Montana Memories, Volume IV

By Charles Green

May your trails always be open
The hills never steep
Your pack mules never balk
Or your tents never leak

RAILROAD STORIES

…during World War I, groups of Turkish men were imported to keep the tracks in condition. A dozen of them were stationed in Coram and us kids never tired of watching them. All dressed baggy knee-length trousers made of heavy cloth of dark red or purple color. With these, they wore long socks, high boots, bright colored bandannas and turbans, Every man had a curved knife in a scabbard hung froim his belt and I believe they slept with the things.

A boy of about my age lived in a house up near the east end of the passing track and one evening we rigged up a sling shot. We drove two iron bolts into the top of a stump about eight inches apart and then cut a bicycle inner tube in two and tied each end to the bolts. It was a honey and with both of us pulling back on the thing we could throw a rock as big as a hen’s egg a thousand feet. Some empty box cars were sitting on the passing track and we used them for target practice. The nearest one had both doors open and one evening just as we shot a rock, a hand car with a load of Turks went by the open door on a collision course with the rock. One of the men was hit, went out like a light and fell to the ground. We thought we had killed the man and with visions of those Turks after us with their wicked knives, we took for the woods… The next morning we counted the crew from a distance and found they were all eating their oatmeal, and after that we made sure we had a clear range before we did any more target practice.

THE DEPRESSION YEARS

I arrived home from China in the spring of 1930 and found a lot of changes… The forest fire I had read about in the Shanghai paper the previous fall had swept over our valley and not a green tree was left on our homestead or the country to the north into Glacier Park. A carpet of green grass was struggling up in the forest of black snags… Before leaving on my trip four years before, I buried 50 bottles of home-brewed beer in a sawdust pile back in the woods, and the second evening I was home, I drove over to have a drink of the aged beer. The fire had burned the sawdust pile and all that was left was a pile of melted glass.