Havre Daily News
Jon Reece Stoner was born in May and was hitting the slopes at Bear Paw Ski Bowl about eight months later, albeit not on his own two feet.
“We had a little sack we put him in, (it) had a hole on top,” said his mother, Claire Stoner.
Stoner and her husband, Jon, both volunteers with the Eagle Creek Ski Patrol and Snowdance Ski Association, took turns packing the infant on runs down the hill.
That tradition continues for the family that farms north of Havre, but now Jon, 10, and his sister, Rainey, 8, plow through the powder or bounce down the moguls on their own, whether on skis or snowboards, while their parents work with other ski patrollers to keep the hill safe and open.
Farming has come a long way since the buckboard days of the honyockers who homesteaded the area in the early 1900s. Farmers can come to town in minutes as opposed to hours; they don't have to fight party-line users for time on the telephone, and they can call from nearly anywhere anytime on their cell phones.
The Stoners use the freedom of modern technology and transportation to enjoy everything Hill County has to offer -from their farm in the northeast corner of the county abutting the Canadian border and Hill and Blaine county line west to Fresno Reservoir and south to Bear Paw Ski Bowl 29 miles south of Havre in Pah-Nah-To Recreational Park on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.
The Stoners are as active in the Havre community as any townfolk, but they are still, first and foremost, wheat farmers who have a home in town, too. During the growing and harvest seasons, Jon is pretty much tied to the farm, and the others help however they can.
“We hardly see him when we're out there,” Claire said. “He doesn't get in until 11 at night and leaves at 5:30 or 6 in the morning.”
Jon's days are spent during the spring and summer, he said, seeding, spraying, working on equipment, picking rock, harvesting and doing “a lot of field survey.”
Modern technology has also invaded the farm work with Jon relying on computers and other hi-tech tools to monitor his farm and his crops.
“We have GPS (global positioning system), but we don't have field mapping ,” he said. “And we have yield monitors on the combines, so we know what the yields are.”
His time is also taken up with his duties as president of the Montana Grain Growers Association and as a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Wheat Growers. Those obligations took him away from home about 35 days last year, he said, and will take him on the road for about 60 this year.
Claire is business manager of Red Rock Power Inc., a business her father, Willie Pyette of Chinook, founded in 1977. It is an agriculture-related business, she said, that builds, maintains and works on power lines all over the state, mostly for electric co-ops.
She also does the farm's bookkeeping and helps out however she can at the farm. And, of course, the kids pitch in.
“They really like to, when they can, work around the shop with Jon,” Claire said.
Claire and Rainey fix meals for the farm crew and deliver the food out to the crew in the fields.
“I like cooking at the farm; I cook with my mom at the house,” Rainey said. “I make dessert.”
Rainey also enjoys driving the quadrunner on the farm.
Jon Reece says he enjoys hunting and fishing and driving tractors and pickups on the farm. He also looks forward to catching gophers, and particularly enjoys dirt biking on the farm.
The farm also has a place where the kids can get away by themselves. “We fixed up an old barn into a clubhouse,” Jon said. “It has a loft in it.”
Claire can be found driving truck during harvest and doing hatever else she can to help.
When they're in town during the summer, Rainey and Jon Reece find plenty to do. Rainey swims a lot, she said, and loves soccer and bicycling, and plays softball, tennis and volleyball. Jon is into skateboarding.
The Stoners also have a cabin at Fresno Reservoir and enjoy the water sports the lake provides. Jon Reece favors wake-boarding, while Rainey likes waterskiing and knee-boarding.
Rainey attends Lincoln-McKinley Primary School and Jon Reece is vice president of the student body at Sunnyside Intermediate School. He credits Trey Brown, his skiing and snowboarding buddy and his campaign manager, with his election.
The family stays close throughout the year, and Claire and Jon even find time to get involved in their children's schools and activities.
Jon coaches youth hockey, and if the Stoners are absent from Bear Ski Bowl, odds are they're on the road with Jon Reece's hockey team or at a Havre tournament.
Claire coaches soccer and softball and volunteers in the schools once a week. She also serves on the stewardship board at First Lutheran Church and is treasurer of the Youth Hockey Association and on its board of directors.
Together, they take agriculture into Havre's elementary classrooms.
“Everyone is so removed agriculture, even in Havre,” Claire said. “We go into their class, plant wheat and tell them about agriculture. We take in different crops we grow.”
Claire said the kids plant the seeds they're given and then get to see them sprout in just a couple of days. But the classroom exposure doesn't end there.
“We grind the wheat, make it into flour and make that into pasta,” she said. “Then we cook it and they eat it, so they can see the whole process.
“We'll do it for Rainey's class this year,” she added.
Since agriculture is the principle industry in Montana, the Stoners think it's only right that Montanans understand and appreciate what is involved, and they are eager to get the message out.