Montana

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My husband’s aunt, Esther Hein, as a young girl living in the country near Forsyth, Montana, spent some of her school years living in a “boarding house” of sorts. It wasn’t really, but it may have seemed like it to her, except that the owners of the “boarding house” were her half-brother, Walt Schulenberg and sister-in-law, Joann Schulenberg. The problem Esther’s parents, Vina and Walt Hein, faced was that Esther needed to go to school on a regular basis, and the Montana winters had a way of creating a “snowed in” situation for the people who lived in the country. The people living in town could still get their kids to school, but the long country roads could not always be cleared, and when the snow was deep, they mostly couldn’t. So, they often didn’t try. That meant those kids living in the country didn’t get to school when the snow got deep, and as we all know, missing too much school means that the child isn’t going to pass.

So, in what is really one of the sweetest and funniest stories about Aunt Esther that I know, Esther moved in with her brother and sister-in-law. Things usually went smoothly, but you must understand that Esther was a child, with child-like ways at the time. There were times that she didn’t get along with her brother, sister-in-law, and cousins. It was nothing major, just kid stuff and maybe a little sassiness. My future mother-in-law, and Esther’s sister-in-law, Joann sometimes got tired and annoyed. She might have been able to spank her sister-in-law, but she might not have felt comfortable doing that either. That said, when she was annoyed with Esther, her common comment was “Don’t Esther!!” This might seem like it isn’t very funny, but later in life, my mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s Disease…which isn’t exactly funny either.

Nevertheless, my mother-in-law had her “funny” Alzheimer’s moments, as they all do, if you look beyond the disease. She didn’t always like things like going to bed, taking a walk around the house, or especially telling her to stop scratching her itchy skin. Since I was her caregiver quite often, I was the “bad guy” that made her do these things. Her very itchy skin, and the fact that she scratched too hard, caused injury to her skin, so I had to stop her from scratching. Whenever I try to stop her, she would say, “Don’t Esther!!” The first time she said that I was shocked, but once I heard the “Don’t Esther” story, I finally understood that she was mistaking me for Esther in those moments. For me it was liberating. That meant that sometimes when my mother-in-law was mad at me, I could let Esther take the blame. Sorry Esther, but it worked for me. Today is Esther’s 82nd birthday. Happy birthday Esther!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Machelle Moore is going through more changes this year. Her son, Weston moved to Butte, Montana a year or so ago, and is doing very well there. For Machelle, and her husband Steve, it means that they don’t get to see their son as much as they used to, and certainly not as much as they would like to. Now, with their son, Easton graduating from high school last summer, the likelihood of him moving out of the house becomes very real as time goes on. It’s a time of life, that all parents face at some point. The whole Empty Nest Syndrome is alive and well in families at this point in life.

The good news for Machelle is that she and Steve seriously love to do the same things. Getting out in the mountains, going camping, walking the mountain top trails, and looking for rocks, are all favorite activities for Machelle and Steve. While they are active when they are out in the mountains, it’s the peace and quiet they really crave, I think. Everyone’s life is so busy, these days. To have a weekend in the mountains…just you and the birds…it doesn’t get better than that. I’m like Machelle and Steve in that way. While I don’t go camping, I love hiking in the mountains…just me and the birds. There is something about walking in nature, especially among the fir trees. The scent is Heavenly, almost like being in a Christmas tree sales lot…except in nature, not in the city.

Life is changing for Machelle. She is beyond the “mom with school aged kids at home” and into the “mom of two adult men” stage. It’s a different world, and one that we both dread and eagerly anticipate. We are so proud of our children and the accomplishments they have made, and we are excited to see what comes next for them. We consider the possibility of marriage and children for them, whether we tell them we are thinking about that or not. Still, we think back on the cute little babies they were, crawling, first teeth, first steps, so many firsts. In reality, this is another first…only this time, for Machelle and for Steve. First trips without the kids, first school year beginning without having a student in school, and so many other firsts to come. today is Machelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Machelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I married into the Schulenberg family almost 48 years ago. During the early years, when we would make trips to Forsyth, Montana to visit my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s family that lived there. One such visit was for a family reunion. It was at that reunion, that I first met my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s half-brother, Butch Schulenberg. For many years, I didn’t see Butch again, and then when my father-in-law passed away in 2015, we were making calls to tell family of his passing. I spoke to Uncle Butch, and it was such a nice, even while sad, call, that Uncle Butch became a very dear uncle to me. I love his kind heart and his caring ways. I think everyone loves Butch Schulenberg, because that is the kind of man he is.

Uncle Butch is a veteran, having served in the Army during the Vietnam War. He was a respected member of his company. Butch was chosen to be a driver for an officer. Butch told my husband, Bob and me several stories about his driving days in the service. He told us of so many interesting details that he was privileged to know, but at that time could not speak of. During war, the soldiers are very restricted on what information they can share, mostly because disclosing information could be a detriment to the whole company. Now that the war is long-over, the details of their operations are history…very interesting history. That is something Butch ad I have in common too…history. We both love the details of the past, and the impact they have had on the future. I am proud of his service. He is the kind of soldier this nation is blessed to have…and I’m very thankful he made it home.

These days, Uncle Butch is busy enjoying his retirement, and going to visit his children and grandchildren. He loves taking pictures around his house in Forsyth, Montana. He is a huge fan of the local school sports teams and goes to or listens to as many games as he possibly can. He is one of their biggest fans. He is very community oriented. He loves his small town and feels very connected to all the people there. He is very much a loved member of the community, and he loves all of them too. Today is Butch’s 82nd birthday. Happy birthday Butch!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Whenever our aunt, Pearl Hein talked about her husband, our uncle, Eddie Hein, she always called him Big Ed. It was her “pet name” for him…kind of like saying he was her superhero. That is truly how Pearl felt about Eddie. Theirs was a long-standing marriage of 52 years at the time of Eddie’s graduation to Heaven. He was her superhero, and she was his too. It was always fun to watch them, because their personalities were very similar, and yet each was unique.

I first met them on my first trip to Forsyth, Montana to visit my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s family, and the trip was so much fun that for many years we went for a visit every summer. I loved all of the Forsyth family and looked forward to it every year. Eddie and Pearl lived at the edge of town beside the dike that held the Yellowstone River back from the town. Eddie and Pearl always had a vegetable garden, and they canned lots of their food. Eddie transformed their house from the original mobile home to a house and decorated it in various places with river rock. The fireplace was a beautiful focal point.

Eddie, and Pearl too, had what I call a smiling face. Their whole face smiled with they smiled, and that is a very cool kind of face to have. I think it is a sign of a really happy person too. They loved to entertain, and they loved to laugh and joke. Some of my fondest memories are when they were picking on my husband, Bob. He had long hair back then, but everyone in the hippy generation did, so he wasn’t alone. Eddie was always threatening to give him a buzz cut, and one time went after him with the shears, but of course, they weren’t plugged in. Nevertheless, it was funny, and unless you looked closely, you might think they were plugged in. The picture is funny anyway. It’s funny stuff like that that I think I miss the most about Eddie. There was really never a dull moment when we were over at their house.

Eddie went home to be with the Lord on October 16, 2019, and I still can’t believe he is gone. He had a stroke a few years earlier, and fought his way back, with much help from Pearl, who was his “rock” during those days. I think one of his happiest moments after the stroke, was when he was able to walk his daughter Kim down the aisle when she married Michael Arani on October 7, 2017. I don’t think he thought he would be able to do it, but Eddie was a strong man, and he was determined. I’m so happy that he got to see that day. Today would have been Eddie’s 79th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Eddie. We love and miss you very much.

Working in a fast-food restaurant is often how someone gets started in a career in the culinary arts. Of course, that is how lots of kids get started in the work world too. My niece, Andrea Beach is an excellent cook and baker, and she really wanted to be a chef and even wanted to go to Culinary School, but like many people with that dream, she later became discontented with that line of work. Once you have been around restaurant life, you know that you will be working long hours, late at night, for people who are seldom satisfied, and somehow always think it is the fault of the chef. You might think I am talking about a chef that isn’t very good at his or her job, but I’m not. That is how it is for every chef or cook I know. People go out for a meal, and they somehow seem to think that if they don’t complain about the meal, they aren’t sophisticated enough…and I’m very serious about that.

This was the world Andrea found herself, and she suddenly knew that it was time for a change. So, this single mom took a leap of faith and switched careers. Now she works at Ace Hardware. This was a career move sent to Andrea by God…literally. She loves her job, and her stress levels have dropped dramatically. The hours are better, which has made it possible for her to spend more time with her son, Topher who is a junior in high school. That last year of high school is so important to a student, and Topher is such a good kid. He and his mom ae best friends. She loves that the hours are better, as is the lower stress atmosphere.

Now that Andrea’s stepdad, Mike Reed is getting ready to retire, Andrea and Topher are looking at this being their last year in Rawlins. Now that her mom, Caryl Reed and Mike, are moving to Casper, Andrea is ready to start a new life in Casper as well. Andrea is listening to see what God has in store for her next. Planning a move to a new city without a job or anything can be stressful, but Caryl and Mike have an apartment above their barn on the ranch they are moving to, so Andrea and Topher will have a place to live right away. Of course, a lot will depend on what Topher’s plans are for the next year too. College could take him a totally different direction, so time will tell. Nevertheless, Andrea knows that she wants to be in Casper, at least for the near future. After that…well, who knows. She is listening to hear Gods plans for her and Topher’s future. She loves the Lord and trusts in Him completely. In the very near future, Andrea is looking forward to the vacation trip to Montana and Yellowstone with her mom, Caryl and Topher. That should be a great time for all three of them. Today is Andrea’s birthday. Happy birthday Andrea!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Joe Medicine Crow did not set out to become a war chief…much less the last surviving war chief, but when World War II drew the Unted States into the fight, Medicine Crow knew he couldn’t just sit back in his college dorm and refuse to help. Joe Medicine Crow was born on a reservation near Lodge Grass, Montana in 1913. Raised in the warrior tradition of the Crow, he was never one to shirk his duty in battle. He had some great warrior role models to fashion himself after, like his step-grandfather, who had been a scout for Custer at the infamous Battle of Little Bighorn, and his paternal grandfather Chief Medicine Crow who was one of the greatest Crow war heroes.

Before the war broke out, Medicine Crow enrolled at the University of Southern California and earned a master’s degree for his thesis, “The Effects of European Culture Contacts Upon the Economic, Social, and Religious Life of the Crow Indians.” With that, he became the first Crow to earn a master’s degree. After his graduation, he moved to Oregon to work at a Native American school and planned to pursue his Ph D, but then World War II broke out. Medicine Crow told a reporter for the Billings Gazette, “I had an uncle who had other plans for me…Uncle Sam.”

Medicine Crow hadn’t planned on entering the military, but he knew how to fight, and even while he was doing his duty to his country, he was still very aware of his family history. When he was a boy, his grandfather, Yellowtail put him through traditionally rigorous physical training meant to toughen him up. This included running in the snow barefoot and swimming in freezing rivers. His childhood was spent undergoing hardcore Spartan-style feats of strength, piledriving buffalo, riding horses bareback, swimming through mighty rivers, punching things, and running barefoot through snow-covered plains “uphill both ways.” He was taught to control his fear in the face of imminent peril, learned to hunt dangerous animals by himself, and trained his body to survive prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures. This training made him uniquely qualified for the hardships of a foot soldier. He came from a long line of famous warriors, and he kept them in mind when he was sent to Germany. He said, “I had a legacy to live up to.” Still, it was not something he told people about. That was his own legacy to live up to, and it was private. Throughout the war, he wore his war paint under his uniform, and he tucked a sacred yellow eagle feather under his helmet. He was determined to bring honor to his country and to his Crow people.

After the war, he worked for the Crow tribe and later became an appraiser for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, while also working as a Crow historian. While he didn’t get to go back to college, the University of Southern California (his alma mater) eventually awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2003, a degree I think he earned quite honorably.

“War Chief of the Crow Indians” isn’t a title that is given to just any warrior or chief. You don’t become a War Chief just because of your longevity of years or your physical strength. It’s an ancient, prestigious honorific bestowed only upon the bravest, the strongest warrior chiefs, and the only way to attain this hallowed title is by proving yourself in combat and unlocking the four achievements the Crow believed to be the most “insanely difficult” things a warrior can attempt in battle. These four major coups…leading a successful war party on a raid, capturing an enemy’s weapon, touching an enemy without killing him, and stealing an enemy’s horse. Some of those may sound odd to us, but to the Crow tribe, these were indeed major coups. These were difficult and dangerous tasks to attempt. In fact, they required that he put his life on the line by voluntarily bringing himself face-to-face with at least one warrior who is presumably in the process of actively trying to kill you without giving it a second thought. It was the Crow tribe’s way of ensuring that the chief leading them into battle was the bravest and best there was…and Joseph Medicine Crow was just that…the bravest and the best.

As an infantry scout, Private Medicine Crow got the opportunity to lead a group of men into battle in snow-covered battlefields of Western France while the Allies made their push from Paris towards Berlin…his first coup. It was during one particularly nasty portion of the battle for the Rhine, that Medicine Crow’s commanding officer ordered him to take a team of seven soldiers and lead them across a field of barbed wire, bullets, and artillery fire, grab some dynamite from an American position that had been utterly annihilated, and then assault the German bunkers and blow them up with TNT. It was a suicide mission, but according to Medicine Crow, his CO’s exact words were, “if anyone can do this, it’s probably you.”

His second and third coups followed quickly, when after being separated from his unit, Medicine Crow was sprinting through a back yard. He ran head on into a Nazi, who immediately lost his weapon. Not wanting to kill an unarmed man, Medicine Crow threw down his own weapon and proceeded to fist fight the Nazi. When the Nazi almost got the upper hand, Medicine Crow turned the tables and began to choke the life out of the guy…until the man started screaming for his mommy. That took “the kill” out of Medicine Crow, so he let the guy live. He took he German (and his rifle) as a prisoner of war.

The fourth coup came in a rather unusual way. Joe and his men on a scouting mission deep behind enemy lines. While surveying the landscape for enemy troop movements, the small team of recon experts just happened to come across a small farm where some senior members of the German officer staff were hiding out…with their awesome thoroughbred racehorses. Seriously, how could Joseph Medicine Crow pass that up. So, he just had to steal them…and with that he had met all the requirements for becoming a “War Chief of the Crow Indians.” In August of 2009, Chief Medicine Crow was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom…the highest honor awarded to American civilians…for his combined military service and all the work he has done to help improve the lives of the people of the Crow people. The 95-year-old Medicine Crow personally led the ceremonial dance after the ceremony. Joseph Medicine Crow was the last surviving War Chief of the Crow Indians when he died in 2016, at 102 years old.

After high school, my grandnephew, Weston Moore decided that he wanted to make a chenge in his life. So, he and a couple of friends made the move last April from Powell, Wyoming to Butte, Montana. They just wanted to get out of a small town and try living in a bigger city for a while. It’s only 4.5 hours from Powell to Butte, but it’s far enough to make any kind of regular visits difficult. It’s enough to give these young men a taste of adult life, and they are doing very well with it. They have jobs, and they are making friends…basically settling in well. Weston has come home a couple of times for visits, but it’s just not the same for his family…parents Machelle and Steve Moore, and brother, Easton Moore. His family wishes it wasn’t quite so far.

In February, Weston realized a longtime dream of his…adopting a fur baby. The family all met up in Billings for the day so Weston could pick up Kuvo…a Malamute puppy. Kuvo is so cute and very lovable. Apparently, Kuvo is quite a character, and keeps Weston and the guys quite entertained with his antics. Kuvo really is a beautiful dog. He reminds me of the dogs on “Snow Dogs.” Who knows maybe he will eventually have a team of Malamute dogs, and he can take them to Alaska for the Iditarod…well, you never know…it could happen.

Weston has been enjoying bachelorhood and is in no hurry to get tied down. He is just enjoying his freedom and relaxing. He recently got a new gun, so I’m sure he’s been out doing some target practice. And speaking of target practice, on one visit home, Weston and his dad went out in the back yard for some knife throwing practice. It’s an interesting idea, but not that one I think I would be very good at, but then the Moore family are very outdoorsy, so they like that stuff.

Weston also likes video games, like most people his age. And he loves posting funny stuff online. That doesn’t mean he never posts serious stuff too, but he has a great sense of humor, and the funny stuff makes him happy. Weston is usually wearing a smile, and that makes those around him smile too. People just naturally like to be around him. While his family misses him, we all wish him well in Butte, or wherever he might eventually land. Today is Weston’s birthday. Happy birthday Weston!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My husband’s uncle, Bobby Cole was born in South Dakota, where he lived for all of his young life. I don’t know all the details of how he met my husband’s aunt, Linda “Knox” Cole, except that they met in Colstrip, Montana, when her parents were living there. It is my thought that Bobby was working at the coal mine in Colstrip, when a certain girl caught his eye. Once he met Linda, he was smitten. He knew she was the love of his life, and he was right. They were married on December 29th, 1965, and their marriage would last until Bobby’s passing on May 30, 2014. Of course, I don’t know these details for sure, except that my husband, Bob Schulenberg told me that they met in Colstrip. I also know that Colstrip is a coal mining town…or at least a coal processing town. So, it made sense that mining and coal was the reason Bobby was there. And in the end, it was fate, I guess…or a really good move.

Bobby was raised on his parents’ farm, so the country lifestyle was in his blood, but like many kids, the idea of a change of pace can be very appealing…not to mention getting away from home. Kids, once they graduate from high school tend to either want to move out and get a job or head off to college. For Bobby, the choice was to move to Colstrip, Montana was the best decision he ever made. Once Linda and Bobby met, they never looked back. The dated a while, and then went to Las Vegas, Nevada to get married. Following their wedding, Linda and Bobby would go on to have two children…a daughter, Sheila and a son, Patrick. Since that time, their lives were blessed with multiple grandchildren. While they passed away at a younger age, they lived a good life.

Eventually, life would take Linda and Bobby in an unexpected direction. After the hotel they owned in Kennebec, South Dakota, burned to the ground, they decided that since Kennebec was a small town and business was going nowhere, it was time to leave. They moved to Winnemucca, Nevada, and lived there the rest of their lives. Today would have been Bobby’s 79th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Bobby. We love and miss you very much.

If your are from Forsyth, Montana, you most likely know our uncle, Butch Schulenberg. It’s not just because Forsyth is a small town of only 1495 people, so it is easy for everyone to know everyone else, but Butch Schulenberg is really special person within the Forsyth family. For one thing, he grew up the son of the local sheriff, and especially in a small town, that means everyone knows you, and might have even asked for you help when it came to matters of trouble with the sheriff. I doubt if his friends ever got into any real trouble, but kids will be kids. It’s just the way it is. I also doubt if Butch had a lot of pull when it came to getting his friends out of trouble, but then Sheriff Andy Schulenberg had a very different style when it came to policing the people of Rosebud County Montana. He didn’t even carry a gun, but that’s another story.

Uncle Butch grew up loving sports, and was a local sports hero. He still actively supports the local teams to this day. It doesn’t matter to Butch, if it’s the boys teams, the girls teams, or the little league teams. They are his teams and he is a very loyal man. Knowing so many f the town’s people helps too, because he knows these kids personally. He has watched them grow up and cheered them on in every endeavor. You can’t beat the blessing of knowing all those great kids, and having them know you too. Butch never met a stranger, and calls everyone his friend. I like that, because while he is my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s uncle, he is mine too, by marriage. Nevertheless, I don’t even consider the “by marriage” part, because Butch Schulenberg is my uncle just as if I had been born into the family, and I love him very much. He even cheers me on in my writing endeavors, and that pleases me very much. Butch is like…everybody’s cheerleader. He loves to see people succeed and loves to cheer them on to that success.

Butch is also a proud husband, father, and grandfather. His kids, Tadd, Andi Kay, and Heath have 7 children between, and they all love their grandpa very much. Like the kids of Forsyth, Butch is one of his grandchildren’s biggest fans. He loves hearing about their activities and attends whenever he can. He tries very hard to be a hands-on grandpa, and they love him very much. Today is Uncle Butch’s 81st birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Butch. Have a great day!! We love you!!

Uncle Eddie Hein was a soft-spoken man, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t a funny man. He loved to laugh, and he had a great laugh too. That is probably one of the things I miss most about Uncle Eddie…that and the great smile that went with the great laugh. He loved practical jokes…like pretending to give my husband, Bob Schulenberg, his nephew, a buzzcut in the 70s, when long hair was the style. I think Bob knew that the clippers weren’t plugged in, but he went along with the joke anyway. It is my guess that my in-laws, Walt and Joann Schulenberg put Eddie up to the joke, almost hoping he would actually cut Bob’s hair. Of course, Eddie would never have done that, but it was a funny thought anyway. It was a typical kind of joke Eddie would pull on people.

Eddie is my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s half brother, and so it was an annual trip from Casper, Wyoming to Forsyth, Montana that the Schulenberg’s took each year, to keep the family close to the aunt, uncles, and cousins that lived there, as well as to my father-in-law’s mom, Vina Hein, and step-dad, Walt Hein. When Bob and I got married, we wanted to continue that tradition, and I have always been glad we did. My girls had the privilege of knowing some of the most amazing people through those trips. I have always believed in the importance of family, and have hopefully instilled those same traditions on my kids and grandkids.

Eddie was a hard-working man, who worked hard in the coal mines, and then came home to work hard around the home he shared with his wife, Pearl, and children, Larry and Kim. He turned their smaller mobile home into a very nice house, with plenty of room for the whole family. He and Pearl also raised a wonderful garden, and canned lots and lots of vegetables. That garden saved the family lots of money in grocery bills. Canning I could do, but gardening…not so much, so I don’t mind telling you that I was a little bit jealous of those who can grow gardens, vegetable or flower.

Eddie was a mechanic by trade, and never really wanted to be a rancher, although he could do that work too. I think Eddie could do anything he put his mind to. He was a very talented Jack of all Trades. The Forsyth area is abundant in river rock, because of the Yellowstone River that flows through town. Eddie built a beautiful fireplace in their home out of that river rock. It was just stunning, and one of my favorite parts of the home he built. It not only heated the home, but it made it look amazing too. Eddie also helped my father-in-law when he was building the house he built in the Casper area.

Eddie went home to be with the Lord on October 16, 2019, and we all miss him very much. In my mind’s eye, I can still visualize his smiling face and his great laugh. Today would have been Uncle Eddies 78th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Eddie. We love and miss you very much.

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