The Winterless Winter
Compared to harsh seasons passed, the winter of 1926 was laughably mild by Montana standards. That year, Great Falls celebrated in mockery of the weather with a Straw Hat Parade on April Fools’ Day. The event’s name was intentionally ironic, derived from the idiom “to buy straw hats in winter” (which refers to the business practice of buying stock when demand and price are low). Great Falls citizens showed up to the parade in droves, sporting their summer straw hats as part of the farce.
Blackfoot or Blackfeet?
If you trace back the etymology of “Blackfeet,” you’ll find that the tribe is called Siksikáwa in its own language. White settlers interpreted this word in two different ways—Blackfoot and Blackfeet—and while many believe “Blackfoot” is the closest translation, it has been highly debated. In fact, in the 1940s, the (Blackfoot/Blackfeet) tribal council asked their respected elders to decide what they should be called in English. They settled on “Blackfeet,” not because it was the best translation, but because whites had called their collective tribes “the Blackfeet Nation” for so long that it was more practical to stick with the plural form.
Brother Van, a Virtuous Man
Governors, gunslingers, the famous, and forgotten were all drawn to Reverend William Wesley Van Orsdel. A circuit rider from Pennsylvania, he spent 47 years traveling Montana, spreading faith and compassion. While the whole impact of his ministry is immeasurable, it can be said for certain that he is responsible for founding more than 100 churches, fifty parsonages, six hospitals, and a children’s home, and he was influential in establishing Rocky Mountain College, one of the first institutions of higher learning in the state. Brother Van’s devotion and warmth earned him many friends in his lifetime, including cowboy artist Charlie Russell, who said, “Men who had not prayed since they knelt at their mother’s knees, bowed their heads while [Brother Van] gave thanks.”