Havre Daily News
John Fusk was an avid gopher hunter. That is the first thing that popped into his nephew-in-law's head when he thought about the retired Joplin rancher.
“Money was no object for 22 shells when it came to gophers,” Steve Sapp said.
Fusk also made bailing twine ropes, braiding them after tying them to the refrigerator door.
“There's not a person in Joplin or Chester that doesn't have his rope,” Sapp said.
Fusk was involved in another one of his favorite activities - he sometimes walked as much as 20 miles a day - when he was struck and killed Friday by a train at a BNSF crossing. Fusk was walking north on Montana Highway 224 at the time, Liberty County Sheriff and coroner Richard Burrows said.
Train workers saw an elderly man near the track in Joplin about 2:45 p.m. Friday but then “lost visibility,” BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said.
The train was traveling about 50 mph at the time and was sounding the whistle, Melonas said. The engineer applied the emergency brake in an attempt to stop, he said.
The Seattle-bound train, including 69 cars carrying containers loaded with general merchandise, stopped after a short distance, Melonas said.
The crossing's automated warning devices, which includes flashers, gates and bells, were functioning at the time, Melonas said.
“His vision is not good and I bet he never heard a thing,” Sapp said.
Fusk suffered from macular degeneration, an eye disease that affects central vision. Fusk also had a tendency to bend over and watch the ground when walking, Sapp said.
He also said Fusk wasn't wearing his hearing aids last week because the wind made them squeal.
Fusk, 85, combined two of his favorite pastimes, gopher hunting and braiding ropes, to make gopher snares for kids.
Sapp described the snares as the “poor man's way” for those who couldn't afford ammunition. He added that he uses one as a leash for his dog.
Fusk was “a miser with a kind heart,” and braiding rope was something he could make and give to people.
“If someone really needed money he'd hem and haw a bit but would give it to them,” Sapp said.
Fusk was a “Paul Harvey nut.”
“He would waylay eating to listen. He would never miss it,” Sapp said. “He would have lunch at 12:25 p.m. because Paul Harvey is probably done at 12:20 p.m.” Just as Paul Harvey has his favorite phrase, Fusk had one. It's that he loved other people's cooking.
“That would be his ‘and now the rest of the story' like Paul Harvey. His catch phrase would be ‘I like other people's cooking',” Sapp said.
As a bachelor, the main dish he would cook for himself was meatloaf, which was messy because he didn't have a meatloaf pan. Sapp said the loaf didn't look appealing but it tasted good.
Fusk liked to go to the Liberty County Senior Center for a cheeseburger and fries because the price was right and he could visit with others, Sapp said.
Fusk was born on the family homestead north of Joplin in 1920 and moved to White Sulphur Springs in the 1950s, where he worked as a rancher and lumberjack. He returned to the Hi-Line in 1996.
He enjoyed getting together with others, but had trouble with his hearing and sight, Sapp said. He got hearing aids after the move, which helped with both his hearing and socializing.
Fusk spent a lot of time with his sister, Alice Bilden, after he moved back to the Hi-Line, and espcially enjoyed her cooking, Sapp said.
Melonas said BNSF will continue to investigate the incident with local authorities.