Norm’s Island

Recent Posts

Riverfront (and Clarks Crossing): Paean to a park


In the early 1990s, when I was new to Billings, I spent a lot of time at Riverfront Park. I mostly went down there to bomb around on my six-speed bicycle, which wasn’t quite a mountain bike but was tough enough for those soft trails. At the east end of the park, downstream, the last segment of the old Washington Street Bridge was still standing, and you could dive off the iron trestle into what was then a slow channel of the Yellowstone River. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Prairie Lights: A little ‘fall protection’ for our readers

Two Moon

In this Prairie Lights space, I generally give vent to personal opinions on subjects like politics, culture, religion and other tender subjects. Today I want to test the limits of the First Amendment by unburdening myself of the opinion that we live in a spectacularly beautiful place, especially during the fleeting few weeks of High Autumn, which I am capitalizing in defiance of Associated Press style regulations to emphasize how glorious it is. (more…) Continue Reading →

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BugBytes: Thoughts on cool beetles and squeamish adults


Finally, springtime is in full swing and summer is just around the corner. This invigorating seasonal shift signals the revival of two key insect-related events:

1) The transformation of our house’s western exposure into a Bacchanalian bone zone for randy swarms of box elder bugs recently sun-flushed from their winter hideaways and onto our front stoop. The result is like something out of a John Waters film: excrement-stained walls and windows, a mailbox filled with copulating foursomes doing it in the dark, and let’s not forget the dribbled gobs of abandoned egg clusters that, when crushed, dissolve into a smear of blood-hued vitals. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Audubon Center rolls out new summer activities


Responding to requests from the public, the Montana Audubon Center is offering several new programs this summer, including weekly nature tours of Norm’s Island and monthly early-morning bird walks. Also new are Tuesday-evening and Sunday-afternoon events involving canoeing on the nature center’s ponds or taking self-guided tours with “Nature Knapsacks” full of activity suggestions and equipment for each activity. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Prairie Lights: Savoring the first faint blast of summer


Let the baking begin. Saturday put me in mind of my first couple of summers in Billings, in 1989 and 1990, before which all my Montana summers had been spent in Missoula and Butte. Missoula was always cool at night, no matter how hot it was during the day, and Butte was so cool that during two summers we spent there, I think we might have taken our (then) only daughter to the city swimming pool maybe three or four times. (more…) Continue Reading →

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River group marks 25 years of success, seeks volunteers


In September 1991, the Yellowstone River Parks Association began meeting every Wednesday above what was Gary Buchanan’s office in downtown Billings. Gary provided YRPA with weekly meeting space for the first 17 years, plus so much more. Early walk-in members included Norm Schoenthal, Don Wirth, Doug Habermann, Bruce Larsen, Gary Svee and Burt Williams. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Time to open city parks, officially, to dogs

Dog girl

I come before you today to admit that I am a lawbreaker. Since our family acquired our first dog about 15 years ago, I would estimate that I have broken the local ordinance prohibiting dogs in city parks at least 300 times. I could have broken it that many times in Pioneer Park alone. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Autumn jumps the gun


Fall starts on Monday, according to the calendar, but if you’ve been out much at all in the past few days, you know that for all intents and purposes it’s already here. In some spots the signs are subtle, providing just a hint of things to come. In others, it’s like a blazing announcement that the summer of 2014, following the cold, incredibly snowy winter of 2013-14, was pitifully short and officially over. (more…) Continue Reading →

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