What’s in the Mail? Mementos of Montana

Montanans love modern postcards! A wide variety are for sale across the state from Little Bighorn to Kalispell. Even the governor gets into the act. Here’s a sampling of those I bought (and found) nearly everywhere we stopped. From a postcard point of view, Montana’s a real treasure.

When we decided to vacation in Montana (May 22-June 7), I checked online for travel information and signed up at the state’s official tourism Web site (http://visitmt.com). Within minutes, a personalized email from the governor jumped into my in-box. That act of thoughtfulness was a first; it impressed me enough that while exploring the state capitol in Helena, we dropped by Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s office to praise the staff (he was elsewhere) for the welcoming email as well as this terrific postcard of him hand-delivering a Montana visitor’s guide. Several places displayed this freebie postcard so I grabbed plenty to share. Anyone who sends me a note and a self-addressed stamped envelope can obtain one of these sepia cards. I’ll also include an “Agriculture in Montana Schools” postcard found only at the governor’s office. Please make sure your SASE will accommodate postcards that measure 4 1/4 inches by 6 1/2 inches. Write Jennifer Henderson, 1610 West Highland Box 23, Chicago, IL 60660.

Even antique postcards receive a modern twist. Far Country Press published eight books of perforated postcards for such locations as Helena (with the state capitol on the cover), Butte, Bozeman, Missoula and Glacier National Park. You can download their catalog at www.farcountrypress.com but since the ordering page is “currently in development,” you must phone 800-821-3874. Interestingly, the Helena cards are reproduced from Tom Mulvaney’s acclaimed Montana collection.

Traveling out of season keeps the crowds away but can bring on the worst weather. Sometime during each of our 17 days in Montana, it rained. One of the wettest was when we went to the First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park. Measuring more than a mile wide, the sandstone cliff is thought to be the largest buffalo jump in the world. We spent much longer than expected at the interpretive center because of the continuous downpour. The hands-on exhibits were enhanced by Klane King from the Blood Tribe who clued us in about how Plains Indians on foot hunted buffalo by rounding them up and tricking them into stampeding off the cliff. From the large windows of the center and on the cliff itself, we could envision this dangerous yet effective method of food gathering. In fact, Klane called the buffalo an “Indian meals ready-to-eat” (MRE) since all parts of the animal were used.

The well-outfitted gift shop sells four postcards about the jump: two are artist renditions before (shown) and as buffalo fall, and the third is a buffalo photo (these cost 35 cent apiece). A ghostly buffalo stands atop the cliff on the Ulm Pishkun State Park card, which was the jump’s name until it changed last summer (it costs 50 cents). For the whole group, send $1.55 plus your SASE with 59-cents postage affixed to fit these 4 inch by 6 inch cards. Write Richard Hopkins, Park Manager, First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, P.O. Box 109, Ulm, MT 59485.

A few miles from Bozeman, we drove on a rutted road past Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch. As you may know, Turner owns the world’s biggest bison herd, scattered through several states, which supplies meat for his chain of Ted’s Montana Grills (try their delicious bison meatloaf). Less than a week after we walked around this lovely town, his 57th restaurant opened (amazingly, Montana’s first) in Bozeman’s 79-year-old Baxter Hotel (on the left of this four-view card).

Just down the street is the Pioneer Museum where I found this postcard along with three others: a naturalistic Greetings from Montana, an illustrated state map and a six-view of local historic buildings such as this museum, the Baxter, the Carnegie Library and the ornate Victorian Lehrkind Mansion (the bed and breakfast where we stayed). These 4 1/8-inch by 5 7/8-inch postcards cost 25 cents each plus a SASE. Write Ann Butterfield, Assistant Director, The Pioneer Museum, 317 W. Main St., Bozeman, MT 59715.

From our hotel balcony in Helena, we got a spectacular view of the twin spires of the stunning Cathedral of St. Helena. In October 1908, the cornerstone was laid for this Late Gothic Revival structure based on a similar design in Austria. It pays to snoop; otherwise, I’d not have found these postcards being sold in an office nearby. The 4 1/4-inch by 6-inch cards picture the cathedral from the front (shown), from the back, in a four-view and as two interior shots (one of the nave and another of the marble altar on which the Last Supper had been carved). The postcards cost $1.25 plus a SASE with 59-cents postage. Write Sandy Liedle, Cathedral of St. Helena, 530 N. Ewing St., Helena, MT 59601.

Although none of our Montana gasoline purchases reached the $4-per-gallon level, we watched the pumps swallow up a good portion of our vacation budget. That’s why Duckboy’s “Saving Gas” postcard seemed an appropriate souvenir. We flew in and out of the Great Falls International Airport, but for our rental-car road trip we drove 2,423 miles. And Duckboy greeted us all along the route. Yes, postcards are prolific in Montana but none more so than Duckboy.

Wall and spinner racks of these often silly, standard-size black-and-white, white-bordered cards were for sale in convenience, book and drug stores, filling stations, hotel lobbies, visitor centers and gift shops. To see the others, based on photographs by Paul Stanton, check http://duckboy.com. Postcards cost 50 cents each; however, the minimum shipping is $4 so you many want to consider some of their other merchandise like t-shirts, magnets, mugs and books. Request a catalog from 800-761-5741, or write Duckboy Cards, P.O. Box 2095, Hamilton, MT 59840.

I’m a fan of aerial views so when we took a late lunch at Wheat, Mont., after a trek through the Lewis & Clark Caverns, happening on this postcard enhanced my meal. With a backdrop of mountains and Interstate 90, the 4-1/4-inch by 6-inch postcard shows the red-roofed “Wheat-Plex” for cleaning, milling, shipping and baking high-country Montana wheat. To the right of the bus in the foreground, the sign read on our rainy Wednesday, “we sow it, grow it and dough it.” The postcard price is 25 cents plus a SASE. Write Sue Loret De Mola, Office Manager, Wheat Montana Farms & Bakery, 10778 US Highway 287, Three Forks, MT 59752.

My favorite among the postcards for sale at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls features a 2001 painting by Missoula artist Monte Dolack that was then reprinted as posters and postcards. Commissioned for the L&C Bicentennial by the interpretative center, the poster was one of the first things I saw at the airport and the postcard is only sold one place: the Portage Cache Store. More than two centuries ago, the Corps of Discovery paddled up this stretch of the Missouri River beneath scenic White Cliffs as bears, bison and elk gazed attentively. It’s a grand setting and a beautiful postcard. You can purchase this 4-1/4-inch by 6-inch card for 50 cents and a SASE. Write Sally Murphy, Executive Director, Portage Cache Store, Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, P.O. Box 2848, Great Falls, MT 59403.

Since 1922, candy lovers have made their way to the Parrot Confectionary in Helena, and we couldn’t resist joining the bonbon brigade. While my husband George selected an array of chocolate-covered caramels and nuts, I ordered a huckleberry milk shake from their old-fashioned soda fountain. To my delight, they offer a postcard. It pictures their parrot logo, which “talks for itself” about the quality handmade sweets in their fully stocked glass-fronted candy counter. The 3-15/16-inch by 6-inch card costs 50 cents plus your SASE. Write Pam Duensing, The Parrot Confectionery, 42 N. Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT 59601.

Erna is a savvy businesswoman and a great pie maker. When we stopped at The Huckleberry Patch, her spacious roadside store in Hungry Horse, I was ready for a slice of that “fabulous and famous” huckleberry pie. With flaky crust and juicy cinnamon-scented whole-berry filling, it tasted delicious. But I was ecstatic upon finding this new recipe postcard for “Erna’s Huckleberry Pie” that cleverly uses jars of filling sold on the premises. The lavender 4-1/8-inch by 5-7/8-inch postcard card is not available online (www.huckleberrypatch.com) but you can buy it directly from her store for 30 cents plus a SASE. If you want it autographed, just ask. Write Erna, The Huckleberry Patch, P.O. Box 1, Hungry Horse, MT 59919.

Jennifer Henderson Hell Roarin GulchWe spent an afternoon outdoors wandering the World Museum of Mining in Butte where the Orphan Girl Mine once yielded silver, lead and zinc. Hell Roarin’ Gulch, their recreated 1890s mining town, includes a sauerkraut factory, Chinese laundry, milliner, undertaker, print shop, library, dentist and brothel. Outside the post office, George photographed me for this month’s headshot.