Trego’s 99-Year Lease

Part of Trego School’s playground was leased to the school in 1960 in return for water.  It makes a lot more sense if we go back in time and figure out what was going on in the fifties.

Electricity was new, and the closest telephone was at Osler Brothers sawmill, just north of Mud Creek.  The general land price at the time was $30 per acre . . . less if you weren’t looking at the more desirable downtown Trego locations.

From the documents, it looks like the school got electricity, drilled a well, added wiring and plumbing to the school, and then thought “a bigger playground would be nice.” The neighbors to the north, Bill and Madeline Opelt thought “Water would be nice.”  So a trade was made – in return for a 99 year lease for an acre of playground – relatively flat – the school would provide water for 99 years to the Opelt family, their heirs and assigns. 

Trego School is on a 4.64 acre (rectangular) parcel. The area the school leases (highlighted yellow) is about .9 acres. The playground is located behind the school and includes swings, a slide, monkey-bars and several large tires, painted and partially buried

Originally, the water went to the horse trough, not the house.  Bill had three elderly work horses that he called appaloosas – while they had the spots, they were definitely draft horses, and I didn’t realize the history that they represented for years – until I took a job at Chinook, near the Bear’s Paw Battlefield, and learned of the glorious military efforts of the Montana State militia at that location.  As near as I recall the story, the militia was tasked with running off the Nez Perce horse herd . . . and once they got them moving, drove them southeast to Billings or some such location, and sent them through the auction.  The Nez Perce mares were crossed with draft stallions, and provided work horses across Montana.  Bill may not have known the whole story, but he was right – his horses were descendents of the Nez Perce Appaloosas.

I could end the story there – Bill wasn’t interested in putting the water indoors.  He explained how he had a deep hole under his outhouse, with even deeper poles under each corner, and nobody could tip it over.  It wasn’t an argument that I would have used – but I was raised around flush toilets and kind of bigoted.  Bill later lost his vision – as I recall he took a fall after cataract surgery.  He was one of our last veterans of World War I.

It looks to me that on January 22, 2059, much of the school’s playground will go back to the assigns of the Opelts. 


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” salamanders, which kind of suggests they spend their time in the dirt rather than walking around on top of it.  I am pretty much just excerpting from the field guide – and I strongly suggest that if you ever notice one of these little guys around your house, you really want to read it. 

It explains how we built a great salamander environment by accident.  Stretching out a few logs in a stack gives a cool, shaded spot on top of moist soil – kind of a great place for a foraging mole salamander.  The pond, with its still water, provides a great place for laying eggs and hatching the little amphibians.

 Finally, leaving a thick piece of plywood alongside the dripline from the garage roof built a near-perfect mating location – covered by the plywood, and with wet, uncompacted soil, less than 100 yards from the pond.  The females will wander down to the pond, lay eggs, and along will come the next generation.