Friday, September 12, 2014

Saturday Pictures

Saturday Pictures
Saturday September 13, 2014

With our German exchange student, we have a full house! Grotto Falls, Hyalite Creek, Hyalite Canyon.

Hyalite Canyon from below.

The Bridger Range, from the wheat field beyond home, sweet home.

The Gallitan Range.

The Madison Range.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11, 2001: We Remember (Repost)

Pentagon 9/11 Memorial Logo,

Designed & Donated
By Anonymous,
The Navy Annex
September, 2001

It’s been thirteen years. Our daughter Blake was a baby, only ten months old. Teresa was pregnant with Blythe. Bella was not born for four more years. My kids ask questions, trying to understand – wondering about the underlying causes and what it was like to live through that day. In Arlington we visited the Pentagon Memorial. It's a solemn and surprisingly solitary place despite being hemmed in by major thoroughfares and lying adjacent to a structure, which gauged by the size of its footprint, is the world's largest office building. 

This is my story, one among millions -- a personal recollection from having experienced the day, or more specifically that morning, in Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia (where the Pentagon is located). I worked in an office building at L'Enfant Plaza in Washington, DC, across the Potomac River about a mile and a half northeast of the Pentagon. We lived in Arlington Virginia, between Arlington Boulevard and Columbia Pike, about a mile and one-half west of the Pentagon. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Life and Death

A couple of weeks ago I was awakened in the wee hours of the morning by a phone call that by the caller ID I could see was from a familiar name and number. That is almost never good.

The following was written by my mother in law, for this last weekend's church bulletin.              
St.Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church
1603 Avenue N • Huntsville,Texas 
Saturday Ordinary Time 6 September 2014

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Dear Networkers, 
    All summer 2014 plans were shaping up for my husband’s 90th birthday surprise party—a stag party because, at 90, he had outlived his peer friends and here was an opportunity to enjoy a gang of “just guys,” with our jokester friend Clarence Hightower keeping things lively as master of ceremonies. By Tuesday, August 26, all was ready, except giving a final guest count to the restaurant the next day and the day after that—PARTY DAY—picking up the birthday cake and decorating the tables to carry out a “hats” theme…when, in the dark before dawn, our phone rang bringing unthinkable news.
   An hour later our son Jack, daughter Christina (Tina), and I had concluded we must reveal the surprise and let Doc decide whether to go forward or quickly shift into reverse, cancelling reservations, seeking refunds, calling all guests. Doc’s decision: Go forward.
    Unknown to Clarence Hightower, his “emcee-ing” the party got us through. All went off as planned—in fact, more than as planned: At the end, he handed Doc a framed poem, composed by one of our granddaughters, containing the surprise news that Doc, for the first time, will become a great-grandfather come February. It was the best of times!
    And … it was the worst of times. That phone call two days before was from another granddaughter with the chilling news that her father, our oldest child “Chad” had died in his sleep, apparently from an epileptic seizure, in his Taichung, Taiwan, apartment, and she was flying out immediately.
   At five years old, Chad had received a hard blow to the head from a neighbor boy wielding a heavy pistol. A few days later, a severe seizure put our little boy on medication. The next year two more seizures followed, then ceased. After five years, medication ended and no further symptoms occurred until… in mid-life, infrequent seizures returned.
The Odessa American, April 8, 1960
    This summer, Chad had been working extremely hard. Orals for his doctorate were coming up this week, adding to his usual overfilled schedule of teaching, translating, tutoring, researching, and publishing. He was last seen entering his apartment in the early hours of Sunday morning August 24. On Tuesday when he did not arrive to teach his class, one of the university staff led police to his apartment and found him lifeless.
   The memorial service for Charles Holland Wagamon, Jr., 64, took place Sunday, August 31, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Taichung, Taiwan. I phoned Fr. Norbert Pacheco, an American Maryknoll Missionary based in Taiwan for over 35 years, and he said, on short notice, people came—from Chad’s church (Shui-Nan Catholic Church), the medical community where Chad tutored Chinese doctors in English, and the university where he taught—not out of any sense of duty but (quote) “in deep remembrance of the impression Chad made on their lives.” Father also remarked ”Many companies in the city do shoddy translations. Chad’s translations were sought. People could see his were top quality.”
   Few in Huntsville knew Chad because our move here August 31, 1968, coincided with Chad’s going off to college. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas, with a major in Economics and a minor in Chinese, and not long after, went to Taiwan to continue studies. He traveled extensively, doing all manner of jobs along the way. He witnessed the Tiananmen Square incident in Beijing and at one point met Mother Teresa in Calcutta. In the late 1990s he taught a year in interior China and another year in Russia. But Taiwan became his base…and a bright, talented young Chinese woman who worked with him on translations became his wife.
   Chad authored multiple textbooks for teaching English as a second language, at least five still currently in print. In April 2012 he filmed the final episode of his educational television program, which had been on the air six years, to continue through 2013 before going into reruns. He translated a full gamut of materials, including bio-medical translations.
   But Chad’s goal of getting a Ph.D. eluded him, snatched away in his final moments. Beginning at Michigan State University, he had settled for a second Masters Degree (his first M.A., from the University of Washington in Seattle). More recently, he re-located in Hawaii, to devote a full year to completing the doctorate at the University of Hawaii, but that ended in disappointment, as well. Finally, back in Taiwan, he finished his doctoral work and was scheduled for oral exams this very week, when the unthinkable happened. However, we have gratefully learned that his wife and daughter were notified right away that the university is awarding Chad a Ph.D. posthumously.
   Doc and I are also grateful that Chad returned to his Catholic Faith, after falling away as a young collegian for seventeen years. At his funeral Shui-Nan Church parishioners told Fr. Pacheco that Chad went to confession monthly. Chad also studied scripture. In my 1997 visit to Taiwan, he had Bibles in three languages—Korean, Chinese, and English—placed side-by-side comparing texts as he read, just out of his own interest.
   The Bible teaches us to use our gifts and talents to the fullest, to bear our sufferings and disappointments stoically, and to follow the paths of righteousness all the days of our lives. Our eldest child certainly fulfilled all those commands. I pray that Mary is cradling him in her arms, welcoming him into heaven at this moment. Please pray with me for the repose of our son Chad’s soul.

Marion Wagamon, editor
Parish Network


Charles Wagamon, Jr., 1950-2014

I never had the pleasure of meeting Chad Wagamon. I do know his daughter. She is as thoughtful, smart, pretty, hard working and responsible as any young women I've ever met. Our deepest condolences go out especially to her, her mother and her grandparents. May Charles Wagamon, Jr. rest in peace. God bless them all.

Friday, September 5, 2014

It is that Time of Year

They will be caucusing before the month is up!

Four Days in Mile High

Greetings! You can get more than a mile high here legally now, but that's not what this post is about.

We jumped into the Jeep Tuesday morning and motored down down to Denver (706 miles) to attend the BMW (nee Western Open) Championship. This is the second to last tournament of the PGA Tour golf season, with the field now down to the top 70. After this week, only the top 30 will advance to the Tour Championship in Atlanta. As the BMW is traditionally competed in the Chicago area or other Midwestern environs, its movement out West presented a rare opportunity to see the world's best golfers ply their trade.

The last golf tournament we attended was the 2011 US Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. It was a coming out party of sorts for world number one, Rory McIlroy, who lapped the field to win by eight shots. We observed midway through that US Open that Tiger Woods had better beware because there is a new sheriff in town. Since then, McIlroy famously gained and then dropped a well known girlfriend, and has come to need a daily shave. Otherwise, things are very much the same, as he has won three additional majors. McIlroy finished round one yesterday tied for first place and had the spectators all abuzz.

The BMW is being played at Cherry Hills Country Club, just south of Denver proper.  Cherry Hills is a classic course that hosted two US Opens and a PGA Championship. It is most famously known as the site of Arnold Palmer's only US Open victory in 1960. Palmer began his charge to the top of the leader board that Sunday afternoon by driving the green on the 333 yard par 4 1st hole.  At altitude, with modern equipment, the sharply downhill hole is now driveable by every player in the field, although strategically placed bunkers, and a sharply contoured, multi-tiered green make it almost impossible to hit and hold the green from the teeing ground. Deep, gnarly rough, and that challenging green, stand in the way of hole number one becoming a total birdie fest. 

The Western Open/BMW is the second longest (only to the US Open) continuously operating tournament on the PGA tour, debuting in 1899, at Glen View Club in Golf, Illinois, where I once caddied. I happened by the WGA trophy yesterday which is engraved with the names of all the winners, going back 115 years.

I looked at the names and, sure enough, saw two inscribed of men whom I had caddied for in the 1960s. First, was Charles Evans, Jr. known to most as Chick Evans, and founder of the Evans Scholarship program. Chick was victorious in 1910. He won the US Open in 1916. The other familiar name from that era was Jock Hutchison who prevailed in 1920 and 1923. Jock also won a PGA Championship (1920) and a British Open (1921). They were each incredibly accomplished people whose personalities and styles could not have been more different, except that both were gentlemen. 

Enough for now -- it has rained overnight and continues this morn. It is going to be a day for umbrellas, rain gear, slip and slide, and mud caked boots. Cheers!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Top August Posts

We rolled right through summer with a strong August. Year over year, our August 2014 monthly page views were 94 percent better than the same month last year. The trajectory is upward month to month as well. August exceeded July, which in turn topped June. Something's happening here. Our nostalgic looks back, and back in the day stories, are loved (except by one nasty, obsessive dissenter). Thanks to our readers! Without further adieu, here are the August top ten. 

Great uncle Lyndon King Armstrong,
pictured in Spokane, Washington, 1937.
1. In Happy 105th George Foster, we published a photo showing my smiling father, mother and big sister in 1950, along with several of my aunts and uncles, whom we have mentioned from time to time in the On the Road to Bathgate series. The photo was discovered and forwarded my way earlier this year by my cousin Matt from the Golden State. Matt has been a tremendous source of historical materials and clues -- and inspiration -- as we proceed along this road, where, as they say, the best is yet to come. Thank you Matt! 

Starting this month, when we publish a post on my great uncle, Lyndon King Armstrong, born in 1859 (and the first of our clan, I might add, to migrate to Montana), we will be rolling out more Road to Bathgate stories. Stay tuned.

2. Along the Gradyent's all time top ranked post, The Golf Channel: Spouses Guide to Sanity, stayed strong at number two in August. It is chock full of advice on how to unravel the mysteries of televised tournament golf. The wife reduces the 208 fine print pages of USGA rule book esoterica to a single rule -- play the ball as it lies -- you can (almost) never go wrong. Thanks to Teresa for gifting the most viewed post on Father's Day, 2013.

3. At Along the Gradyent central, we knew something was up the morning after the Emmy awards show because there was a run on our post, On the Road to Bathgate Act 1: "Fargo" the Movie. Carrying on the tradition of excellence, FX's new production of Fargo won the award for the best miniseries. Read the post and enjoy learning with legions of others about the intersection of the classic flick with my father's hometown, population 43 according to the 2010 census. If you are ever in or near Bathgate make sure to stop by Reiny's Bar and tell them I say "Hi."  Please don't mention that the guy who painted the sign, spelled it wrong.

4. Look! Where? Over there! Here it Comes! Comes what? Why, Five Guys to Bozeman, you don't say!

The offensive, invective inducing data.
5. Why Montana? is a breezy post, with an analytic bent, about why I moved to Montana. It ended with a few words of encouragement for those who may be dissatisfied with their lot in life, to move around and about to find better economic opportunity or a lower cost of living, whatever suits them best. I come from a family where making major geographical moves to seek opportunity and improve quality of life is the norm. 

Sadly, my "controversial" statement unleashed pathetic anonymous invective and unprovoked attacks on myself, veterans, Indians and my Montana neighbors, ending with (including the caps) "FUCK YOU." The cowardly, cloaked in anonymity actor hiding behind the curtain, who posted those comments, is my brother, Scott Foster, a real estate agent in the City of Chicago.

6. My wife's great grandfather was a Czech immigrant, musician, boot maker and founder of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, as the marching men and women musicians at Texas A&M in College Station are known. They are legendary and so is Joseph Holick who is the subject of Lone Star Legacy: Introducing Joseph Holick. We are proud to branch off onto our wife's side of the family in our searches into past and ancestry, though the next such post will be a sad remembrance of kin too soon and very recently passed.

Wisconsin Badgers celebrating "the goal," March 16, 1973.
7. On the Ides of March in 1973, after morning and early afternoon classes, we began a road trip from Madison, Wisconsin to Boston, Massachusetts to attend the "Frozen Four" NCAA Hockey Championships in the old Boston Garden. The semifinals the next night against Cornell, were no less than the most dramatic hockey match ever. The following night we celebrated the Badgers first NCAA hockey championship, as they defeated conference arch rival Denver University. The next morning, we (well I) totaled Tom Scheer's car in a blizzard on the return trip home, while in the middle of nowhere, northwestern Pennsylvania -- resulting in a planes, trains, buses and automobiles saga if there ever was one. That's five days I'll never forget. Last March, to make sure they were never forgotten, we related our recollections of them in Forty One Years Ago Today

8. Dear President did it again. Economic patriotism is his new gimmick. He uses mean spirited rhetoric instead of sound policy and practical choices to pursue his political agenda. He snarks at people who respond to the reality of a noncompetitive tax code and the incentives it creates, for being unpatriotic, while standing stalwart with friends, supporters and associates (cue Warren Buffett and Burger King) who engage in the very practices he decries. Read about the leading Democrat's hollow and ineffective hypocrisy here in Democrats are Phonies and Economic Hypocrites.

Wisconsin Culvert Co. fallout shelter ad.
9. It could be that some person or persons out of our past picked up the links from our university days, because Caring About Culverts rose to number nine on our August top ten list. From its publication, it has always been in my personal top ten. 

On the word of the kind housemother at the Gamma Phi Beta sorority house, we were commended to the owners, and came to work three summers at Wisconsin Culvert Co., along the tracks on the industrial east side of Madison Wisconsin, building the corrugated galvanized steel drainage pipe. I so truly wish you had elected a President who did this type of hard and difficult, productive work in his youth, because that would be a person who understands the industrial economy and who knows that we do the dirty, sweaty and dangerous work -- Mr. Elitist Snarkmeister doesn't do it for us. Barack Obama is a loser for our society, for our economy and for a culture of hard work and responsibility.

The Dells is torched for good, October 7,  1934.
10. My small bucolic hometown of Morton Grove, Illinois was a different kettle during prohibition. The corner lot occupied by the neighborhood bakery and cleaners, the Ben Franklin 5 & 10, the National Tea grocery and Rexall Drug stores during the days of my youth, was home previously to The Dells, owned and operated by the Capone gang. The Dells gave rise to illicit gambling, murders, arson, extortion, and kidnappings, while purveying some of the best food and bootleg drink around, and headlining nationally known entertainers throughout. We tell all about it here, in Morton Grove Before the Baby Boom: The Complete Story of The Dells.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


You know the ice bucket challenge has made it to your household, when you go to fill a water glass with ice, and instead of clink, clink in the glass, the machine utters a hollow thud, thud, thud. I demanded the video. And here it is.


Friday, August 29, 2014

The White House Does Have a Strategy To Prevent This

Serving ice cream bars, sandwiches and cones to grades K through 5 at Longfellow Elementary School, Bozeman, Montana, August 28, 2014.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Happy 105th George Foster!

If my father, George W Foster, were alive today, he would be 105 years old. Happy birthday in the great beyond, George Foster!

Herbert Foster (brother), Margaret Cameron (sister), Florence King (sister), Helen Cray, Evelyn Foster (wife), Joanne Foster (daughter) and George W. Foster, Chicago, Illinois, 1950.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Color Me Clueless

Paul Bunyan statue, Brainerd, Minn. Bathgate, N. Dak.
Lest there be any doubt as to my pop culture ignorance, I chanced to look through the list of Emmy award winners from last night.  Going down the list, I had to look down to the sixth award (Saturday Night Live • NBC - Jimmy Fallon as Host) before there was a show or series known to me (Saturday Night Live premiered n 1975). The next show or series I had heard of was Fargo • FX Networks, checking in at number 19 on the list. And the only reason I knew about "Fargo" is the miniseries has been driving views of one of our most popular posts, On the Road to Bathgate Act 1: Fargo the Movie 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Saturday Pictures on Monday

Saturday Pictures on Monday
August 24, 2014

Nothing like a little August snow to keep the spirits bright!

The antique coffee grinder is a lamp now.

Late season flower blooming in the valley.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Here It Comes!

From time to time we have blogged about the sacrifices made when we moved to Montana, notable among them, forgoing Dunkin' Donuts. We also toil through existence in a Slurpee free zone (no Seven Elevens), and had to give up our Five Guys habit.

Going cold turkey on Five Guys proved most difficult. Accordingly, when I traveled to Bismarck, North Dakota, last winter, I trudged through a blizzard for Five Guys. When we got down to Huntsville, Texas last Christmas and then in June, Five Guys was our first commercial establishment stop. Whenever we motor to or through western Montana, I put a jog in our route to ensure we go through Missoula, which has been home to the only Five Guys in Montana. You get the drift.  

We came to Five Guys early and naturally. The first store was actually located in our tiny neighborhood Westmont shopping center in Arlington Virginia. Its buns were supplied by our local neighborhood bakery, Brenner's, also once located therein.  A Virginia blogger relates:

Original Five Guys at Columbia Pike and
South Glebe Road, Arlington, Virginia.
In 1986, while living in Arlington and working out of Washington, DC, we tried a new burger joint that had just opened in a run-down strip mall at the intersection of Glebe Road and Columbia Pike, not far from the Pentagon.
That burger joint, started by a husband and wife with four sons, was called Five Guys.
Five Guys sold burgers and fries based on a simple formula: Cooked from scratch food served quickly. The tasty burgers and boardwalk-style fries.
We loved simple food places with fare served at reasonable prices: Bob & Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike, Hard Times Cafe — a chili parlor — in Alexandria, Whiteys on Washington Boulevard and — after just one visit — Five Guys.
The first time we ate in a Five Guys was around 2002-2003. By then the original location had closed and moved to larger quarters, just outside of Arlington, in Alexandria, at the corner of King and Beauregard streets. It was recommended by friends. One meal and I was hooked. Preparing the fries in peanut oil is brilliant. The founders opened three or four additional stores in Northern Virginia that were gangbusters patronized. We picked up the vibe that the business was franchising. Teresa said we should get on board. I scoffed citing risk and insecurity. Now 2,500 locations later, all I can say is "What a stupid I am."

This morning I was paging through the one Listserv from back in Arlington that hasn't thrown me off for moving out of town, and saw this posting.

That made me wonder if Five Guys has expanded beyond Missoula in Montana. So I went to the corporate website, and, there it was, Bozeman is coming, voila! 

MontanaReturn to Top


Coming Soon!
2855 North 19th Ave, Suite I
Bozeman, MT 57915
Hours: 11am-10pm Every Day

Mountain View Shopping Center

2415 US-93 N
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: 406-752-4567
Hours: 11am - 10pm Every Day


820 East Broadway
Missoula, MT 59801
Phone: 406-830-3262
Fax: 406-830-3263
Hours: 11am - 10pm Every Day

So when the wife and the girls stock up craft or baking supplies at Michaels (they are in Suite B) or discount shop at Ross Dress for Less (Suite A) I will be a willing chauffeur on account of the culinary attraction nearby.  

Please be advised Five Guys that we are a potato growing valley. We expect locally grown, fresh Gallitan Valley potatoes sourced in our fries. We know you will be true.


Update, August 30, 2014.

A local news outlet announced the coming of Five Guys on Facebook (in Bozeman 100 likes and a couple of dozen comments is huge) to an overwhelming response.

Good Morning from Montana!

Mountain base at Big Sky.

The ridge at Bridger Bowl.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

100,000 Page Views: Hurrah!

Picture of the Bob Wards retail gun counter,
from our inaugural blog post.
I started with a post about a pre-Christmas shopping trip

We had no plan for additional posts and no agenda set on what topics to write about. But I knew I wanted to think things through, and express myself from time to time. In my post retirement world, I did not have a good vehicle for doing so. So Along the Gradyent came into being. 

Winter had set in. We are in Montana now, I thought. We need activities to help us get through frigid winter days and the even colder nights. So I took up indoor swimming to keep body together and forged into the blogosphere to nurture the mind and the soul. When we had several dozen page views the first week, we were pleased.

Today we passed the 100,000 page view landmark!

We are proud of running 'em up, but we are not driven to maximize. Now, don't get me wrong. We like being read and followed. We want steady growth, at this stage about 60 percent year over year. We look at the numbers each month to see what attracted the most readers -- the ratings do not dictate how we move forward, but they do go into the mix. 
Our page view counter reaches 100,000, August 23, 2014.
At the same time, one of our best posts was written early on, and to this day, is among our least read. That hasn't stopped us from doing other serious work from time to time. I remain proud of the Phil Mickelson post and its straightforward message. It shows a country, an economy and a culture that veered in the wrong direction. It's all about dollars and envy now. Little attention is paid to production, growth in the real economy and value. With all the interventions, disruptions to and distractions from the economic value building process, it is no wonder median incomes (and ultimately, living standards) are in decline. The financial system and its government guardians are both servant and king. You all have elected the representatives who created this system. The American people reinforce the culture of envy. You have only yourselves to blame.

We know there are things we could do to significantly ramp up our readership -- first and foremost being to sign up for ads. Getting into the advertising space would advance our links closer to the top of search engine results, in consequence of Google's and Bing's financial relationships with advertisers. God bless the internet cartel. 

Our Google supplied free software gives us the option of allowing advertising by the flick of a switch. The minimal financial benefits are not motivating, but someday I will likely contrive a rationale (like the world will be a better place if Along the Gradyent has more readers) and go there. Don't be surprised.

Another promotional tactic would be to spruce up our posts with pop culture references. Our most frequently read post (The Golf Channel: Spouse's Guide To Sanity) references Axl Rose, Armani, Refrigerator Perry and Katie Perry, among others.  That's more pop culture references than you would find in a hundred posts written by yours truly. The celebrity names are search engine eye candy. 

The Golf Channel post was written by my wife who actually understands people and pop culture. We will go down that route more often if, and when, she gets the impulse to write a post more often than every year or two. As my children gleefully point out on almost a daily basis, I am guilty of abject pop culture ignorance.

As for the future, our blogging will experience its normal seasonal pick up during the next few months. Climatic fall is hitting hard here in Montana this week, with highs in the 50s and lows in the 40s, and snow forecast above 6,500 feet (we are right around 5,000 feet at Along the Gradyent Central). The cottonwoods are turning yellow. We know there will be spurts of Indian Summer and relief. But when winter sets in, we already have binders (to use Mitt Romney's unfortunate term) of research to support writing new items for the On the Road to Bathgate Series, and we will order up five microfiche reels at a time (that's the inter-library loan limit at five dollars a pop) from the North Dakota State Historical Society, and/or take another mid winter trip to the frigid environs of Bismarck to add to our research trove. 

All thanks to the wonderful relatives who are helping and have supported me in this endeavor -- and especially the wife and the children who put up with it.

The best is yet to come. Cheers!

Why Montana?

Why Montana people say, besides it is beautiful, outdoorsy, invigorating and real? Additional reasons lie in the map.

According to the Tax Foundation, one hundred dollars is worth $96.90 in Virginia, where we used to live, compared to $106.16 in Montana, where we live today. That is generally a fair comparison for someone such as myself, who is retired, and therefore, experiences no state-to-state income disparity.

But the actual comparison for us is much more highly skewed because we resided inside the massive federal government borrowing and spending bubble inside the Washington Beltway, one stop light away from Washington, DC. The DC valuation of $84.60 for each hundred dollars would be a more proper metric for where we used to live. 

As for real estate values between Montana and DC metro, they are barely in the same world. In Montana we were able to buy more than twice the house, on 15 times the lot, with fantastic mountain views, for a price that was a fraction of what we sold our old home in Arlington, Virginia.  

People, if you don't like your lot in life, pick up your rear and find economic opportunity. Or get off of your butt, and seek lower cost. Young or old, rich or poor. Opportunity is out there for virtually anyone who seeks.

More Global Warming

That blue stuff ain't rain.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

An Ecomium to the Men and Women of Gallitan County Search and Rescue.

Here in our little corner of the world, in rural Gallitan County, just outside of Bozeman, Montana, taxes are pretty low, in large part because people volunteer, kick in, contribute, pitch in and take the initiative to do things that in many other jurisdictions are paid for dearly and expensively with tax dollars. We were reminded of that again last week when a summer concessionaire employee went missing on the Yellowstone River, in Yellowstone National Park between the river's junction with the Lamar River and Gardiner, Montana. That section of the river drops 700 feet.

On August 12, the Billings Gazette reported,
A search is underway in Yellowstone National Park for a Georgia man who was swept down the Yellowstone River near Tower Junction Monday evening.
Three young concession employees reportedly used inner tubes to illegally float the Lamar River on Monday. Shortly after reaching the confluence of the Lamar and Yellowstone Rivers, two of the men got out of the water.
Yellowstone River flowing down canyon nearby river junction.
The third man, 22-year-old Darien Latty, was last seen about 7:30 p.m. Monday being propelled downstream by the rushing water, without an inner tube or life jacket. The river downstream of the junction features numerous rapids as well as a narrow rock-walled canyon.
Initial search efforts Monday evening failed to turn up any sign of Latty, who is described as 5 feet 7 inches tall, 140 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
Search efforts were increased on Tuesday, with a helicopter, three dog teams and several small groups of people searching the Yellowstone River corridor from Tower Junction downstream to Gardiner. About 50 people had been dedicated to the search effort as of midafternoon Tuesday.
This story did not have a happy ending.
On Friday, Latty’s body was recovered, his uncle, Kevin Latty, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday. Late Friday, searchers spotted Darien Latty’s body in a steep and dangerous section of the Yellowstone River, about a quarter-mile from where he was last seen, the NPS said. A swift-water rescue team from Gallatin County, Montana, later returned with kayaks and a raft anchored to both banks of the river and recovered the body, an NPS spok
esman said. A helicopter was utilized to remove his body from the remote area.
Darien, who planned to re-enroll in college after his summer job ended, had been working in Yellowstone since earlier this year, his uncle said. 
“The last 2 to 3 months were probably the best 2 to 3 months of his life,” Kevin Latty said.
That swift water rescue team is not under the aegis of the National Park Service. It is ours. And it is staffed by volunteers.

The Sheriff's Office is responsible for all search and rescue missions in the county. Trained Deputy Sheriffs act as incident commanders in support of highly skilled volunteer groups. The volunteers are organized into specialty groups including:

  • Alpine Hasty Team
  • Backcountry Hasty Team
  • Big Sky Search and Rescue
  • Civil Air Patrol
  • Gallatin Ham Radio Club
  • Gallatin Valley Snowmobile Association
  • Salvation Army
  • Sheriff’s Posse
  • Tactical Divers
  • West Yellowstone Search and Rescue
  • Western Montana Search Dogs


(Looking for the lost)
(Rescuring the injured)


Gallitan County SAR dive team training.
Gallatin County Search and Rescue is made up of volunteers ranging from construction workers, doctors, retired persons, college students, and real estate brokers, just to name a few.  We have recognized experts in the field of technical climbing, technical radio operations, avalanches, extreme snowmobile operation, and search operations.  If you are considering a challenging and rewarding way to serve your community through Search & Rescue, please see below for contact information.  There are a multitude of ways to serve, from actual search operations to support, administrative, and public outreach functions.

Below are links to two videos that showcase our volunteers.  They may take several minutes to load.
Video #1                Video #2

If you know a Search and Rescue volunteer, be sure and thank them for the hundreds of hours they volunteer each year in support of their community.

Interested in Joining Gallatin County Search & Rescue?

Thank you for your interest in Gallatin County SAR.  The way into SAR is through membership in one of its volunteer groups.

The groups are organized by geography:
-Valley -- See specialties below,
-West Yellowstone – Contact Jason Pond 406-641-0000
-Big Sky – Contact Mark Bradford 406-539-6981

Or by specialty
-Alpine - technical climbing – Contact Chuck Swenson 581-6563
-Hasty - expert cross country skiers and avalanche – Contact Scott Gill 581-7991
-GVSA – snowmobile/ATV ownership and operation – Contact Rob Balke 580-7762
-Divers – underwater search and recovery – Contact Mike Gianfrancisco 58509248
-Hams – communications & computer technology - Contact Don Wilson 920-2395
-Dogs – search and rescue K-9 – Contact Ladean McKittrick 388-7070
-Posse – provides general training for Search and Rescue.  The Posse also provides our watercraft and whitewater rescue services.  Contact Nikki Foley 581-7670

If you know what you might be interested in please contact that group’s representative directly at the number given above.  If you are not sure where you might fit or have other questions, please contact Lt. Jason Jarrett at 406-582-2105 or email. Note that most people starting out in SAR go to the Posse.  Membership in more than one group is allowed and encouraged.

As mentioned, the Posse is responsible for whitewater rescues. The Gallitan Country Sheriff's Posses was organized in 1959 in the aftermath of the Hebegen earthquake that cleaved off the side of a mountain and created Quake Lake.
The Gallatin County Sheriff's Posse found it's origins in the aftermath of the 1959 Earthquake.  A group of ranchers, at the request of the Sheriff, rode in on horseback to the Hebgen and Quake Lake areas to rescue stranded campers.  While Gallatin County has grown over the past few decades, so has the Sheriff's Posse.  
SAR work is not glamorous.  It is lots of hard work performed by dedicated volunteers.  There are no scheduled hours on search or rescue missions.  The calls come in at any time and may last for a few hours or a few days.  Every volunteer must be prepared to spend as much time as needed regardless of conditions including overnight in the wilderness.  Personnel assigned must work as a team and under the direction of the Incident Commander and team leaders.  The professional application of skills and techniques as well as maintenance of safety standards is mandatory in the performance of all missions.
When an incident begins whether it is a missing person, lost hunter, car in a river, injured hiker or any number of others a call is usually made to 911.  The Sheriff's Office will have the Posse called out via pager.  An Incident Commander is assigned and directs response of the members to assemble equipment  including boats, ATV, Snowmobiles etc.., go to the scene or other activity as determined by the incident.
The Incident Commander will brief the teams and provide them with necessary information to initiate the search or rescue.  Safety issues are reviewed and all equipment is checked prior to launching the mission.  The Incident Commander coordinates the mission, communicating with the teams in the field via radio.  If necessary, additional resources such as helicopters or emergency personnel may be requested.  Once the subject is found their physical condition is assessed.  Sheriff's Posse members are trained in First Aid and CPR.  Some are certified Wilderness First responders as well as EMT.  Following evaluation an appropriate method of evacuation is chosen depending on the situation and condition of the victim.  Following completion of the mission the teams reassemble and are debriefed.  Equipment is repacked and vehicles are prepared for the next call out.
Gallatin County has a diverse terrain including rugged mountains, major rivers, small streams, lakes, reservoirs, heavily used recreation areas and urban areas.  Sheriff's Posse members must train for many types of missions.
In order to maintain a high level of proficiency as a volunteer agency we must put in a lot of training hours every year.  All members receive training in subjects such as wilderness navigation, survival, first aid and radio communications.

Gallitan County SAR extracted Ken Gibson's body by
helicopter and snowmobile on January 2, 2014.
One of the Search and Rescue team's sad responsibilities was to recover the body of the snowmobiler whose tragedy we profiled in January.

Downstream from the national park, below Gardiner, the Yellowstone River is gentler and can be safely rafted or tubed with proper equipment and supervision. However, within Yellowstone National Park, rafting and tubing are strictly prohibited because of extremely dangerous conditions (waterfalls, cascades, and severe rapids).

We owe a big debt of gratitude to the men and women of Gallitan County Search and Rescue who venture out in difficult and extremely dangerous conditions dozens of times each year to bring people back. Their's is an incredible and selfless contribution.