A chicken

Bozeman, Montana



Ropin' ready

Bozeman, Montana




Bozeman, Montana



Grass bladin'

Bozeman, Montana



Twisty tape

Bozeman, Montana



B-47 Ridge

Emigrant Peak, Montana

In the blue morning of July 24, Diane Lumadue began walking up an unfamiliar trail in an unfamiliar part of the country with unfamiliar hiking partners. She was straight-faced, but joked easily with the others who gathered at the Gold Prize trailhead in a sparsely wooded cleft of Emigrant Peak in the Paradise Valley of Montana. The group of more than 30 had intended to leave 20 minutes earlier, a delay which was explained when a SUV arrived in the rocky parking area and unloaded the governor of Montana, who would also be joining the trek.

The group followed a man named Bryan Wells, who had assembled them from all corners of the country. Wells, though, has lived most of his life in the Paradise Valley. These rough folds of land are his home, and he led the group through the complicated terrain with the familiarity of one showing off their living room. 

Still, the hike was the hardest thing Lumadue, coming from West Virginia, had ever done. There were others who floated up the four-and-a-half miles, but Lumadue didn't feel like she was one of them. She ran out of breath. When she looked up from her feet, she became dizzy. She felt concern for the others who were faring worse than her, yet the pace set by Wells rarely slackened. 

Lumadue was born in 1966, four years after her uncle, Lt. Fred Hixenbaugh, left Dyess Air Force Base in Texas in a B-47 bomber on a routine training mission over Montana. The B-47 was a terribly powerful aircraft, iconic in the lineage of large jet planes, yet reliably unreliable. That night in 1962, Hixenbaugh and his three fellow airmen became among the 464 people who would die in B-47 crashes when they slammed into a ridge of Emigrant Peak, exploding into a fireball thousands of miles from their homes and families. 

Wells became obsessed with the crash, out of a sense of duty and of adventure. He wanted to honor the fallen servicemen by placing a memorial on the ridge, which was illegal in National Forest Service land without an act of Congress, so Wells got an act of Congress, and the body also agreed to name the location B-47 Ridge. To celebrate, he invited kin of the deceased, retired Air Force pilots, and politicians who had helped Wells achieve his vision, to visit the crash site and pay their respects. Lumadue made the trip in the stead of her mother and her aunt, for whom the grief of losing a brother at a young age never went away.

After ascending three thousand feet of steep dirt and duff, Lumadue reached a sharp shoulder of the mountain. Now far above the trailhead, she could see the yellowing rangeland of the Paradise Valley in one direction and across smoky layers of the Absaroka Mountains in the other.

“We’re now standing on B-47 Ridge,” a retired pilot told Lumadue, putting his arm around her. “Let’s go down and see your uncle.” Lumadue wept as tiny pieces of aluminum began sparkling under tufts of grass below her feet.


Swim meet

Bozeman, Montana



Poker Jim Shakespeare

Birney, Montana

On July 10, a caravan transporting a stage and set, costumes and props, actors and everything needed for a summer on the road, arrived at Poker Jim Butte, 11 miles uphill from the town of Birney, Montana. When the dust settled (much of it inside the cargo trailer), the actors morphed into construction workers and began the frantic transformation of the remote summit into a theatre.

Shakespeare in the Parks, the venerable Montana State University institution, might be well known around Montana and into the surrounding states, but nobody knows Shakespeare like the people scattered around Birney. Old timers remember when there was a dance hall and bars in town, but now absent these social fixtures, the annual dose of Shakespeare is, as Butch Fjell, 77, describes, “an awful good shot at a little bit of culture.”

For Riley O’Toole, longest running cast member in the troupe, the Poker Jim performance is a highlight of the long tour and the epitome of what makes being a part of Shakespeare in the Parks so special. “Every night its the opening and closing for that community,” said O’Toole. “There’s an appreciation and engagement of having people invite you into their homes and cooking for you and telling you about their lives.”

The venue is the most remote of their stops, but what it lacks in running water and electricity is made up by the hospitality of the community. For Cindy Hagan, who coordinates the tour stop on Poker Jim, the goal is to make the show an “inclusive and wonderful experience not just for the community but also for all these actors that are going to be going back to all parts of the world.”

After performing, the cast camped on top of the butte, and when they woke up the next morning, Hagan filled them with breakfast and enough coffee to get them to their next show in Big Timber, four hours away.

LINK: Shakespeare on the butte


Boat Float

Big Timber, Montana



Running buck

Bozeman, Montana



Emergency Exit

Helena, Montana