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  • Letter to the Editor - Democracy is Bipartisan

    Updated Jun 20, 2024

    Having proudly served as former secretaries of state in Montana, we understand how important democracy is to the people of our state. It’s not a matter of what side of the aisle you stand on — it’s a matter of what you value. Recently our state’s Supreme Court reaffirmed that Montanan’s right to cast a ballot is not a mere privilege — it is a right guaranteed by our Constitution. A coalition of lawmakers in Congress, including Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester, are working to uphold the integrity of our democracy through the F...

  • The Postscript: Multiplication tables

    Carrie Classon|Updated Jun 20, 2024

    I never learned my multiplication tables. Not really. To this day, if you ask me, “What is six times nine?” out of the blue, with some urgency, I will panic. (Please don’t do this.) The troubles started when I was transferred from one math class to another in the third grade. I now understand that this was some sort of promotion from lower math to higher math, but it did not feel like that at the time. Almost immediately, I realized everyone around me was privy to some secret...

  • Looking out my Backdoor: When the pot gets stirred

    Sondra Ashton|Updated Jun 20, 2024

    I’m not going into a lot of detail. There was a death, not unexpected, in the family who own this rancho. It’s a big family, a lot of history here. For the past few days, it’s felt like, humor me here, spirits wandering, a lot of back and forth, disconnected and disconcerted. I’m talking about a lot of restless spirits. I’m sensitive to these things, to an extent. Aware, that’s all. This morning I woke up angry, for no discernable reason and with no object for my anger. This...

  • Non-residents harvest more mule deer bucks than residents in NE Montana

    Updated Jun 20, 2024

    When it comes to hunter crowding and the state of mule deer, non-resident hunting pressure and harvests aren’t the only culprits, but mounting evidence shows they’re a big one. According to an FWP Interoffice Memorandum dated 5/6/2024, the “total Region 6 mule deer harvest in 2023 was estimated at 9,986, 28% above the 26-year average” and — for the first time ever — non-residents harvested more antlered mule deer than Montana residents in Region 6. The memo added that “antlerless harvest in 2023 was 35% above the 26-year a...

  • Plodding old geezer versus dangerous old sleazer

    Updated Jun 13, 2024

    Having lost an election, I know it hurts to lose. I know, too, that there is a good life beyond losing because I’ve been living it for the past 20 years. I know that the people’s will in a democracy can only be determined by a process of elections; American democracy has successfully functioned on that model since George Washington. When the people lose their faith in elections, democracy is finished. There have been as many losers as winners in our legacy of elections extending back over 230 years. By their respect for the...

  • Looking out my Backdoor: Like falling in first love

    Sondra Ashton|Updated Jun 13, 2024

    Out of nowhere, no foretaste, foretelling, forewarning, it dropped from the sky, swooning, gobsmacked us in the best way. Rain, glorious, wondrous, wet, rain. Before the sun settled, the rain swung low like a sweet chariot, and dropped love from the sky. The trees, the grasses, the flowers, the chili peppers, the weeds, me; we all lifted our arms in glad welcome. Lola The Dog scurried into her wee casita and hovered against the back wall. Lola is not a water dog. She cools...

  • The Postscript: Asking for help

    Carrie Classon|Updated Jun 13, 2024

    My dad doesn’t like asking for help. He told me this recently when he asked if I could help him put out the dock. His knee was bothering him, and the dock was pulled up on shore at a steep incline. The dock frame was rolled into the water and then the boards of the dock were laid into place. It was a good job for two people and two sets of hands, especially since my dad’s knee is bothering him and he’s been legally blind for a number of years. My dad doesn’t like asking...

  • Working together to protect kids from lead in schools

    Updated Jun 6, 2024

    The dangers of lead exposure for children are well known and many schools across Montana have made great strides to protect students and staff from lead in drinking water. But a number of Montana schools have not yet taken action and the possibility of lead in school drinking water continues to be a serious concern. Children are particularly at risk because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults and the risks from lead include anemia, kidney and brain damage, as well as learning disabilities and decreased growth. B...

  • Looking out my Backdoor: I've nothing to say

    Sondra Ashton|Updated Jun 6, 2024

    Truly. I’ve nothing to say. My mind is fried, blackened to a carbon crisp beneath the unrelenting heat dome. The way it is today is the way it will be forever and ever, amen. I know that is a big, fat lie, but it is the way I feel. Discouraged. Every morning I scurry to get basic cleaning done before 9:00 because three-digit heat comes with companionable dust. I knock back the most visible dirt and mop the floors because that layer of dust is slick and slick is dangerous to o...

  • The Postscript: Tattoos

    Carrie Classon|Updated Jun 6, 2024

    I’m about the only person I know without a tattoo. Well, this is not true. My parents don’t have tattoos, and I don’t think most of their friends do — although I’ve not done a close inspection. That would be hard to do, and probably not very polite. But among people my age and younger, I’ve become something of an oddity, yet I can honestly say I’ve never considered getting one. This isn’t because I have anything against tattoos. I’ve seen some that were beautiful. But I’ve als...

  • We need the right Farm Bill

    Updated Jun 6, 2024

    Recently, I joined other National Farmers Union leaders in meetings with the House Ag and Senate Ag committees about each of their versions of the 2024 Farm Bill. Based on those discussions, a tight timeline, and the need for modifications to both versions, I’m not optimistic for the passage of a 2024 Farm Bill but foresee another extension. The Senate version and the House version of the Farm Bill are strikingly different — and, in the current Congress, “compromise” is a dirty word. Nonetheless, Congress will not allow t...

  • Looking out my Backdoor: Full disclosure-Argentine ants, no flavor!

    Sondra Ashton|Updated May 30, 2024

    We’ve most of us inadvertently swallowed a bug or two, usually a mosquito. Right? Here the gustatory bugs are most likely Argentine ants. They are taking over the world, by the way. Saw that on a You Tube documentary. Moving north, house by house. It is so. You might not even notice them, they are so tiny, like a speck of dust on legs. Anyway, what happened that busy morning when I was sewing a tunic top, is that I sat my glass of agua fresca, a fruity drink of papaya, p...

  • The Postscript: Cat games

    Carrie Classon|Updated May 30, 2024

    “I don’t even know what game we’re supposed to be playing!” my husband, Peter, told me. He and our cat, Felix, have been playing their nightly game of chase and tag. Peter always loses. This might be because Felix makes the rules — and is the referee. “When is the game over?” I asked. “Whenever Felix wins!” Last night, I was already in bed while the game was wrapping up. Felix was nowhere to be seen. Peter was silently creeping around the bed and out the bedroom door. Sud...

  • Gianforte does not stand for Montana hunting, fishing, wildlife values

    Updated May 30, 2024

    If there is one thing every business owner, rancher, and manager agrees on, it’s that if you don’t have good people, you don’t have much. And if there’s one thing Montanans (and, increasingly, outsiders) know, it’s how good our hunting and fishing opportunities generally are. They make life here special. They feed our families and shape our lives. We tend to assume these same opportunities will continue for our kids, regardless of income—but Governor Gianforte and Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Dustin Temple have shown...

  • The Postscript: Multiplication tables

    Carrie Classon|Updated May 23, 2024

    I never learned my multiplication tables. Not really. To this day, if you ask me, “What is six times nine?” out of the blue, with some urgency, I will panic. (Please don’t do this.) The troubles started when I was transferred from one math class to another in the third grade. I now understand that this was some sort of promotion from lower math to higher math, but it did not feel like that at the time. Almost immediately, I realized everyone around me was privy to some secret...

  • Jon Tester: Fighting for Montana's veterans is a sacred obligation

    Updated May 23, 2024

    Growing up as a kid in Big Sandy, I learned from a young age about the incredible service and sacrifice of our servicemembers when I played Taps at the funerals of veterans of both World Wars. It’s something that has always stuck with me, and I carry with me every day. Montana is the greatest state in the greatest country in the world. But it didn’t get that way by accident. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have fought to defend our freedom and protect our democracy, with many paying the ultimate sacrifice to keep us free....

  • Looking out my Backdoor: Water! We've got lots and lots of water!

    Sondra Ashton|Updated May 23, 2024

    All things being relative, we have water. The drought is not over. I’ve forgotten what a cloud looks like. However, the valve directing water to the ranch property has been fixed, replaced, repaired, and, just like that, we have more than a daily dribble. I still judiciously use water. Mop water, dish water, still get dumped on potted plants, whichever ones look most thirsty at the moment. I still have brown grass and dusty patches and will have until the rains come. If t...

  • Letter to the Editor - Resources available to help with stuttering

    Updated May 16, 2024

    Dear editor, May 12-18 is National Stuttering Awareness Week. One in every 100 people stutter. That’s 80 million people worldwide! Yet stuttering is often misunderstood and even laughed at. To address the many myths surrounding this complex disorder, the Stuttering Foundation has compiled a list of “75 Must-Use Resources for the Stuttering Community”—available free on our website: StutteringHelp.org. The Foundation’s most popular content represents a mix of time-tested favorites and newer innovations: Drawings and Letters f...

  • Looking out my Backdoor: Burning, burning, burning, a ring of fire!

    Sondra Ashton|Updated May 16, 2024

    My hen-and-chicks, a succulent in my rock garden, is burned to a crisp. The leaves look like ashes. While April, May and June are our hottest months, here in Jalisco, relieved by a welcome cool-down when the rains begin late June, the old-timers tell me this we experience now is extreme, unusual. A day or two of ultra-high heat followed by a windy reprieve; that is the usual. The old, former usual. We have experienced weeks, multiple weeks, where the daily temperature climbs...

  • The Postscript: Making pickles

    Carrie Classon|Updated May 16, 2024

    My Aunt Ruthie used to make the best pickles ever. Ruthie was my mom’s sister, and she died a few years back in a car accident that left us all sad and shaken and filled with memories. I remember her dry humor and her sharp intellect and her voracious reading habits. I remember her never-ending kindness and resilience. And I remember her pickles. Ruthie always gave me a jar of pickles whenever she made them. They were a treasure. One year, the glass Mason jar filled with pickl...

  • Building up to something beautiful

    Updated May 16, 2024

    New York has been voted the ugliest American city, not because of its architecture, but because of its people. Just kidding. It’s because of its architecture. Probably. Europe does things a little better, but not by much. There’s a building in London called The Walkie-Talkie, presumably due to its resemblance to a refrigerator. So neither of these two major cities is wholly pretty. But I have to be fair. There’s not much to brag about in my home state of New Jersey, unless you count some oddly-shaped potholes. When did we de...

  • Looking out my Backdoor: I wanna be a tree

    Sondra Ashton|Updated May 9, 2024

    "In my next life, I want to be a tree." "A tree? Why, Mom, would you want to be a tree?" "Because they are more intelligent and kinder than humans." "A sycamore, Mom. Be a sycamore. I don't even know what one looks like but that tree popped into my mind." We each went to our computers and landed on the same site. Though we are 2,500 miles separated geographically, we are otherwise quite close. "Holy guacamole, these trees are beautiful." "Ooooh, I want to be a sycamore." I...

  • The Postscript: Stubby is gone

    Carrie Classon|Updated May 9, 2024

    It may be that Stubby is gone for good. In the summer of 2022, I started writing about my mother’s new pet, a red squirrel who she reluctantly began to care for. My parents live on 20 acres in the woods up north in a house my father designed when he retired 35 years ago. The house looks over the lake and, for most of the winter, my parents have few neighbors, except for the birds at their feeder and the deer making their way through the deep snow and, of course, red s...

  • Day at the museum

    Updated May 9, 2024

    If you want to see a flying whale, go to the Natural History Museum in London. Well, the whale isn’t technically flying. That’s because it’s dead. Even live whales don’t fly, unless there’s something David Attenborough hasn’t told me. Right when you enter the museum, you see that enormous skeleton suspended from the ceiling: a whole blue whale, or what’s left of it. Gazing at this miracle of creation, you forget your dull, everyday concerns. It doesn’t matter where you’re going to have lunch, or what day of the week it is, o...

  • Fruit of a poisonous tree

    Updated May 9, 2024

    With the completion of the poll of the Legislature on whether to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 442, I want to explain my consistent opposition to the bill, including voting against overriding the veto. The bill would have incorporated $ 16 million in annual expenditures for county roads into the existing allocations of marijuana tax revenue with corresponding reductions to the general fund. When the voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2020 through initiative (I-190), the ballot language read: “I-190 leg...

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