By Louise Dean, Lincoln Valley
It was a Sunday in late August or early September when I first saw the ranch. I was looking for a place to keep my horses. Helena was growing and it wasn’t possible to keep those horses close to home any longer. A friend told me about this ranch he thought I might like, so I came over here to have a look.
From way down in the valley I looked up this way and saw how the hay land and the creek just sort of folded into the timbered foothills. There was plenty of good water, cold and clear as crystal. The hay was up by then and the place looked manicured by God. I had $1000.00 in the bank and I put the whole bundle down on this ranch. I’ve never regretted it, ever.
I had my horses and I made some money teaching people to ride. Sometimes it was summer folks who liked to come to this part of Montana. Sometimes it was folks from Helena or Great Falls. Later, I would take folks on rides up into the mountains. Stonewall was always a favorite place to go.
We started raising some cattle too, and had cattle on the place up until a couple of years ago. We sold some hay. And we took care of the land. It was good, honest, hard work most of the time. Money was always tight. There was plenty of joy and plenty of sadness. But we made do. There was always something going on out there on the land. There were elk and deer and bears. I’ve got more than a few grizzly stories of my own. And the birds that move through here and use the wetlands along the creek are just incredible. I can’t see them any more, but I can sure hear those sandhill cranes right now! In recent years, after I was alone on the place, I started to think about how this place would look after I was gone. We’ve all been watching land get chopped up and divided and developed in the Blackfoot and all over western Montana, and I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to happen here. That’s when I started to learn all I could about conservation easements and decided that would be the best way to take care of the future of this place.
To put it real simple, this place has been so good to me, it has given me so much that I thought it ought to be just like it is right now so someone else might just be able to raise a family, grow some hay, and make a life here and take care of the land the way it needs to be tended. I have had a lifetime of mornings when I step out that front door and look out over the land and say to myself, ‘Son-of-a-gun, I can’t believe I live here.’ Pretty soon, it will be someone else’s turn. That’s why there’s one more thing I don’t regret. And that’s putting a conservation easement on this ranch.
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