Prairie Lights: A slide show, of sorts, of a small adventure


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

A fleet of clouds sails over a gravel road near Lindsay, between Circle and Glendive.

Turn me loose, set me free, somewhere in the middle of Montana.
—Merle Haggard

When I lived in Missoula in the 1970s, it sometimes seemed that a week couldn’t go by without my being invited to a slide show.


Ed Kemmick

Most of those shows chronicled somebody’s outdoor adventures: a trek into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, fishing in Alaska, a raft trip down the Snake River, etc. These were the days of slide projectors, carousels full of slides and those shaky white projector screens.

The photographer/adventurer would usually go to great lengths to pair the slides with just the right music, generally of the movie-score dramatic variety or New Age inspiring. Some of the slide shows were awful, some were quite good and as a bonus the slides would sometimes either melt or burst into flames, which was exciting.

I suppose I could have put together something like that myself to showcase my recent travels (there must be an app for that), but in the end I decided that even in the digital newspaper world, simpler is usually better. So, let me offer up an approximation of a narrated slide show of some recent travels across Eastern Montana.

But first let me say a few things in general about those recent travels, which took me to Glendive, Circle, Poplar, Wolf Point, Malta, Grass Range and lots of points in between. For one, I couldn’t have asked for better traveling weather. Except for a few minutes of rain, I was accompanied by cloud-flecked blue skies and lots of sunshine.

I saw a good many pronghorn antelope, a few deer, lots of prairie chickens and at least a few dozen pheasants—both living and sadly mashed into the roadway. In Glendive I saw a profusion of new motels to service the Bakken boom overflow, and elsewhere on my travels I saw a profusion of old buildings either slowly succumbing to the elements or already reduced to a few scattered piles of scrap.

I had never thought of this before, but it occurred to me that one of the great disadvantages of urbanization is that cities by necessity feel compelled to remove buildings that have been abandoned. There are well-publicized cases of urban eyesores in Billings, but the houses in question would hardly even qualify as old way out in the country.

For all the natural beauty the Montana countryside has to offer, there’s still nothing quite as alluring as all the old barns, houses, schools, churches, grain elevators and outbuildings weathering away—not to mention all the old cars and trucks, which I obviously like to photograph as well.

I should also mention that the photo above appears on top for no other reason than it seemed to be the best for a piece about traveling in Montana. And I really loved those clouds.

As for the rest of my slide show, the narration will appear as captions beneath the photos. Let’s go:


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