Community

The Army’s Timber Industry Union

It is difficult to look back at the old-timers in Trego and not realize how much influence the International Workers of the World (IWW – the wobblies) had on the area.  In the early sixties, terms like “the Wobbly Johnson place” still were part of the directions.  The old airport wasn’t recognizable as an airport . . . if I have the story right, Billy Lloyd flew his loads of whiskey south past Trego to get past the busybodies at the Canadian line during prohibition.

Trego’s labor strife precipitated the timber strike that shut down the woods in 1917 – but the stories never told of any IWW success in getting the 8 hour day, or hot showers, or any of their demands.  I’m not an historian, so I never researched it, until I ran across the term “Spruce Rifle.”  That was worth researching – and I was lucky in timing (a lot of research includes the element of luck – Pasteur phrased it “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”)

In this presentation Ian McCollum tells of the “Spruce Gun” – some 1,800 Winchester 94 carbines in 30-30 that were issued to a special group of soldiers during World War I – The Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen.  The Wobblies basically shut down portions of the timber industry – with the Loyal Legion, the army created its own union, detailing about 28,000 soldiers with lumber, logging and rail experience to the timber companies – where they received both their military pay and company pay for logging and lumber work.  The army union also got the 8 hour day – and I begin to understand how the IWW couldn’t compete with the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen.  Wiki has an article giving more coverage.

Years ago, I had a chance to buy a Spruce Gun – I recall the US marking on the gun – but to me it was just another model 94, not particularly unique, and the story wasn’t offered along with the gun. Now I have the story, but the opportunity is long past.

The Loyal Legion operated more near the west coast – spruce was the species.  The Spruce division of the Army Signal Corps existed to provide material for the World War I airplanes – it is a bit hard to realize that, when that war ended, it was only 15 years after Wilbur and Orville’s first flight.  What would grow into the Air Force was a part of the Signal Corps.  And the conflict between the Army’s union and the IWW – epitomized by 200 US marked Winchester carbines – changed the logging industry.

Community

School Started on the First

It’s that time of the year again. Classes at Trego School started on Wednesday, September 1st. The Back to School BBQ will be held on Friday, September 10th.

School enrollment at the start of the school year is nearing 30 students. With a fourth classroom teacher hired, class size averages about 7 students per class (7.25 to be more precise).

The district was able to use part of the district’s ESSR (covid relief funds) to fund the hiring of that fourth teacher, a decision made to help keep class sizes small. While classrooms are still multi-grade, most classrooms hold only two grades.

The official count for this year’s enrollment isn’t actually in- for funding purposes, the count happens only twice a year. The first is in October. If enrollment reaches thirty, the amount of funding the school receives will increase.

Looking at the broader trend, we last discussed Trego School enrollment back in January.

Data as of January 2021

This year’s start of 29 is a bit lower than January’s 31. Not a steep decline, but the trend merits watching.

Community

Tester for VP

Politics is a numbers game.  The quality of data has gone down as folks have learned to avoid or even lie to pollsters.  This time, I am looking at a different set of numbers – basically a thought experiment.  Since my skills set is demography, not political science, the assumptions may be in error and the conclusion not connected with the real world.  That said, here’s the idea. 

It seems inevitable that Biden is on his way out as  president.  Whether he just owns up to his declining mental facilities and resigns, is removed on 25th amendment grounds,  just physically collapses, or is impeached he is well past his “best used by” date.  That means President Kamala Harris and no vice-president.  Anything takes Kamala out and we have President Pelosi. 

Normally there would be a raft full of contenders – but these are not normal times.  The Dem majority in the Senate depends on VP Harris being able to cast a tie breaking vote.  President Harris will not have that ability.  She will have to nominate a vice-president who can be approved by a majority vote in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. 

Nancy Pelosi can whip the House Dems in line to approve just about anything as our new VP.  Right now, the house has 212 repugnants, 220 dims, and 3 vacancies.  The House of Representatives will pretty much approve anyone appointed by Harris – but the Senate is a different story.  Balanced 50-50, with President Harris you won’t have a majority leader and a minority leader any more.  Mitch McConnell’s power increases tremendously in this situation.  That changes the universe of potential vice-presidents.  Someone close to McConnell should share this with him – he’s not on my speed dial, and I am surely not on his.

McConnell could probably arrange 100% support for our next VP if he’s a democrat senator from a state with a republican governor.  Only 7 states have republican governors and democrat senators.  Massachusetts ain’t gonna happen.  Montana can.

That coarse calculation makes Tester’s chance one in six.  Financially, it would be a good deal – a senator’s salary is $174,000 and becoming VP would raise that to $235,100.  What Big Sandy farmer wouldn’t accept a promotion that brought a $60,000 raise?  A 35% raise for the last 3 years before retirement would jack the pension.  My bet is he’d take the gig if it were offered.

I’m not sure what advantages that Vice-President Tester would bring to Montana – but he would have to be better for us than the last four or five VPs have been.  I do believe that a Montana farmer could do more for the nation as Vice-President.  We’re in a spot where it just might happen.  In 2016 the choice was Hillary or Trump.  In 2020 the choice was Trump or Biden.  At least I kind of like Tester – and Bob Brown assures me that he shoots gophers, and is a good shot from prone.  Let’s get ready to lobby – it might just happen. 

Community

You Need to Check the Experts’ Math

This offers a perspective on covid survival rates, but screws up some simple statistics:

0-1920-4950-6970+
100.000%100.000%100.000%100.000%
-99.997%-99.98%-99.5%-94.6%
0.003%0.02%0.5%5.4%
100% – Survival Rate= Infection Fatality Rate.

It’s official data.  It purports to be from CDC.  The author implies possession of a MD.

The math is screwed up.  By a factor of 100.  I learned the difference between decimals and percentages in the fifth or sixth grade – this isn’t a mistake at a graduate stats level, or even freshman stats. It appears someone releasing official data screwed up.  We need to check the math even on official data.

This site https://lincolnmtcovid.com/ has local numbers – and you can contrast them against the CDC statistics:

The local numbers show some anomalies when we compare and contrast them with CDC statistics.  The Libby area shows a cumulative 1,190 cases (in a population of 9,772  that’s 12.2%).  North County shows 467 cases (in a population of 6,470 that’s 7.2%) and Troy shows 258 cases (in a population of 3,435 that’s 7.5%). 

Lincoln County death rates can’t be contrasted with the CDC percentages – the tyranny of small numbers makes it impossible.  That said, in the 70+ age range that the CDC figures identify as a (corrected) 5.4% infection fatality rate, Lincoln County’s charts show 24 deaths in 311 cases – 7.8% – 44% more fatalities than national statistics.  The 3 deaths in the 50-69 age range, with 557 total cases work out amazingly close to the national 0.5% infection fatality rate.

There’s not enough data for me to infer causality.  It is good to have local data available – and I do wonder why the infection rate is higher in Libby.  Checking the math when you can is a good idea.

Community, Patches' Pieces, Wildlife

Patches Pieces

Eventually, all critters travel the driveway. Sometimes the game cam even catches them. A daytime appearance of the coyote on the driveway is unusual.  He is traveling the driveway most nights. All sorts of deer use the pond and driveway. I am not sure why it always seems to surprise me that skunks climb stairs.  The game cam caught one on the bridge step. For the last several days a blue heron has been hunting frogs in the pond.  So far no bear sightings on the game cam. But as the apples ripen, I expect we will see them around.

Community

County Fair

This year’s fair was fun, with activities for young and old alike. Vendors were present, and the food (sold by many local organizations and churches) was excellent. Plenty of raffle tickets were sold (not all for firearms), and folks seemed to be in good spirits.

The exhibits were neat, and some of the produce very impressive. The sunflowers were especially remarkable, with substantial height, thick stems, and enormous heads. Neat wood working and a creative chandelier of hummingbird feeders. The cakes and sundry baked goods in the youth section were quite impressive as well. We have some talented decorators!

As remarkable as the exhibits was the number of names that weren’t present. Perhaps we’ve simply gotten out of the habit of putting things into the fair, but while the talent displayed was impressive, much of our region’s talent was missing. I’d like for next year’s fair to feature more from the many gifted gardeners, crafters, and creatives we have in the community.

Community, Meteorology

Blessed Rain

It isn’t perfect, but it is improving.  My alfalfa seedlings are recovering from the long dry spell – on the other hand the deer are discovering them and trying to graze them down.  NOAA shows this map for soil moisture:

This next map shows precipitation during August – again, it isn’t perfect, but coming out of a drought it shows us on the fringe of recovery – far ahead of southeast Washington down through most of Oregon and California.

It may be too early to say that we dodged the bullet for another month or so – but at least the recent precipitation has moved us to a place where we can dodge. At least the long-term predictions are pretty much back to normal probabilities of precipitation:

Community

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.

Community, Meteorology

Lightning Strikes and Power Outages

Can lightning cause power outages?

As it turns out, lightning doesn’t even have to strike a power pole or knock over a tree to cause a power outage. The build up of charge nearby can actually cause power surges -no contact necessary.

Additionally, lightning gives off electromagnetic radiation. The phenomenon itself is called “sferic“, and it means you might notice static on the AM radio frequencies around the time of a strike.

That said, outages are more likely to be due to tree branches hitting power-lines than an actual lightening strike; Power-lines are often in the position of being the most attractive thing around for a lightening strike, and that is considered in their design.

What brought all this to mind?

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was a bit after midnight on what had just become Saturday morning. Heavy Rain. A flash. A house-shaking kaboom. The power suddenly out. It seems to have been the start of an outage on the section of power-line that goes up along Griffin Road. Lincoln Electric had everything back up and running later on Saturday.

Speaking of outages, though- there’s a planned one this week (11 PM Wednesday ’til 5AM Thursday) for everyone served by Lincoln Electric. Another overnight maintenance outage, courtesy of Bonneville Power Administration, since they need to replace structures damaged by gunshots (They’d love to have more information about that- call the BPA Hotline if you have any).

Community, Meteorology

What Last Week’s Rains Did for Us

These maps, taken from NOAA’s website show what the early August rains did to change the moisture stored in our soil.  For us, the rains lifted the pond by almost an inch and a half.  They didn’t add enough soil moisture to fill the cracks in the vertisols, or create any puddles – but we have hopes that the slight increase in soil moisture will help at least some of the little alfalfa plants survive. At any rate, the NOAA website demonstrates how much more information on weather is available now compared to a half-century ago.  The difference between July 31 and August 9 is impressive – though we will probably check again next week to see how the soil is doing.