%19.20%22.40%0.00%
School Enrollment97.80%72.30%81.90%100%
Employment Rate40.20%59.50%38.30%20.60%
Housing Units2831773,71673
Occupied Housing Units2371442,79646
Children under 189.30%32.50%22.10%13%

It looks like the Fortine sample drew some younger respondents.  Eureka CCD with a larger population and larger sample is probably closer to correct, and the town of Rexford data is probably close to useless because the small sample size almost guarantees sampling bias


Thursday Held Shakespeare in the Park

Thursday marked another season’s Shakespeare in the Park at the Historical Village.

This year’s visit offered Cymbeline. Cymbeline isn’t the only play available- which play is offered varies by location- the better known play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will be occurring in Libby this week.

While Shakespeare in the Park makes due with a much smaller cast than the original plays seem to call for, it stays true to the original spirit. Some adjustments are made; minor characters are consolidated, and names are changed to account for actresses stepping into traditionally male parts.

But the spirit remains, the jokes are made accessible despite the language barrier that Shakespeare presents, and the plays are as enjoyable by the general public as ever.

We’d like to thank Montana Shakespeare in the Parks for the lovely performance, and Sunburst Arts & Education for their part in making it possible.


Error in Eureka Elementary School Board Election resulted in many extra ballots being mailed

An error in the Eureka Elementary School Board Election resulted in many extra ballots being mailed. Registered voters in Trego, Fortine and Stryker recently received ballots for the Eureka Elementary School Board Election.

While Trego, Fortine, and Stryker are part of the LCHS high school district, none of the three communities are part of the elementary district (Trego and Fortine both have their own elementary school districts- Stryker is part of Trego’s School District). Consequently, residents are not eligible to vote in Eureka Elementary district elections. With a large number of people ineligible to vote receiving ballots (some of which may already have been sent in), it seems likely that this year’s election is going to be a bit complicated.

We don’t know yet how the district is going to handle this (if they’ve started opening the ballots they’ve gotten back, it’s going to be difficult to sort the valid votes from the invalid).

How did we hear about this? We (Mike) asked:

Greetings – I have received the official ballot for the school trustee election of May 4, 2021.  I would appreciate your assurance (your email is listed on the enclosure) that I am permitted to vote on the candidates for school district 13.

As a Trego resident, the elementary district in which I vote (and serve as a board member) is 53.  I recognize that Marcie Butts represents my area in the LCHS district, and that her election is by acclamation.

I may not understand (the explanation I recall is at least 50 years old) but before casting my ballot, I would like to know that I am doing so correctly.  I know that we don’t vote on Eureka elementary levies, so I would appreciate clarification – I can figure out justification both ways, but I suspect only one is correct.”

Mike McCurry (email to Onna Escobar, Eureka Public Schools)

What we’ve learned: This error originated with the county election department, which provided address labels to the Eureka School District. The error was not caused by the Eureka School District. (Eureka Public Schools and County Commissioner Josh Letcher were very helpful in providing information about the situation)

What probably happened is that ballots were issued to the registered voters in the high school district, instead of just the Eureka elementary district.

At any rate, we ought to learn more as the school decides where to go from here. In the meantime, we suspect that residents outside of the district can make life easier for the folks who have to handle this by not mailing in their (invalid) ballots.

Part of the mail-in ballot we received (for an election we cannot vote in, because we live in the Trego Elementary District)

Thoughts of Old Friends

One of the spots where I was extremely lucky was an early career as a technician of varying varieties with the Soil Conservation Service, based out of the old bank building in Eureka.  During 6 years, beginning in the mid-seventies, I had the privilege of meeting and working with a lot of the older residents of the area.  Most had farms and ranches – one, Victoria Baney, was the landlord.

I returned from a week of snow surveys, and she confronted me at 08:00, with the statement, “Mike, I have a bone to pick with you.  Why didn’t you tell me that the girls in the apartment upstairs were running a brothel?”

Well, this was the first I had heard of it, so I actually came up with the correct response: “I didn’t know.  I guess we’ve been working different shifts.”  It was the right answer.  She was over her disappointment with me and laughing.

Laird Byers ran the county weed spray truck, and had a bad hip.  He had one of the first hip replacement surgeries, and later parked the truck in front of the building to show me a new piece of equipment.  Another resident saw the truck, and stopped to say something about weed control, but started with the comment, “What happened to the old crippled guy who used to run the truck?  Old as he was, he’s probably dead now.”  Laird couldn’t recover from his laughter – I had to explain the answer.  We never did learn the question that motivated the stop.

The state had mandated training and testing for herbicide applicators, so I offered the office for that purpose.  After the training session, Tom and Emmett Quirk caught me, explaining the last time either had taken a test was long before I had been born.  I rigged an overflow testing area in the backroom – neither had any problem with the test, didn’t need the college kid they kept in reserve, but obviously the last preceding exam was memorable.  I hadn’t realized how requiring a card to purchase specific herbicides could affect competent people over 70 – it probably had been over half a century since either had to sit for an examination.

I got a small grant and we tested an ultrasound generator to see if it would convince Columbia Ground Squirrels to relocate.  It didn’t.  I checked the device and some helpful neighbor had stacked 7 dead gophers around it – each killed by a 22.  Art Nutter asked if he could borrow the device to see if it would move a skunk out of his barn.  He had a certain level of success – it left the barn, but found a way to move under the kitchen.  On hearing this story, Victoria Baney had an idea – there were bats in the attic of the building.  We moved the machine into the attic on a Friday afternoon.  On Tuesday, Mrs. Bolen came by: “Mike, do you know anything about bats?  This weekend a whole bunch of them were getting into my attic.”  I admitted my ignorance on bats, removed the device, and this is the first time I’ve told the story.

And there is always the lesson from Chet Apeland, who chaired the conservation district board: “Mike, you really don’t want to get into an argument with an idiot.  After three exchanges, nobody can tell which one is the idiot.”

Patches' Pieces

Backroads of Montana films at Tobacco Valley Historical Village

The filming was for a 15 minute segment of Backroads of Montana that is expected to air in mid-May.  Watch the Historical Village Facebook page for exact information when the PBS segment will air.  A special thanks to Rita Collins for serving as the Village’s media liaison and secretary.

Filming the Hand Quilting

Friday March 12, Ray Ekness of PBS Montana filmed the hand quilters in the old schoolhouse at the Tobacco Valley Historical Village in Eureka.   Ekness is the director of the Broadcast Media Center at the University of Montana.  Ekness spent the day filming, interviewing, and observing the hand quilters.


Area quilters rejoice! In other quilting news, Scraps and Threads quilt guild will host their annual quilt show during Rendezvous, April 23-25. The quilt show is at the fairgrounds in Eureka. Other area quilt groups have been invited to participate in the quilt show. Expect to see lots of new and colorful quilts.

The Eureka Outdoor Quilt show is August 7.

The Flathead Quilters’ Guild has announced their annual Quilt Show is a go. The dates are September 18 & 19 at the Flathead Valley Fairgrounds.