Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fort Benton Summer Celebration

These folks in FB know how to throw a celebration. They make sticking around an extra day well worth it. Besides all the interesting historical displays they have a ton of free food and entertainment. At noon I wandered by a large group of people at a food tent by a bank, so being hungry I got in line. They were serving the best pork barbecue I have had in a while , baked beans, cole slaw and lemonaid . When I got my plate I asked what the cost was and learned it was compliments of the bank, the food was terrific so I went back for seconds and then lay under a shade tree digesting and listening to the entertainment going on near by.

First up was a group called Grampa and the Locos who were pretty good. Thye sang a great version of The Wreck of the Old 97.
Then the Carver Brothers were introduced but only Chuck Carver was there because brother George was in Alaska fishing. Chuck was the best--sort of a Willie Nelson who wrote/sang his own songs. I talked to him afterwards and he is 70 but did not get into singing/composing until 6-7 years ago. Although he sang songs by other artists including I Just Don't Look Good Naked Anymore", and "The Squaws Along The Yukon are Good Enough For me", his original stuff was super. I will remember "Don't Put a Cell Phone In my Coffin" and "I Got the Medical Bills Blues" for a long time, I was laughing hard. This guy can really yodel as well. As I lay there I closed my eyes and visualized Justin Hemminger ,The world's second most interesting musician, doing this same thing in a few decades.
I want to be around when that happens because this is my kind of Americana entertainment.
A couple of louder guys in the crowd kept hollaring "Not bad for an old geezer". There was no alchohal served that I could see.

Lots of folks chowing down free barbecue. When all this was done we all moved to the other bank in town and they had free ice cream, but no entertainment. Talked to several folks during this grazing period and learned a lot.
First of all that group of 20 or so football players I saw running pass patterns last night was the entire football team. There is a big football tradition here but they are running out of kids so this coming season the Longhorns (see hoofprints in street) will be playing 8-man football instead of 11.
Good conversation with retired local farmer Jack who explained that the crop rotation in this area is winter wheat, spring wheat, and barley. They produce a bunch and the soil makes it possible and most farmers only add nitrogen to the dirt. I learned from Jack that Chouteau County has more acres being tilled than any other county inthe USA. Also, Jack said he used to contour farm wheat in eastern Washington (remember Waitsburg?) and how dangerous it was to combine on the side of those big hills. The combines there are specially made to work on a slope up to 48 degrees but 45 degrees is about maximum otherwise you start slipping and possibly rollong down hill.

I was standing by my bike a lot and several folks came over and said "I saw you riding from Great Falls yesterday and thought you were an idiot for riding in that wind on that road, glad to see you made it". One guy in particular who saw me riding was very friendly and when I told him I wanted to waterboard some of the big RV drivers, he said "well I have one of the bigger ones and was when I passed you I was having trouble with that wind as well." He and his wife Francis are retired military pilots and we ended up eating together that evening in the day at the free community pot luck meal in the park. Wow, what a spread--apparently folks bring all kinds of dishes and lay them out on big tables and it is a free for all (literally). It will take me til South Dakota to work off the calories I consumed . I am in love with whoever made that rhubarb/strawberry crumb cake dessert.

The more I read/hear/see about the early days of Fort Benton the more I understand what a wild place it was. This was the last stop on the Missouri for steamboats and apparently anything went. Many times it was tough to tell the lawmen from the bad guys. You hear a lot about vigilante justice . One story in particular was about a time when FB needed a policeman and they hired a guy from Great Falls without checking him out. Well the crime rate went way up when he was on patrol , especially at night. So some vigilante townsfolks figured out the new guy was the problem and approached him one night saying "we know who the is causing the problem around here". The new policeman says "Great I will go to the jail, get a rope and we will hang him". So he gets the rope and returns, the vigilantes jump him put the rope around his neck and hung him by throwing him down a well. End of problem. There are a ton of stories like that floating around this river town (so to speak).

This is the "historical" county courthouse. Currently there are only 5000 people in this county and 1500 live in Fort Benton.
Posted by Picasa

No comments:

Post a Comment