2010 Aug 16 – Day 5 – Great Falls, MT to Lewiston, MT

The day started at the Charles M. Russell Museum.  Charlie Russell was born in 1864 in St. Louis, Missouri.  As a youngster he drew sketches and made clay figures of animals.  He was always fascinated by the ‘wild west’ and left home at 16, finding work for a short time on a sheep ranch.  He met a hunter-trapper-turned rancher in Montana and went to work for him, learning much about the west. He also lived for a time with the Blood Indians, a branch of the Blackfoot tribe.   He only returned to Missouri once to see family before coming back to Montana where he lived until his death in 1926 at age 62.

The way of the west and the life of the Indians and cowboys was changing rapidly. Russell’s paintings did much to capture that time period before it disappeared forever.  He began to make his living as a full-time artist in 1892 at the age of  28.  The museum has five galleries showcasing over 2,000 of his paintings, poems, sculptures and artifacts.  One of his paintings sold for $5.6 million in 2005.                                                                                                    The Jerkline                   Pow Wow Ready                                                        The Hopi Pot

Russell was a prolific letter writer and maintained close correspondence with many friends and family.  His letters, post cards, poems, and Christmas cards were adorned with small sketches; often tongue-in-cheek jokes on his friends or illustrations to go along with a story he was writing about in his letter.  I purchased a book that was a compilation of many of his letters, poems and cards that friends preserved and donated to the collection.                                                                       His studio. I had a wonderful time exploring it all before we got in the truck and headed east to Fort Benton.  We had hoped to explore the fort but it was closed the day we arrived.  We stopped in again on our way northward and were able to tour the fort then. We walked the riverside trail and saw the Shep Memorial.  This was a story I knew from my youth, about the faithful dog that waited every day at the train station for his master to return. The drive that day took us through the middle of the state of Montana.  It was a lovely day and we had plenty of sightings of Pronghorn Antelope in the grain fields.

We arrived in Lewiston as the sun was setting.   We have been through Lewiston several times.  The town is named after famous American explorer Meriwether Lewis, who, with is partner William Clark, explored and mapped much of the western states before the pioneer settlers headed westward.

We spent the night in Lewsiton and headed off for Billings the next day.

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