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Montana Reunion


August 25, 2007

Sweet Nostalgia
By Pat Nelson

Montanans, some in cowboy hats, served up nostalgia at their August 25 picnic in Horseshoe Lake Park. As I neared the event, Amazing Grace was being played on the bagpipes and various other performances filled the park with music throughout the day.

Things didn't exactly go "without a hitch," but that didn't stop guests from having a good time. Woodland resident Kathy Davis, an organizer of the event, told about the first obstacle she encountered. "We furnish the pop and chicken," she said. "I pre-paid for 80 pieces of chicken and sent Tom Anderson to pick it up. The store gave him an 8-piece order, not an 80-piece order, so the chicken had to be delivered to us."

The next snafu happened as I interviewed guests. Someone suggested I take a photo of the cake, and just then my camera crashed to the floor. It took a hard hit, bounced, and slammed again onto the concrete. I could instantly see that it was damaged, and although it appeared to take pictures, I couldn't be sure because I was no longer able to review them.

As a guest served a piece of the chocolate cake, I snapped a picture and stepped back. Just then, the sheet cake fell to the floor. Luckily, it stayed upright on its tray, and only one big blob of whipped chocolate frosting made a mound on the floor. The excitement continued when a gentleman kindly offered his assistance in picking up the cake. When he bent over and reached for the tray, his cell phone fell out of his pocket and became a cake ornament. His phone was coated with sugary frosting. I heard Lee Coyne of Salem say, "He's a sweet talker."

It wasn't surprising that Lee Coyne came up with a clever phrase to describe the incident. He's a former journalist who has written for many newspapers , covering political news in Washington DC. He reminisced about his days of writing about Mike Mansfield , the longest-serving Majority Leader of the US Senate, who served from 1961 to 1977.

Guests soon lost interest in the comedy of errors created by the crashing camera and the falling cake, and they shifted their attention to an accordion player. "A band will play later," I was told.

Kathy Davis pointed out raffle items, lined up along the counter of the picnic shelter. "The raffle helps us raise money for these items," she said. "I have friends in Billings who send things for the raffle, and I put together gift baskets."

Another organizer, Tom Anderson of Longview, said "we've been holding this event right at twenty years. We've held it at Merwin and Trojan, but this is the best place. It's more centrally located." Anderson is from the Roundup area, near Billings, Montana.

About seventy people attended the potluck. Nostalgia was swapped at tables marked with Montana city names like Roundup, Kalispell, Kremlin, Conrad, Whitefish, Shelby, and Glasgow. Kathy Davis and Tom Anderson talked about the mining disasters of the Roundup and Billings area that are a part of their family history. Kathy said, "Dad went to the site of a mining disaster at Bearcreek, Montana and there were 125 dead miners. He said it was the worst thing he ever had to do. When they were all done closing the mine, all the rescue workers were told to drink a shot of whiskey to calm their emotions."

Most of the memories shared, though, were good ones, as folks looked through photo albums and scrapbooks. The group will dust off cowboy hats again next year to gather here and swap stories, renew friendships, and remember their roots.

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