By Robert Lucke
Wayne Wright is quite a guy. Meet him for the first time and you
can tell it by the amazing twinkle in his eyes that can be seen a mile away.
He is a Chinook-area resident of the Northern Montana Care Center. In fact, he is serving as Resident Council president. He has come a long way from his beginnings in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
"I was born in Idaho Falls, and when I was 6 years old we moved to Dodson, Montana. That was in 1923," Wright said. "We raised sugar beets and certified Bliss Triumph potatoes. We did just about everything. Dug our frozen beets out of the ground in December to use as feed and I can remember how the river would completely freeze over in just one night."
Wright and his parents were always on the lookout for that better piece of ground or that better crop that would give them more cash.
"We looked at a piece of ground in Harlem. Good thing we didn't buy that one as it was a real swamp," Wright said. "About the only thing that grew really well for us in that country was mosquitos. They were something. We had black horses and when they would come into the barn you could not even tell they were black there were so many mosquitos on them."
The lure of better land and better crops, and probably fewer mosquitos as well, sent them to Conrad, where Wayne graduated from high school. The family, after trying other ways of making a living, ended up with a herd of dairy cows.
"We even tried raising strawberries after the potatoes didn't work, but we ended up milking 30 head of cattle and selling the milk to a creamery that had routes all over this part of the country. In fact I think Vita Rich eventually bought them out," Wright said.
Somehow through selling some of the milk cows, the Wright family ended up just in the cream business and that didn't work either.
"So Dad went to sheering sheep in the spring. The year I graduated from high school, I needed a suit of clothes. Everyone had one who graduated," he said, "I had no money so I borrowed enough from my friends to buy that suit and after graduation I went out and tied wool
until I got enough money to pay my friends back. That happened around the Fourth of July so everyone was happy."
Wayne Wright was always interested in horses. His dad left for a stay in Utah and Wright went into a trading frenzy, ending up with a gray horse that had almost every brand in the county on it. That didn't work well. The horse was not easily trained.
Then the family moved to Utah and, while life was better, it was not for Wayne, who missed all of his friends in Montana. So he and a couple of other boys hopped a freight and headed back for Montana, along with about 30 hobos who rode the rails with them.
They were kicked off several times. One time Wayne got left at Sieban siding south of Wolf Creek because his friends could not wake him up. Eventually he ended up in Great Falls.
"I found a park to stay in at Great Falls and then looked for a train to get me home to Conrad," Wright remembered. "Well, there were no trains to Conrad so I hitched a ride on a train to Chinook, and that is how I got here. And I am here yet."
Wright got married a couple of times, has several children and has worked at just about everything that he could work on in the Milk River Valley. He was a rancher, farmer, and worked on the oil crews.
"I was even drafted to work on the farm during the war," Wright said.
Whatever he did, his motto followed him. Still does to this day.
"You know, whatever there was to do, I did. There never was a time that I didn't have work. I just put on my gloves and worked," Wright said.
So he would be the first to say that he has had a good run. Lots of happiness. Lots of laughter, and it ain't over yet.