A New Language
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315 Brantly Hall
University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812
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It’s a few hours before winter solstice, a few days before Christmas. Ellie, our hostess, says, let’s move to the kitchen. The sound is better there. Musicians have been tuning their strings, trying a few chords, finding the right way to sit in their chairs. Already in a sort of cosmic sync, they pick up their instruments and chairs and move en masse to the kitchen. A small audience follows.
Soon music takes the room and pushes its way out cracks of windows and doors into the cold mountain air. There the darkness is deep and long, the snow in mounds, the quiet like ice. Bare maple branches long for the moon. Inside I ponder how wonderful stringed instruments can be. Not only do they travel easily from living room to kitchen, but they can turn exalted warbling into a soulful mourn.
Sitting within a few feet of the musicians, I begin to notice the forms of communication they use. Only two of the five have played together regularly and one is entirely new to the group, but they all know the language. Eyes and feet are clearly key: feet tap out the rhythm; eyes relay what needs to be told. Ellie’s eyes register the pain of an out-of-tune chord; give the go-ahead to the bass player for a solo; convey appreciation for a bluesy vocal by the slide string guitar player.
I become intrigued with how they move into a song. Someone calls out a song title. Musicians shift in their seats, get that far-off look as they reach back for what they know. Then there's the tapping of feet. A chord here, a riff there, another chord. Out of a sort of hesitant, rambling cacophony of sound, the music gels and off they go, never to look back. How wonderful to be carried on their backs!
All creative endeavors have that “gelling” moment. It’s what hooks many of us on the creative process. I’ve found nothing else that merges excitement with satisfaction in one sensation.
For more than a year we’ve been involved in redesigning this magazine. We have a whole new look and a few new departments. Besides the more obvious visual changes, we’ve rethought such things as the role of each department, how to better integrate ads, and appropriate vehicles for fulfilling various wishes expressed by readers.
Redesigning a magazine is a different sort of challenge than musicians jamming, but the collaboration, exchange of information, and gelling of ideas are of the same fabric no matter the endeavor. Many have been involved in the tapping of feet that produced this new Montanan. Chief among them are Rita Munzenrider, director of University Relations and Montanan publisher, who made it all possible, and Jennifer Paul, who with a visual prescience translated my rambling editorial template to a fresh and inviting graphic reality.
I have wishes for our audience of readers with this new design: I hope that you will follow us into the kitchen; that you will know our language and talk to us often; that what gels for us will be of interest to you, and that occasionally we will carry you on our backs.
It’s a lot to ask for, but the music made me bold.
Letters to the Editor
The First Satellite Party
The most recent article about the Griz-Cat satellite parties (Spring 2004) made me wonder how many readers know the origin of this November ritual.
The year was 1986. UM had a new coach and a new stadium and while there was wary curiosity about another football season it was interest in seeing Washington-Grizzly stadium, successor to a decrepit twenty-year-old “temporary” Dornblaser Field, that actually prompted the first-ever satellite party at Denver’s Zang Brewing Company.
Sheila Stearns, alumni director at the time, agreed to send out the first Colorado area mailing, which prompted a crowd of roughly 100 Griz faithful. (Several years would pass before an invitation was extended to the Gallatin Valley brethren.)
Outgrowing Zang’s after two years, the party moved to the Ironworks, a scruffy biker bar overseen by an affable manager named Junkyard. Two years later saw another move—to the original Brooklyn’s, where the Griz-Cat satellite party resided for thirteen years before relocating last November to the newer and larger Brooklyn’s.
The growth from a single modest venue to some sixty far-flung locations over nearly two decades has been supported by a lengthy roster of alumni. They include Betsy Holmquist, who provided immeasurable help in the early years, and John Niemi, who took over as ramrod for the Denver party and has managed to make it even bigger and better. The 2003 party drew more than 800 attendees despite a nasty game-day blizzard.
Doug Hacker ’59
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Source of Pride
I read with interest the Spring 2004 issue of the Montanan, particularly the article about ROTC and Lieutenant Colonel Ierardi.
I graduated in 1939 with twenty-four other second lieutenants, two of whom attained the rank of lieutenant general, John Hay and George Forsyth. I visited the Grizzly Battalion in the summer of 1998 and enjoyed very much the hospitality of the PMS. To read that the Corps is ranked ninth in the country is really a source of pride. Lt.Col. Ierardi is to be congratulated upon her selection to attend the Army War College. The article places the college in Washington, D.C. This is not correct. The Army War College is at Carlisle Barrack, Pennsylvania, where I graduated in 1961. The National War College is in Washington, D.C. at Fort McNair.
Keep up the good work.
James W. Love ‘39
Colonel, USA, retired
In response to a letter from Jeannie Green of Ashland, Oregon, I would like to offer the following about the identity of Buckskin Charlie. The Buckskin Charlie who took Teddy Roosevelt up the Gallatin Valley hunting was really Charlie Marble. He and his wife Lizzie (my great-great aunt) and two other men lived in the Gallatin Valley and guided hunting trips. Validation of this can be found in Bozeman and The Gallatin Valley: A History of Montana’s Gallatin Canyon: A Gem in the Treasure State.
Editor’s Note: This information was passed on to Jeannie Green, which resulted in a correspondence between her and Valerie Walther, who wrote a Class Note in the Winter 2003 issue of this magazine about her historical spoon collection, one featuring Buckskin Charlie. Jeannie wrote the following to Betsy Holmquist.
Valerie and I have exchanged several e-mails. She’s a very cordial correspondent. With info she had I hit the Internet to research some leads and the fascinating footnote to this story is that “her” Buckskin Charlie (the one on the Butte spoon) apparently was a Native American of the Ute tribe! My great-grandfather was of French, Welsh, and English descent, probably third- or fourth-generation from his immigrant ancestors. What a coincidence! I was disappointed indeed, but communicating with Valerie has been fun and I’ve found new Internet sources that may lead me further on genealogical pursuits.
The following letters were sent to Patia Stephens regarding her article, Higher Education, in the Spring 2004 Montanan.
Whatever math phobia you once had or have, it didn’t get in the way of the excellent cover piece on higher ed costs and finances at UM. Good work!
Clem P. Work
Director of Graduate Studies
UM School of Journalism
Great article! I’m going to pass it along to several people on our campus because it certainly resonates here. The statistics are only modestly different and the lack of sales tax and biennial legislature makes for many common threads. And, while your annual income per family may be somewhat lower than ours, I believe we have higher unemployment. Anyway, good work!
Director of Alumni Relations
Portland State University
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