My Forty Years Scribblin's
Interviews
Forty-Odd Years Ago

In this 1962 interview, published in Montana's Little Legends(1963), Mrs. Beryl Hoogbruin recounts the hard life of the Swan Valley homesteaders.


Mrs. Beryl Hoogbruin, now of California, writes of homesteading in the Swan Valley as a bride. She has nostalgic memories of oil lamps, carrying water from the stream, wood stoves, and two old stand-bys, the washboard and flatirons.

"Homesteading was a hard life," says Mrs. Hoogbruin, "but it was a happy one."

One family had moved in from the Dakotas and though the wind in the pines was like music from heaven to Mrs. Hoogbruin it almost drove the prairie woman mad.

When she first saw snowshoes hanging on the cabin walls Mrs. Hoogbruin remarked, "How nice. They even play tennis up here!" However, in due time she mastered the art of using them and skis also, in the manner for which they were intended.

Among the Hoogbruin's neighbors was a man she remembers only as Jalmer. Jalmer returned from World WarI to be employed by the Forest Service in the South Fork of the Flathead as a fire lookout man. At the close of the fire season he would leave the lookout station to prepare for a winter of trapping.

An unusual feature of Jalmer was his almost superhuman endurance, for, though he weighed but about one hundred thirty-five pounds and stood only five feet three, he would start on his thirty miles of trap line with a hundred pounds of traps and supplies on his back.

At the end of a successful season Jalmer returned to civilization a veritable Spring Santa Claus with his flowing white hair and beard, bright blue eyes, and a huge pack of pelts. After disposing of his furs he was wont to indulge in an annual shave and haircut in preparation to the return to the lonely lookout tower.

Even after roads came to the Swan valley traveling was something of an endurance test. Over forty years ago, writes Mrs. Hoogbruin, she and her husband left Missoula on April first to spend the summer at the old homestead, which had now become their Swan Valley ranch.

"Friends took us to Seeley Lake by truck," she recalls. There they transferred a ton of supplies to a sled and continued on to spend the night at the Red Davis ranch. Next morning they were just nicely started when—bang! A sled runner had broken. Back to the Davis ranch for repairs and another night's layover.

A dude ranch was their next night's stop, and once over the summit and down, they must transfer their cargo to a wagon, due to a lack of snow. Rumble Creek post office was reached on the fourth day and early on the fifth day they arrived at their final destination, a distance of ninety-five miles.

After seven months, their supplies nearly depleted, they hiked thirty-two miles out to spend yet another night at the Davis ranch, then nine miles more to catch the stage at Seeley Lake.

"It was a real lark!" Mrs. Hoogbruin declares.