The temperature still lurked in the low 90s when we arrived at Jennifer’s ranch home late that afternoon for a delicious outdoor barbecue dinner. Jennifer and her husband David come from hearty Montana stock going back generations. In my Sweet Grass-Montana Romance series, I occasionally have my characters mention how tough a person has to be to live in Montana. That’s true especially if you’re a rancher, and especially if your ranch is located in or close to the plains region of the state. Well, Jennifer and David exemplify that toughness to a T.
If you chance to visit the Big Timber / Melville area, you might hear old-timers joke that the wind blows there twenty-seven hours out of every twenty-four. It’s windy almost every day, but the windiest time of year is usually January through April. Of course, that’s calving and lambing time for many of these ranchers. Imagine getting out of bed at all hours of the night, dressing in three layers of clothing and battling snow and heavy winds and below zero temperatures to help those mamas and their babies. That’s a typical night for Jennifer and David this time of year.
Jennifer recently set me photos of some new additions to their ranch. Cute, huh?
During that Sunday dinner, I shared with Jennifer that dropping her name that day sure brought people’s guard down quick. She smiled and gave a humble shrug. They say everyone knows everyone in small towns, but it seems that everyone in Big Timber and the surrounding area knows Jennifer.
Jennifer and David raise sheep, cattle, pigs and chickens. On top of the countless chores entailed with running a ranch, they also own Yellowstone Feed in Big Timber. On Wednesday that week, Jennifer gave us a tour, including the grain elevator (over 100 years old) and the old warehouse that’s home to the Sweet Grass Wool Pool.
This is where sheep producers in the region deliver their wool for storage and bidding. They also might take a moment to add their autograph to the graffiti-strewn brick walls. Strolling through the cool, dim interior, I discovered signatures from the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Those written during World War II were particularly poignant. Not all of the graffiti was family-friendly. I got a good laugh at some of the artistic endeavors.
Add Yellowstone Feed to your list of places to visit in Big Timber. If you don’t need grain or pet food or ranch supplies, check out the cute muck and bogs boots for sale in the store. Buy a rawhide chew for your dog. Pet the store cat. You might get a chance to peek into the grain elevator and see it in action.