Ground up

Bozeman, Montana



Highland Glen and the Kurks

Bozeman, Montana

 It doesn’t take much for Darrell and Sandy Kurk to get their cows moving down pasture. In a chorus both practiced and improvised, they yell “c’mon girls!” For percussion, Darrell shakes a bucket of grain. “They’re spoiled,” he said.

As the annual parade — this year it was held on Oct. 1 — crashes through the colorful foliage in the creek bottom, runners, hikers, and bikers pause to watch and listen from well worn trails above.

Darrell and Sandy Kurk have found themselves in the center of the venn diagram of old and new West. The Kurks lease the grazing rights for the Highland Glen Nature Preserve, the 430-acre block of land owned by Bozeman Health since 1959.

For much of the Kurk’s history working the land, they shared it only with wildlife.

In 2013, Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital teamed up with the Gallatin Valley Land Trust to dig a network of trails throughout the property, and the pasture became a playground.

“Ninety-five percent of people here aren’t a problem, it’s the 5% that cause you headaches,” said Darrell as he untangled strands of a barbed wire fence that were likely twisted together by a trail user looking for a shortcut.

People build bridges and dam the creek, or trespass on the old homestead at the north end of the property. The Kurk’s phone numbers are posted at trailheads in the event a gate is left open and a cow escapes. 

The cows have names like Hannah and Jellybean, and the Kurk’s recognize all 26 of them. Their calves, futures to be determined, have not yet been named. Some will be raised for beef, some to one day raise their own, but whatever their futures hold, their summer in Bozeman has been productive. Darrell estimates the calves put on 400 pounds since he dropped them off in June. The cows and their calves will spend a couple more weeks near Bear Canyon before moving to the Kurk’s place in Billings, where they will stay for the winter.

LINK: Seasonal Shift: Moving cows on the edge of Bozeman



Bozeman, Montana


In the driver's seat

Bozeman, Montana

 The wheels on Brenda Barrett’s school bus start going ’round at 6:30 in the morning.  

The first handful of stops yield no passengers, but when Barrett sees children on the horizon, she welcomes them aboard with a wave. “You’re really one of the first people they see in a day,” she said. School buses now have seat belts for every passenger, and children squirm to get theirs clicked around their bodies.

Barrett’s route twists around the foothills below Sypes Canyon. It’s a great place to see change in real time, be it the seasons creeping up and down the Bridger Mountains, the batches of new houses under construction or even the development of an adolescent horse, born last year.

Over the course of a day, Barrett says she might drive 100 miles, “mostly in circles.” Now, in her fourth year of driving, she says she’s only missed two days. “The kids and parents rely on you,” she said. “You’re providing a serious service.” 

It’s a service that’s becoming harder to find. Paralleling staff shortages in schools, bus routes around the country are finding themselves without drivers. In Massachusetts, 250 National Guard members were recently deployed to serve as drivers. First Student, the national bus chain that contracts with Bozeman School District, sent drivers from Tacoma, Washington, to cover for shortages in Bozeman this year. Barrett’s route added a couple stops to make up for fewer drivers, but she hasn’t really noticed much of a difference from before. It never felt like there were enough drivers.

When the school day is done Barrett reverses her route, returning to the bus barn to park in neat formation alongside dozens of other buses once scattered to every corner of the city.


Hop ons

Bozeman, Montana



Evening soccer

Bozeman, Montana




Bozeman, Montana



Bozeman, Montana



3 generations

Bozeman, Montana