Why Can’t We Have An Election?

I just got my primary ballot and noticed the extreme lack of candidates. On both ballots there are plenty of positions with one candidate or no candidate at all. If you can only vote for one candidate, is it an election?

The following are running unopposed:

  • Michael Cuffe for State Senator
  • Niel A. Duram for State Representative
  • Jim Hammons for County Commissioner
  • Robin Benson for Clerk and Recorder/Auditor/Assessor/Surveyor
  • Darren Short for Sheriff
  • Steven Schnackenberg for Coroner
  • Marcia Boris for County Attorney
  • Taralee McFadden for County Superintendent of Schools
  • Sedaris Carlberg for County Treasurer
  • Mathew Cuffe for District Court Judge
  • Jay C Sheffield for Justice of the Peace

There is no candidate for public administrator. The only races with multiple candidates will be for United States Representative, for County Commissioner (district 1), for Supreme Court Justice #1, and for Supreme Court Justice #2.

In short, there were multiple candidates to vote for in only 25% of the races.

When was the last election?

It feels a bit odd to be asking “When was the last time there was an election?” about something local. As a kid, I sort of assumed that elections happened everywhere in our country, as scheduled, and it was only foreign countries that lacked elections. Unfortunately, it’s a question worth asking. About the Trego School Board, certainly. Last year, we were writing about vacant school board positions, and the need to get an application in to the school clerk, for an election to be held in May. That’s what should happen (every year). What actually happens (and not just on… Continue reading When was the last election?


Lincoln County Facing More Elections by Acclamation

With the primary ballots available (due back by June 7th), it’s become evident that we can expect more candidates elected by acclamation, since 69% of the races are candidates running uncontested.

Some of our previous comments on local elections:

Be Nice to the Candidates

I can claim that I am an elected school trustee.  So can the school board members in Fortine and Eureka.  Yet I (and probably most of them) was elected by acclamation.  There may be a more politically correct way to describe it – but the reality is that I was elected without anyone voting for me.  A lot of school trustees share that reality – but I don’t believe it is a good situation. The challenge is that, on far too many local boards and commissions, we have the same situation.  When a candidate can be elected by acclamation, without…

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Uncontested Elections

What do you call it when only one person runs for office? An uncontested election. It seems like this must be a bad thing, and also that it is increasing in frequency. Is it? It seems, given the explanation about removing term limits at the last Interbel Meeting, that the situation is at least increasing in the telephone cooperatives. Watching the local school board shows a similar trend. How common are they by state? The data’s a bit hard to find- but at least some of it is out there. According to in 2020, 100% of Wisconsin’s local elections…

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Consolidated Polling Increases The Cost of Voting in Person

It’s only about four and a half miles from downtown Trego to the Volunteer Fire Department for Fortine, which is where we used to go to vote. Going into Eureka (as per that letter we all received from the county) will increase the distance by about thirteen miles (according to google maps). The distance I am supposed to travel to vote just got multiplied by a bit over 3. Of course, I live in downtown Trego, which means that my distance increased less than most. Looking at a map, it looks like the furthest up Fortine Creek Road are now…

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A Science for Everyone, Community, Demography

Thoughts on Inflation

I’ve been watching monetary inflation since 1976 when I voted for Jimmy Carter.  I still don’t give Jimmy full credit for that spate of inflation – Nixon made the call that the US dollar would no longer be backed by gold in August of 1971.

1968 had been an interesting election – I recall the unhappy observation “Nixon, Humphrey, Wallace – three strikes and you’re out.”  The picture below brought back memories of a happier time, when I would add a million dollar Zimbabwe bill to a retirement card, so that my retiring colleagues would be millionaires as they left the university.  Ten bucks bought all the Zim million dollar notes I needed for a slew of retirement receptions.

Now the thing about inflation is that it taxes savers, and can move into being a tax on investors.  If we look at the value of gold during the California Gold Rush – 1849 – it was $18.93 per ounce.  That same value held through the Virginia City days, and basically took Montana from wilderness to statehood.  In 1920, gold finally topped $20 per ounce.  When Franklin Roosevelt was elected President, gold was at $20.69 per ounce – the next year, 1933, it was $26.33.  In 1934, it went to $34.69.

A couple of old Winchester catalogs, from 1900 and 1916, suggest that my Grandfather paid about $19.50 or a little more for his 1894 32 special rifle.  A glance online suggests somewhere close to $1,200 dollars today.  As I write this, gold is going for $1890.35 – roughly 100 times higher than when the rifle was made in 1902 along with the new, more powerful 32 special.  The cost of the rifle hasn’t kept up with gold.  Inflation or not, it’s kind of nice to look off the front porch and see the spot where my grandmother got a four-point in 1922.

At that turn of the century, land here was still available for homesteading – land here in Trego had little value.  Thirty dollars per acre was still a norm for accessible land in the 1950’s.  It’s another basis for calculating inflation – and if memory serves, Lee Harvey Oswald was paid 85 cents per hour in 1963. 

Median family incomes were somewhere around $500 per year in 1900, and had risen to about $3,300 by 1950.  Still, that half century was a time of many new developments and a greatly improved living standard.  Part of the change was that people could buy more – much like during our more recent inflationary times – along with the inflation of the eighties came the personal computer, the compact discs, video players etc.  Technical advances reduced the impact of inflation.

There is a certain irony in Putin’s decision to tie the Russian ruble to the value of gold.  Since that decision the ruble has gone up 6% compared to the US dollar.  He’s kind of the anti-Nixon, creating a stronger currency instead of a weaker one.  I guess that inflation often boils down to a handful of government officials making the decision to print more money.  I have a hunch inflation helps the folks who get the new dollars a lot more than it helps those who are trying to hang on to the existing dollars.

Community, Weird Words

Origins of the Word Rendezvous

One of the reasons that English is described as difficult to learn is the number of words- over 170,000! Of those, the majority are loan-words, words taken from other languages.

The word Rendezvous is one such word. It was appropriated from the French, around 1600 (during a brief period in which Britain and France were not at war- as a result of competition with Spain). The original usage appears to be a verb: rendez vous meaning present yourselves. This then becomes the noun describing the place of meeting we are accustomed to.

English has borrowed from different languages at different times. At the time Rendezvous joined the English vocabulary, a significant number of the new words were coming from French.

About two centuries after Rendezvous was appropriated from the French, William Ashley held the first trappers’ Rendezvous. These lasted for only fifteen years. Some of them were so large as to create temporary towns. Other gatherings in the same time period are occasionally given the same name.. Our local Rendezvous has outlasted the original.

Community, Patches' Pieces

Scraps and Threads Celebrates Another Successful Quilt Show

Held in conjunction with Rendezvous, Scraps and Threads Quilt Guild annual quilt show was well attended. This year the quilt show’s theme was Montana Silhouettes. The fair barn was decorated with silhouettes mostly representing Montana’s wildlife and included live wildlife (a fat mouse) scuttling in the facilities’ bathrooms. With over 100 quilted items on display, there was a variety of techniques and a lot of talent on display. Mel Casey and Shawnna Casazza tied for best theme quilts.  Delora Gauger won the People’s Choice award and 1st place in the large quilts category.  Delora’s extraordinary star quilt required 8 years to complete.

In the adjacent fair barn was a craft show with a mixture of crafts, art work, antiques, plants, clothing and baked goods. Coffee and seating encouraged shoppers to linger and visit. Based on the empty tables and various shopping bags, much retail therapy occurred. -Patches

award winning miniature quilts

Uncontested Elections

What do you call it when only one person runs for office? An uncontested election. It seems like this must be a bad thing, and also that it is increasing in frequency. Is it?

It seems, given the explanation about removing term limits at the last Interbel Meeting, that the situation is at least increasing in the telephone cooperatives. Watching the local school board shows a similar trend.

How common are they by state? The data’s a bit hard to find- but at least some of it is out there. According to in 2020, 100% of Wisconsin’s local elections were uncontested. This seems a bit high- and they didn’t cover the local elections for Montana, so we can’t compare.

That said, Massachusetts had 100% for state executive and 75% for state legislative. Alabama and North Dakota were 100% for state judicial. If it’s showing up at the state level, where it really ought to be easier to find two candidates, uncontested elections are likely more frequent at lower levels.

Is this a bad thing? There’s an argument that electing (appointing?) the same people over and over ensures that an experienced person holds the position. However, there’s also an argument that doing so increases the likelihood of solving today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions.

And, if the outcome is predetermined, why show up and vote? Our cooperatives have attempted to solve member disengagement by reducing the number required for a quorum. It’s a treatment- but it doesn’t consider any of the underlying causes.


In Case You Missed It

It’s that time of the year again- time to watch for frog eggs, listen for sandhill cranes, examine thatch ants and watch for salamanders.

Game Camera: Sandhill Cranes

Perhaps you’ve heard the distinctive call of the sandhill cranes recently? -Patches We’re actually in at the very south edge of the breeding range for Sandhill Cranes. They’re not particularly picky eaters- they’ll eat snakes, frogs, insects, seeds… Often, we’ll see them in the spring, hunting frogs in shallow water.

Frog Eggs and Toad Eggs

Spring seems to have finally arrived, and soon the pond will be full of little frogs. As it turns out, frog eggs and toad eggs are different, and far easier to tell apart than the tadpoles. Frog eggs typically form nice clumps. -this years batch are particularly muddy. Toad eggs, however, will generally be in… Continue reading Frog Eggs and Toad Eggs

Thatch Ants

Our mound-building ants in this part of the country are Western Thatching Ants, Formica obscuripes.These ants are rather special because they generally have multiple active queens in a single colony – the young queens often help out and reproduce at home, instead of founding their own new colonies…

Usually I don’t see Salamanders

We seem to have made a good location great for salamanders – ours are long-toed salamanders.  Despite being in a near-perfect location for salamanders, most of the time we don’t see them.  The information is online– and the field guide does a pretty good job explaining why we see them rarely.  They’re classified as “mole”… Continue reading Usually I don’t see Salamanders


75th Annual Meeting of Lincoln Electric Coop

Like last year, the meeting took place at Lincoln County High School, and could be attended by car. Unlike last year, in person attendance was also possible. Voting for trustees had already been done (Exclusively by mail), though the results were announced at the meeting.

In a somewhat novel experience, there were (for one district) more candidates than vacancies, so the election had the possibility of making a difference. All three incumbents were reelected, including Tina Taurman (District 7). Taurman ran unopposed, with 335 votes.

With coffee, breakfast (Four Corners) and 75th Anniversary cake (Second Chance Bakery) available outside the auditorium (and a video stream of the stage), it was a very comfortable meeting. Attendees could choose between the easy to get out of chairs outside the auditorium (but no back support) or the chairs inside the auditorium that offered back support if perhaps a bit more difficulty in getting up. Of course, the food (and coffee) was outside the auditorium.

Folks were evidently pleased by the opportunity to be around friends and neighbors. It had the sense of after church coffee hour, if after church coffee happened during the service. Talking stopped for the pledge, and things were a bit quieter during the doorprize drawings, and much quieter for the luck of the draw scholarships. This year, the gift cards included one to Trego Pub.

I did try to get closer to the speakers, since the actual meeting content sounded interesting. Unfortunately, standing up gave neighboring tables a view of my service dog, and the whispering kept things just as hard to hear as when I had been seated.

So, having cake and hearing the meeting did not combine well. That said, I do still have at least some details to share. Ryan Hall (whose article can be found in the recent issue of Rural Montana) spoke about the efforts that Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association (MECA) made to combat a feasibility study of breaching the Lower Snake River Dams. Replacing the Lower Snake River Dams with other clean-energy options would be very expensive, and, at least in the case of solar, impractical.

Dam breaching is proposed for environmental benefits, in this case restoring fisheries to benefit salmon is a major concern. The electric cooperatives consider the new proposed study to be part of a strategy by people that want the dams breached to keep ordering studies until one meets their needs. Members attending the meeting were encouraged to fill out postcards to be sent to the governor, supporting MECA’s aims with regards to the Lower Snake River Dams.


TFS: Free Community Internet and Public Phone

We have an update from the community hall– as follows:

Trego, Fortine, Stryker Community Hall (TFS Community Hall)

Announcing Free Community Internet Access and Public Phone

Trego— March 12, 2022 As of today, free Wi-Fi is available at the TFS Community Hall for our community and visitors.  This area is void of cellular service and having accessible Wi-Fi coverage and phone will benefit the community by allowing communication where there previously was none.  With generous support and guidance from InterBel in Eureka, this service is now available to anyone in the Trego area.

Safety and Convenience

There is very little cellular service in the Trego, Fortine, and Stryker area and this means that travelers through the area are on their own if they need to reach family and friends, get directions or have an emergency and need services.  By having a publicly available land line and wi-fi that enables wi-fi calling on cell phones, the Hall is providing a valuable service to the community. There is a sign at the hall near the phone that outlines how to connect to Wi-Fi and enable wi-fi calling.    Once this is done, users can reach friends and neighbors, contact emergency services or 1-800 numbers.  No long-distance calling is permitted.  In addition, users will be able to access the internet for directions or any other purpose from the TFS Hall Parking lots.

Product/Program Availability

The phone will be located in the alcove at the front of the TFS Community Hall and is free for use for those without mobile phones or who cannot enable wi-fi calling.  It is available 24/7.  The wi-fi password is TheHall1947 and is available to anyone wanting to connect to the internet. 

The TFS Community Hall hosts many community programs and with the support of InterBel, having access to phone and internet during these programs makes them far more efficient and enjoyable.  Currently the TFS Community Hall is available for rent for fundraisers and private events, they host a weekly Kids Play Day on Wednesdays at 10:30am, and distribute food on Fridays at 10:30 to over 150 families a week, and host a monthly community dinner.  All of these programs are free to the community.  The TFS Community Hall is exploring other programs and uses for the building.  If you would like to host an event or learn more you can contact them through Facebook or any board member.

Annual Meeting

The Annual meeting for the TFS Community Hall is March 25th at 5:30pm, free dinner will be provided by the TFS Community Hall and it is open to anyone who owns property in School District 53.


A Spy on Pinkham Creek

Well, maybe we should call him an undercover agent.  In my youth, the term would have been narc.  Still, this story, from the old Forest Supervisor, C.S. Webb, is the closest to an official story of a Forest Service spy, working from the Supervisor’s office, monitoring the Pinkham Creek residents.  His whole story is at

In 1933, we were allotted 4 CC camps, and in 1931 the 4 CC camps returned and sufficient Dev-Nira and Imp-Nira funds were allotted to hire 200 men all season. In these two years, we built many miles of low-standard road, new towers and houses on dozens of lookouts, and telephone lines to serve them. A good start was made on a topographic map of the forest, and we built all the ranger stations as they stand today, except the Libby Station and the residence structures at Sylvanite, Warland and Rexford. The latter three were remodeled. The airfields at Troy and Libby were also constructed during those years. Times were hard, men plentiful, and the local populace was very appreciative of the employment provided by the Forest Service.

It was in 1932 that Charlie Powell, ranger at Rexford, overheard a conversation at a trail camp between two Pinkham Ridgers, indicating that the Ridge-runners planned some incendiarism. He promptly reported this to me. The Ridge-runners were a rather canny clan who migrated from the mountains of West Virginia and Kentucky years earlier and took homesteads on Pinkham Creek and Pinkham Ridge. Their chief pursuits were stealing tie timber and moonshining, but occasionally they would set a few fires, “just for the hell of it – to bother the ‘Govment’ men,” and also to provide a few days’ work. A bad epidemic of these fires was experienced in 1922.

Their planning in 1932 was to make lots of work. Bill Nagel, supervisor of the Blackfeet, and I hired an undercover man to go to Eureka to loiter and fish and get in with the Ridgers. He took an old Ford, rambled around the country, got acquainted with all of them, and finally joined their planning discussions after being accepted into their confidence. They completed their plans and set a date (August 22) for setting a string of fires from Edna Creek on the Blackfeet clear through to Sutton Creek on the Kootenai. A man was appointed to go into each drainage and the approximate spot was prescribed where he would set his fire. The complete plan, which was pretty thorough, was reported by our man directly to Nagel at Kalispell. This man was always around Eureka in the daytime, and whenever he had anything to report he drove into Kalispell during the night and was back before morning. We never phoned or wrote to him, nor did he to us. He was an ex-forest officer known to Nagel and me as a fully reliable man.

The day before the scheduled setting of the fires, we had two or three men in the vicinity of where each fire was to be started and quite a few others at anticipated places of travel by the Ridgers in or out of the woods. Our men met several of the Ridgers, who appeared very surprised to see someone. Our fellows saw others they did not meet, and likely our men were seen, too. We had hoped to catch at least one or two Ridgers in the act, but not a fire was set. Our undercover man was out on the fire-setting expedition with one of the Ridgers and joined in their talks after they returned to Eureka. They had tumbled immediately to the fact that we had gotten wind of their plans, since everywhere they went they encountered someone. But, they never suspected our undercover man, and to this day, old timers there are wondering how we got next to their plan. I have never heard since of any attempts at incendiaries in that area. Previously, there had been several outbreaks, and one man served time in Deer Lodge for setting a fire on Pinkham Ridge.”