Scrapbook Two Hundred…


APRIL, 2019


Today I read a most wonderful book. It’s called My Childhood in Montana, by Irene Estella Stephens (1920-2015). It is published in paperback, on demand, and can be purchased on for under $10. It was compiled by Pamela Gehn Stephens, and copiously illustrated by William Shumway.coverThe book came to me in the mail from Brent, with a note that said, “Forrest, I hope you enjoy my grandma-in-law’s stories. She was a great storyteller and really would have liked to have read your memoir I’m sure.” 

On the back cover of the book are these words, “Irene was my mother-in-law until her passing at age 95 in 2015. She was an exceptional person of many talents, and I especially loved reading her straight-forward vivid description of growing up on a remote dryland wheat farm on the central plains of Montana during the Great Depression. This memoir evokes her close family and neighbors, and the constant hard work to survive in this harsh environment where the winters were long and bitter, and the growing season was, at most, four months.” Pamela G. Stephens

Chapter 13 is titled Teacherage

“In late fall, when the Montana winters dug in, it became too difficult to ride our horses to school, so our folks would take us to the schoolhouse Monday morning, and we would live there with the teacher until Friday afternoon. The school building was heated with a coal furnace in the basement, and the teacher had to shovel coal into the furnace or see that it was done by one of the older boys. She also had to cook our meals and get us to bed at night. Before school started in fall, the parents would bring a load of coal out from Roy, along with school supplies and food staples. Of course, the toilet was an outhouse, same as at our house.

“One year our teacher was Mrs. Stephens, and I remember giggling with the other girls when we saw her son Webb wearing his long red nightgown. That boy grew up and became my husband. We were married for 55 years.” (A cutout from Chapter 6. “There were at most 14 students, and sometimes as few as 9 or 10, from 4 or 5 families in grades 1-8, all taught by 1 teacher).

The 40, one-page chapters were drawn to a time, just 10 years before mine, when the promise of an easy life seemed distant. But they held sway so potent that I longed to harken back and live it all again with them. Tough times make memories stronger, and longer lasting. I love Irene and her sister, and their father with his rigid expectations. Please read this book and tell me what you think. f





56 thoughts on “Scrapbook Two Hundred…

    • I read half the memoire and brings me to a place I have never been on this plane.
      I’m not sure how we even survived during these times and times way before these but the will to go on and be wise to prepare for what’s next seems to be important.
      Very different. Things have changed so quickly, I’m not sure we would recognize anything if we are born again 100 years down the road with a memory of such.

      “In the fall we would go down on Boxelder Creek a mile or so from our house and find a bee hive in the trees.”

      Now we just go to the store around the corner to get some honey with our honey.

      I think we adjust to the times we are born in and I think it’s a great thing to know about how we became who we are in the process and where we are going and that goes back millions of years if my intuition is correct.
      Thanks Fenn.

  1. My aunt is from Montana near Gardiner. I will get it and read and tell u what I think. My aunt tells good stories also. Thanks for telling us about the book. Those things remind me of Little House on the Prairie. Love them!!!

  2. I don’t know why my comments get deleted and not approved but that’s ok….. I’ll remember that!


  3. Hmmmm.

    Quite a few tidbits in this one.

    How about this one:

    1-8, all taught by 1

    LOL. Yep. You just gotta love that one.

    Thanks again Forrest.

    All IMO.

  4. was founded just across the bridge from my own office along the gorge in Victoria.

    Still, they want $50 to deliver that book to my house from America.

    Luckily, the UK dealers will ship one across the ocean for free.

    I look forward to reading it.

  5. This must be special…because it’s #200. Let’s no take this lightly. I won’t.

  6. My father was born and raised in Helena, MT. I spent many summers there having a blast when I was a kid in the 60’s & 70’s!
    Mr. Fenn, This bass WONT ignore your feeding!

  7. Sounds like a fun read! I’ve ordered a copy as well. From the Forrest’s description I think that the format of this book sounds similar to Forrest’s own books.

    For big scrapbook entry #200, I’m wondering if there may be some significance buried within this post. Nothing jumps out at me in particular. The illustrator William E. Shumway is a fellow gallery-owner/operator like Forrest, so perhaps they’ve crossed paths before (He may also be a distant relative of Gordon Shumway; a.k.a. “ALF”)?

    (And for those that are interested in the location described around Roy, Montana, I drove the stretch of highway 87 from Great Falls to Miles City last summer and there is a whole lot of rolling grasslands and not much more in this region. Definitely not even close to being in the Rocky Mountains.)

  8. My Mother grew up near Libby and Troy. Her mother was a school teacher in a one room school house. Her father worked on the Great Northern Railroad. Her relatives had built the lodges in Glacier National Park.
    I forwarded this to her in the hopes that she will finally write down her many stories of her life growing up. She just told me that she has ordered a copy.

    • Michael – That’s a great idea! Too many important stories seem to get lost to the ages, and everyone has some good ones to tell. My grandparents shared some cool stories with me as a kid, but I always felt like I only scratched the surface and there was so much more I could have learned from them.

  9. Thank you’s are always in order. Amply heated with a comforting blend from above and taught with thought provoking surroundings. Now what could be better, on a cold spell, than that.

  10. Memoir of a hard and joyful life. One never comes without the other. I never shy away from a book recommendation!

  11. Best memories in the past and in the present come from surviving hardships. Those memories are the fondest and when a child remembers them with joy on Mother’s day of Father’s day, it wells the heart of the parent(s). That’s because we struggle to ‘provide’ as much as we can and ‘make sure’ our young get the best chances they can. Then, we learn that it was the struggles just for the necessities that were important. With that I cannot understand the ‘entitlement’ of the poor and of the rich of these days. When enough is enough, there is a different struggle – just to keep it that way — enough. I’m constantly made fun of because my contentment and creative solutions. By those trapped in a corporate world with never a break to even fish.

    We need to be a support system not an ATM or supply warehouse. As long as the struggles are not sink or swim, creativity and imagination will develop and reign.

    One the issue of rigid expectations – flexibility is better and meets the needs of different people. Imagine a parent expecting the same thing from five kids that maybe two have the ability to obtain. I consider it abuse – But it is far better than the raising the bar expectations I had. As soon as I met an expectation, that bar got raised. I have zero good memories of that parent. Matter of fact they are horrors and nightmares to this day. Perhaps that is why I just don’t care to go beyond enough is enough and be creative in solutions.

    Peace and go in peace.

  12. Have Dorothy order you a copy of John Muir’s ‘The Story of my Boyhood and Youth’ if you appreciate stories of ‘tough times’ and a father with ‘rigid expectations.’

    Kids of those circumstances seem to have grown up to possess strong character and integrity.

    Now — kids sue their parents for using the ‘incorrect’ pronoun for the gender by which they wish to self identify.

    • I’m never happy to read about confused parents. Confused people should not
      be(come) parents. A snowflake rarely lasts very long before experiencing the
      CLARITY associated with a major meltdown. Hee hee. All IMO.

  13. Sooo…If hints exist here and of course they must since it’s “to cease”=cc=200. Now write out a little family tree of who’s who in the Story. Brent’s mom, Pamela is the one wrote the back cover writings. Brent’s wife’s grandma is Irene Stephens. There is a MRS Stephens as teacher(Irenes mom? or another Stephens family?; only 4 or 5 families represent the set of students), Irene marriied Webb Stephens, son of Mrs Stephens the teacher. “Brent” married the granddaughter of Irene or Irene’s “Sister”. So Fenn mentions Irene’s sister and RIGID father, who he loves, and “live it all AGAIN, WITH them”. There is no mention of Irene’s sister or father(of the rigid expectations). Who are they? Who is Pamelas husband? Who are they in Fenn’s stories? Mrs Ford, June, Marvin, etc? Who is Fenn in this story? Is Peggy the author? Dug in? Too much snow for horses? JP did ok in tenbelow whether.

  14. And hole bunch of fun #’s but Ill leave that to ya’ll, Im heading to Lost Creek Lake and drown some worms followed by an overnight hike into some remote canyons around Mt McKenzie and see if I can find some old indian sign of habitation. Way more fun than this stuff. Good luck, Im done. For real. Ty Major, it was a hoot! Favorite trips were hiking to the duckbill and Elf on Steamboat, the owls eyes you know where, the big thumb image in Montana by “walking” in the “(k)no(w) place”=hole and school, on Big Hole, the giant running man in So Co that is exactly too knots from wwwh to rm’s gut(which has an eyebrow and a canon btw–brown/in=brow/i–brow/eye) oh and wwwh is 373 and dry. Take title and flip it upside down, like the dust cover(blockhead person holding BOWLED Treasures) and you get 37111- 373=wwwh in Kelvin. sorry but he did say 4-4 to see K, I mean for all to see K. Line 17-18= abandon or STAGE. I reallly liked line 10 as future and 9 as western camp/hole/elephant. Tigger, Johnny Bravo, Owl, Milne, Wimpy, Barney Rubble, the cartoon Phoenix, the leprachaun, etc images in book were really fun to find, you do mention liking to sit in Bullet and listen to car tunes/cartoons. Find the fort! I liked the botany lesson, the following of if, THAT if, not this if. Go in confidence huh? Hows this for confidence? No IFS(what ifs? lol) ands or buts about it! Didnt Fenn sand marbles with his knees? marbles=orbs. Did he have a sore butt on Lightnings butt? sore butt and sanding orbs. No i, f sands orb, ut(and) TS aboutt(twin t=20). or is it, wait, no IFs lol. No wive(s,s)ore butts. sounds like a boys day out huh? No ifs ands or buts. No Eye, Forrest sands orb you TS. Lets see: There is a hidden Tigger and owl in one drawing, Jenny misspells AA Milne and people still believe she isnt part of the puzzle? Coincidences cease at some point. Think its imagination with Tigger and Owl? go to page 95, right of f’s head. Id blow yr mind showing you the Phoenix, Barney Rubble, Running man and how it says that you “Identify phoenix and win the dough” or that the end of his rein bow is literally in the shape of a rainbow and when u look down it gives you two points, that u must have already .found to recognize the clue, “$ on BILL”. Hint of riches new and old(time flies-fugio/BF) or is it Knew an doled(Jennys 42 questions that F went alone into). Again I could do this all day but nature awaits. Ive proven to myself that I have cracked enough of the puzzle to have been the lead hunter for awhile, I have left most of it online for my children to see when runner up gets the prize and releases my solve. I have screen shot all these posts for almost 5 years, with dates, for prosperity. Only to me and my children is it important. Runner-up, if you should think of me when its in yr hands, rekindle my faith in mankind and reciprocate me for my almost 5 years of constant work, or dont. Ty, have met and talked with some neat people in the Chase: 5girls, Antigroove, Astree, John Brown, Easternsteve, etc. Enjoy your summer folks, I know I will. Go in confidence.

    • Thats the most confident, i was right on top of it, missed it by that much, generous giving of hard work, hairbrained solve admittance of failure ive heard yet.
      In this you do take the lead.
      Newbies, this is a classic example of how not to bow out. Save a little face and just dont.

  15. The good news is that Irene just sold a few hundred copies of her book.

    The bad news is that Forrest just earned a few hundred book reports in his inbox.

    • Allen K – Didn’t Forrest say he would have liked to have been a literary agent?

      This was a very nice gesture for Irene.

  16. Thank you Mr. Fenn. I look forward to reading this memoir. Brent is lucky to have this from his grandma-in-law. I just lost my two grandmothers several months ago and it would have been wonderful to have their memories written down for me to read over and over again.

  17. Thank you Forrest, and of course the late Irene Stephens, as I was able to read the book today and saw many parallels between the two memoirs. I have to wonder if Forrest, or maybe more likely June, ever cried over a popped balloon. My younger kids still do even when we still have a dozen more on hand in excess. I think the most touching part of the book was the sleigh ride chapter. Despite the difficulty of living in Montana in the 20’s and 30’s there was still extreme beauty that she got to enjoy with her family. I for one am grateful that I can enjoy a Montana big sky country sunset every day of the week. FYI sunrises are just as beautiful. Compared to her life mine would require the meadowlarks to work in shifts as I am definitely a product of modern times. Thankfully the part of Montana I live in rarely gets temperatures in the negatives (usually only for a week or two a year). I do however get to endure winter for up to 6 months a year but thankfully snow is typically 3-5 months at my elevation. By the time the temperature gets back to the 30’s F I can start wearing shorts again. My spouse, a Montana native, never stops wearing shorts all winter long (That isn’t normal in Montana, it’s just her, but I love her all the more because of it).

    As for stand outs in the book, 9, 23, 35, 40, 42, 44 (and more to be honest) stood out. #40 Batching was interesting because by today’s standards that seems unusually. However, it gives a better idea of the sense of community of that time. I also get the impression that kids from that era knew how to listen better and to watch out for the cow’s tail.

    Thank you Forrest, I hope you enjoy all the book reports,

    Idle Dreamer

    • Hello Idle Dreamer. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the book. Your comments have tempted me to get the book, especially about the chapter about the sleigh ride. This is one thing I thought I would like to do in my life, but I haven’t done it. I may order the book.

      • I don’t regret the purchase (though Forrest might grief me for buying it in Amazon with Prime). I have even been on a sleigh ride when I was a kid (Hay rides are also common in the fall). All I remember is the sleigh not the scenery. Kids do seem to focus on different things then adults.

        I hope you can go for a sleigh ride someday. Definitely worthwhile, but dress warm.

        • My wife and I once went on a sleigh ride in Jackson, Wyoming at the National Elk refuge. It was thrilling, to be literally surrounded by hundreds of elk. Many, many cow elk, and twenty or so big bulls in full rack. The bulls would soon lose their magnificent racks – but oh how proud they seemed to be at the time. Rutting season had come and gone, so they were no aggressive – Just proud. Such lovely memories – JDA

          • There is a large elk herd that lives in Missoula and is often visible on Mt. Jumbo. You also reminded me if one thing that stood out to me in the book. Very few mentions of wildlife. I was suprised the deer didn’t venture close to them but with the over hunting and then ban in the 30’s they must have been more fearful of humans. I can’t go a day without seeing deer where I live and they not only have no fear of humans but the ones where I live don’t run across the street but walk. There is then different tracks in the book and mention of coyotes. Just not much else. 10 years ago I was walking and came upon a moose 150 ft away. Thankful it ignored me and I took a wide berth of it before continuing on.

          • Hello JDA. The sleigh ride you and your wife went on sounds wonderful. To see the sights you’ve seen is amazing. I hope you and your wife continue to find such lovely memories as you both experienced.

          • Idle Dreamer…in Durango the deer actually wait for the traffic signal and cross Camino Del Rio at the cross walk (using the walk signal). Occasionally I toss greens etc out the window and they come running up like dogs to check out my morning offerings. Trophy 5-point bucks hang out on the front lawns in the neighborhoods in the fall, and their rut is incredible to watch (but don’t get too close). The adaptations that wildlife has made in order to live amongst humans is pretty amazing.

          • Inohury, YES – it was a sight to behold. My wife and I have been very fortunate in being able to live near the Rockies, and to see all of the sights and wildlife that we have seen – Y E A ! ! ! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 JDA

          • Inohury;

            Glad to see your post. Have not heard from you in a spell. Hope all is well with you – PEACE to you my friend – JDA

          • All is well, JDA.

            After last summer, I thought it best for Inohury to take a step back from the Chase to see how things unfold.

            It’s been good for me, I will admit. The Chase, that is.



          • Inohury;

            Glad that all is well. We all need a break some time. Glad that the chase has been good for you – Take care my friend – JDA

        • Hello Idle Dreamer. I’m sure Mr. Fenn won’t be upset with whom you order from because it really doesn’t matter. I’m glad you don’t have any regrets buying the book, and by your comments about it, the stories sounds really nice. I’m glad you were able to go on a sleigh ride. Thank you for kind words in hoping I’ll find the opportunity to do so.

          • Sandy, I’ve seen this myself in Dgo. Watched a 5×5 buck cross 14th headed south, in the crosswalk, turn and cross Main, the RR tracks, and Camino Del Rio headed to the river. Funny thing though, that deer never pushed the button, never waited for the light, just took to the crosswalks like he owned the streets. Bizarre!


      • Did you ever get it pdenver? Planning on reading it again tomorrow afternoon after shoveling the walk.

  18. Hey SWM, I didnt mean to imply the deer actually push the cross walk button! But the deer will wait at the crosswalks, mostly where Junction Creek crosses CDR, and at the Doubletree 550/160 junction in the early early morning. The deer own the town, dont they? Pretty amusing.

    • I still remember looking out the window and watching a guy walk down the sidewalk with his arm around a buck. Just down the road a neighbor sits in his yard with his dog while deer often hang put with them.

  19. I just got the book. It rings all kinds of bells for me. Good illustrations, too. I like the Country Store, Bread and Cinnamon, and School Room chapters and drawings in particular.

  20. “As sands through the hour glass so are the days of our lives”
    In some wore and tattered book it says something like “we are living epistles known and read of all men”
    Each of us has a Book Of Days ….pass it on!

  21. Just got the book yesterday and finished its first read. The illustrations and descriptions do make me want to go back. Sights, sounds and smells. Descriptions of things I know, and of tougher times I have only heard. Irene talks of learning, but not the in classroom type. The illustrations bring the stories to life, even where they are not. Both the stories and the illustrations come across simply and to the point and are complimentary of each other. Sounds like the good life, but one living it might disagree until later when they realize what was important, and what is special. If I could go back there in time I would definitely have to toughen up. I’d like to meet this hermit Irene speaks of. Whats his story? I would also tell Irene and those that came before her, never put snow on cold or frozen parts. Siting here and Staring at the cover art I am transported. Why am I on this hill? Fence repairs, lost calf, or just thinking. But it makes no never mind. Its nice here, and I should get back down there. Its getting dark and its time to throw another log on the fire. g

  22. There is a phrase that real estate agents use (and overuse) where I come from: “deceptively spacious” – and you learn quickly to put the emphasis on the first word!

    This book is deceptively simple. In plain language it describes, almost literally, how the west was won: with grit, determination… and love.

    I hope Irene’s granddaughter, North Krimsly, won’t mind if I quote from her “forever missed” entry:

    “she was a deeply spiritual and inspiring person. She lived the life of a Bodhisattva, an enlightened being. She was unafraid of death, was gracious, loving and compassionate to all without judgment, and effortlessly saw the positive in all people and things. No matter what happened in her life, even things like cancer, she embraced it! She never studied Zen a day in her life but she lived the principles far better than I do after years of study.”

    Reading this book, you start to see how things connect; how the healing process begins.

  23. Simply said, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, beginning to end. From proving up to watching how God created it, a big sky sunset is never to be forgotten, thanks Roy. Life is good if you let it be.

  24. Received my copy of this book today, unexpectedly as the order confirmation indicated its arrival would be a week later than today. I’m glad it came today as I had some free time this evening to begin to read through it. Though we did not grow up in Montana, my parents were from that era – an era when hard work was expected and you just did it.

    To that end, Chapter 9, Listen for the Bells, certainly rang true for me as Irene Estella Stephens shares a lesson my parents also learned growing up in the 30s and 40s – one they taught us as we grew up in the late 60s into the 80s.

    If you have an opportunity to obtain a copy of this book, I think you will enjoy it. Though I haven’t completed it yet, I will soon. It has me looking forward to many more fond memories.


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