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Monday, March 23, 2009

HOM: Another Ending

Ben Rolf decided to upgrade the Shopper to a real biweekly newspaper. He hired Bob Anez, who is now the Montana Department of Corrections communications director, as the editor and added more staff. Suddenly I was doing more than one article a week! Just as suddenly, that job ended: Ben's wife committed suicide & he sold out to the Interlake and left Kalispell. The Interlake absorbed the paper and dumped the staff. I was sorry to see the jobs at the paper end. The income from writing and proof reading had been a real blessing and I'd had some interesting assignments. Sometimes Ben gave me an assignment and sometimes I was able to choose my own, but all of them were fun. I interviewed Stan Edwardson, who owned a wrecking yard on Highway 93 South where Rusty Swartzenberger's wrecking yard is. Stan was chief of the South Kalispell Volunteer Fire Department, and I was looking for information on Volunteer firefighting in general and the role of his department in particular. It was quite interesting! Jim Melick was a member of that VFD and supplied a lot of the unofficial information. Besides the fire fighting details, I was told the story behind the canoe paddle hanging on the wall at the department -- labeled "Stan's Snowmobile Paddle!" It seems Stan had a mishap snowmobiling on thin ice on Ashley Creek near his house and his crew gave him the paddle as a reminder of the event. I also learned their unofficial motto "We have NEVER lost a foundation!" Stan had concrete evidence of that... I interviewed Charlie Abell from the Whitefish Credit Union about the annual speedboat races on Whitefish lake. I interviewed Kim Plummer and several of the other attractive girls in Lower Valley on their 4H projects. I got to visit with Alden Beller, a local teacher and historian and whose wife was author of the history of Syke's grocery, "10 Cent Coffee." I spent a shift riding in a Montana Highway Patrol car out west of town with Dan Kraut, who got to be a good friend. Jim Roberts was the MHP Sargeant and arranged the permissions I needed and set up the ride for me. The most serendipitous event was Dan stopping a car that was traveling a bit over the speed limit. I sat in the patrol rig and watched as he went up to the offender, saw him do a mild double-take at the driver, and then watched him give what sounded like a royal butt-chewing before sending him on his way. When Dan got back in, he was laughing. The speeder was Jim Robert's son! Dan sold police-band scanners, and gave me such a sales pitch that I bought a Bearcat 250 scanner from him. Scanning is hobby I still enjoy. I checked out Claire Badley's model railroad out in Evergreen. Claire was a mechanic and an inlaw of Dave McCoy, and Dave had steered me to him. Claire did auto repair, and when he wanted a break, he'd set up a couple of saw horses in the middle of his shop, lower his model RR setup down from its ceiling resting place, and work on it for a change. He built almost everything in his meticulously detailed setup from scratch using the tools and materials in his shop. I got a lesson in politics from Ben, too. He wrote a front-page article and asked me to go over it and touch it up. I did, extensively, got a very frosty "Thank you", and then got to watch him revert the article back to his original text and run it. The lesson? When the boss asks you to critique or correct him, what he really wants is for you to tell him the job he did is perfect and you can't improve on it. TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)