Montana’s river system is one of the state’s greatest resources. Its waters irrigate crops and support livestock, and provide sustenance for man and wildlife alike. These rivers are places of recreation, relaxation, and reverence. For as long as there have been people in Montana, the waters have nourished the bodies and souls of those who have called this area home.
“One of my favorite views [is from] my irrigation pump on the Missouri River, looking upstream,” writes Nashua farmer/rancher Ron Garwood in his book, Ron’s Ramblings, which explores the characters, critters, and “cantankerous rednecks” of northeast Montana.
From the history of his farmland to experiences with wild animals to amusing anecdotes about life in rural Montana, Garwood paints a complete picture of the land he calls home. His “ramblings” are, in reality, a series of short stories, well-researched and frequently funny.
A recurring topic throughout Ron’s Ramblings is the significance of Valley County waterways—both natural
“My place is eight miles below Fort Peck Dam, where the Milk meets the Missouri,” Garwood explains. “Lewis and Clark came through here, not a quarter-mile from where my house stands.”
In fact, Meriwether Lewis gave the Milk River its name, writing in his journal on May 8, 1805: “the water of this river posseses a peculiar whiteness, being about the colour of a cup of tea with the admixture of a tabelspoonfull of milk. from the colour of it’s water we called it Milk river.”
Garwood has long been in awe of all the history that has flowed along that river. But he didn’t test the waters as a writer of that history until 2005, when he had a fortuitous encounter at the confluence of the Milk and Missouri. He had been fishing along the bank when he spotted a man canoeing upriver. It was James B. Kurz, an author writing about his journey upriver from Wisconsin to Montana. Garwood struck up a conversation with Kurz and shared with him some of the history of the area he was paddling through. Two months after their encounter, Kurz contacted Garwood and asked him to contribute an article on the region’s history.
“I got kind of carried away,” laughs Garwood.
His article (and the spill-over) formed the beginning of Ron’s Ramblings, which was published in 2020. Garwood describes his connection to the Milk and Missouri as well as his family’s role in the formation of Fort Peck Dam (which at the time of its completion was the largest dam in history).
“In 1933 a government man in a new Plymouth pickup drove into the yard to talk to my grandparents,” writes Garwood. “They were told the Corps of Engineers were going to build a dam upriver, and they needed a 100-foot right away through Grandpa’s place for a railroad line that would run . . . to the Fort Peck Dam site.”
Garwood has many stories like this one to tell, which he has collected and published in an effort to preserve local history. “I have had friends who have passed since I started writing this. There are a lot of things they did that might have been forgotten if I didn’t get it down.”
A great source of history and laughter, Ron’s Ramblings provides a delightful view of Valley County—and its wonderous waterways.
Ron’s Ramblings is available on Book Baby and Amazon. For more information, call (406) 785-4781.