Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Road trip -- White Sulphur Springs, Montana

I recently found a free ebook on the web that I had once seen priced at $10,000.   The extremely rare book is How the Buffalo Lost His Crown by John Beacom, published in 1894 by Forest and Stream.  More importantly, cowboy artist Charles M. Russell did all the illustrations.

In the mid-1990s during one of my trips to the Cody Old West Show, I took a foray to Billings, Montana, to visit a rare book and art dealer named Thomas Minckler.  He was a real gentleman and, though I'm sure he knew I didn't have the means, he brought out from his back room a pristine copy of How the Buffalo Lost His Crown and handed it to me to examine. I sure was impressed just holding such a rare, expensive book in my hands.  I'll bet that today the book would sell for a lot more.

Over the years I had managed to buy a few books from Mr. Minckler.  He knew I was a serious collector of good Montana literature, so he was more than willing to spend time visiting with me.  During one of our conversations I mentioned that I planned to drive up to Great Falls, Montana, to tour the C. M. Russell museum.

As I was about to leave his shop, he asked me if I'd even been to White Sulphur Springs.  When I said I hadn't,  he told me it would be a really pretty drive through the heart of Montana's Charlie Russell country. and was well worth seeing.  I always like taking back roads through historical places, so I dug out my map and plotted a course from Billings to White Sulphur Springs on the way to Great Falls.

US Highway 12, White Sulphur Springs, Montana
My route took me north on US 87 to Roundup, then west on US 12 through Ryegate and Harlowton to White Sulphur Springs.  There I turned north on US 89 and drove through the Lewis and Clark National Forest toward Neihart and Belt, and ultimately, to Great Falls.  Mr. Minckler had certainly not lead me astray.  The drive was every bit as pretty as he had said it would be.

US Highway 89, Lewis and Clark National Forest, Montana 
Since I was traveling in my motorhome, I figured I'd camp somewhere in the Lewis and Clark National Forest.  Most of the country I had seen was wide open cow country typical in Montana--good flat grassland occasionally punctuated with deep forested ravines called coulees.  It was getting late in the afternoon when I spotted a thick conifer-covered forest ahead.  As I rounded a curve and crossed a little creek, a young black bear sauntered across my path, as if to welcome me to his forest.  

A couple of short miles ahead I found a campground that was more or less a series of turnouts along US 89.  I pulled into one of them that had a narrow grove of trees separating a campsite from the main highway.  When I turned my motor off and started to prepare dinner, I learned there was a babbling brook behind the campsite.  After dinner while a little daylight still remained, I sat outside and read. 

While a gentle rain pattered on the roof of my motorhome that night, I dreamed about night-herding horses in 1880s Montana  :-)

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