My Father's folk art expresses his days of youth in Montana - the wildlife, the wilderness, and even the stagecoaches that rushed through the lands.
My Father was a master at storytelling. He could whip out a story like no one I have ever met. Some true, some embellished a little, some just outright made up - but, regardless of the source, I enjoyed all his stories. He put so much life into them.
We knew when the stories were true if he acted out the parts he took in the story - like the time (many times) he told us about when he was out riding his horse in Montana and heard some wolves growling. He got off his horse, tied it to a tree, crawled up the slope of a hill and peeked over the ridge, down into a gully where wolves had a buck surrounded.
Dad was a woodcarver also and put his stories into carvings, bringing the story to life on wood. He carved the scene of the wolves circling the buck, but was so focused on the wolves and the scene that he just "could not fit the deer in there", he often told us. The carving shows the tenseness of the incident and we can picture him looking down upon the scene from his hiding place on the ridge. When he told this story to my children, Dad actually got down on the floor to show his grandchildren how he crawled up the slope on his belly, pulling with his elbows and pushing with his knees, one at a time, out to the side. My children were enthralled and watched his every move. When he showed them the carving they were fascinated!
My son used to play in his room, re-enacting his Grandfather's crawl up the ridge, and in his little boy's imaginative mind, was actually peeking over the same ridge (the edge of his bed), seeing the same scene that Grampa saw.
On the stagecoaches Dad put little men he carved himself, using trimmings from his own beard for their hair and beards. He used silk threads for the tails and manes on the six horses. He made tiny luggage pieces and tiny mail sacks from leather to store in the "boot" in the back of the coach and a small box for the strongbox in the front "boot" under the drivers seat. The driver held the long reins and the guy riding shotgun had his own little wooden rifle.
Dad carved a little picture for my daughter when she was three years old. She had told Grampa that she wanted a pony. So, that year, at Christmas, my daughter got a carving of a little girl reaching up to her pony to feed him. It is so precious and so very special - an heirloom, a treasure to cherish.
Dad signed and dated the backs of each picture he carved, so we have accurate records of his pieces. He used his wood-burner to darken his signature and the date. He made carvings for any of us who wanted one, and we all did. There are Mountain Goats, Big Horned Sheep, images of the Virgin Mary, horses, the stagecoaches of times past, hunting dogs shooing out the pheasants from the prairie grasses, owls, - memories of his youth and his homeland.
Just 9 miles north of Flathead Lake, Kalispell is surrounded by lakes and mountains. Dad knew the area well and spent a lot of time out in Flathead Valley. Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Dad roamed around the lake, and also around Flathead River and the Hungry Horse area at the South Fork, where the eleventh largest concrete dam in the United States now stands. The Hungry Horse area was named after two husky freight horses that wandered into the rugged wilderness and became lost in the severe winter of 1900 - 1901. The horses, when found, were starving and very weak, but the owners were able to nurse them back to health.
My Father left thousands of memories for us. Some of those memories are in his stories to pass down to new generations and some come to life every time we look at them on our walls, precious memories carved in wood.
I am sure in my heart, that my Father helped to blaze some of the countless miles of trails that one can take today. Trails that take you meandering through wooded forests, and around lake shores, along mountain ridges and summits. The spirit of my Dad and his horse is there, enjoying the beauty of Nature in all it's glory.