Books about Montana

From prostitution to hunting ethics, books about Montana

Upstairs Girls: Prostitution in the American West

Upstairs Girls is an engaging account of the Old West’s relationship with the oldest profession in the world. Author and historian Michael Rutter discusses issues of hierarchy, struggle, and codes of decency in western brothels around the turn of the century.

Profiles of infamous ladies of the night such as Calamity Jane and Fanny Porter are intertwined with brutal stories of the Chinese sex trade and abuse. This is a fascinating portrait of the West’s saga of prostitution, addiction and civil rights. (14.95; published by Farcountry Press)

michael rutter, upstairs girls book about prostitution in the west, montana living magazine

 Renowned Composer Philip Aaberg puts scary book to music

A ghost story can raise goose bumps, but when you add some world-class spooky music, it becomes a frightful delight. 

spirit tailings, philip aaberg, montana books, montana authors, montana composers, montana living magazine

The Montana Historical Society Press and composer Philip Aaberg have teamed up to put Ellen Baumler's best-selling book of Montana ghost stories “Beyond Spirit Tailings” to music. 

The five-CD set includes four CDs with Baumler reading her stories gathered over the years from across Montana with Aaberg's musical interludes and sound effects adding to the ghostly experience. There also is a single CD featuring 

only Aaberg's musical interpretation of the book. 

Baumler and Aaberg, who had developed the music to accompany the book, spent three days at his recording studio in Chester, Montana, completing the audio book. It is the Montana Historical Society's first venture into talking books. 

Aaberg was a 2002 Grammy Nominee for “Live from Montana,” the 1995 recipient of the Montana Governor's Award for the Arts, soloist with such prestigious symphonies as the Boston Pops, and sold-out performer at concerts across the world. His early days included playing with the "Doobie Brothers," and he was called a "deft, ebullient rocker" by Rolling Stone magazine. 

“Philip really put me at ease and masterfully caught the mood of the stories that I have gathered over the years," Baumler said. “Montana is lucky to have someone with his great talent return to his home state and get involved in its history and heritage. It's a great honor to have his music enhance my stories.”

Aaberg said he became interested in the project after reading Baumler's book and being moved especially by a tale called “Digging Up the Dead,” which takes place in Helena's Benton Avenue Cemetery. Nurse Mary Dunphy was caring for the two children of R.T. Kuehn, when all three died of diphtheria. 

The inscription on the children's tombstone reads "How We Miss Them," which became the title of Aaberg's theme song for the CD. 

Over the years people reported seeing the spirits of Mrs. Dunphy and the two children walking through the cemetery. 

“It is just the most hauntingly beautiful composition you can imagine,” Baumler said. "Listening to it was like a movie playing in my mind. I could see Mrs. Dunphy and her two little daughters walking hand in hand through time.” 

The boxed set of five CDs sells for $25.95, and can be found at bookstores across the state, or ordered directly from the Historical Society.

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Ethics in the field

Jim Posewitz wrote the book on hunting ethics.

The year 1994 was a critical time in hunting ethics in Montana. It was just after hunters had killed over 500 bison near Yellowstone National Park as the bison migrated out of the park. Anti-hunting activists descended on the bloodied killing fields and a national outcry resulted, the images of bison dying being replayed on national television.

rifle in hand hunting book by jim posewitz, montana living magazine

It was time for wildlife managers to take a closer look at the role that sportsmen played in wildlife management; rather than being the merciless killers that anti-hunters made them out to be, hunters were now forced to look closer at themselves and their role in wildlife conservation.

The book “Fair Chase” was what evolved from that situation and from Posewitz, a Helena author and founder of “Orion, the Hunter’s Institute.” His book “Fair Chase” was a resounding success. It sold over 400,000 copies and became a textbook for hunter-education courses in Montana and around the nation.

Now Posewitz, 69, has released another book, “Rifle in Hand: How Wild America was Saved.”

In the 10 years since Posewitz wrote “Fair Chase,” ethics has taken on a much larger role in hunter education, he said. With the release of “Rifle in Hand: How Wild America was Saved,” Posewitz, a former employee for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, takes a deeper look at how hunters helped save America’s big game animals from near extinction.

By exploring the rich history of conservation and how hunters helped bring back near-extinct species in the last 100 years, Posewitz hopes to usher in a new school of thought regarding hunter ethics. By showing hunters what they’ve accomplished, he hopes to show hunters what they’re capable of.

His book, released by Riverbend Publishing in Helena, examines how men like Gifford Pinchot, George Bird Grinnell and Theodore Roosevelt brought conservation from the White House to the fields and mountains of America — with “rifle in hand.”

In a letter to congressman and friend Henry Cabot Lodge in 1883, Roosevelt wrote: “I am very fond of hunting and there is nothing I enjoy more than riding over open range with rifle in hand.”

Hunters have played an important role in wildlife conservation, Posewitz said.

After the Yellowstone bison hunt in 1994, wildlife managers sat down to rethink the way the bison hunt was being conducted. At a staff meeting for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, where Posewitz was assistant to the director, Posewitz asked ‘is there anyone here who thinks we’re doing the right thing?’” regarding the hunt. “No one raised their hand,” he said.

Later that winter, 6,000 elk died on the northern border of Yellowstone. The anti-hunting activists were long gone, back to their desk jobs in the East. “The only people who stayed behind to work on that were the conservation groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation,” Posewitz said. “This was the classic case of hunters being vilified, then going to work to make things better for wildlife.”

Posewitz’ book on the tradition and heritage of hunting comes on the heels of Montana voters overwhelmingly passing a constitutional amendment that would recognize and preserve the rights of Montanans to hunt and fish.

Has ethical behavior changed since his first book was released and hunters began taking a closer look at their actions? It’s difficult to quantify, said Posewitz, who received the 2004 Outdoor Life Conservation Award but one thing is for sure: ethics have become a primary topic of hunter education.

Posewitz said hunters do a good job of policing their own ranks and making good ethical  decisions in the field. “The average hunter and angler wants to be involved,” he said. “They want to keep this model of conservation viable.”

 The American legacy of conservation and hunting ethics runs deeper than you might think.

Posewitz tells the story that when U.S. Marines had surrounded Saddam Hussein’s palace in Iraq, they supplanted their military-issue meals by hunting gazelles from Hussein’s private preserve. They instituted a self-imposed bag limit to protect the herd from being wiped out. “The first thing we think of is protecting the wildlife,” Posewitz said. “It belongs to all the people and we all get to participate.” 

Books on Montana Trivia

andrea merrill maker, montana almanac book on montana trivia, montana living magazine

Author and self-proclaimed “trivia queen” Janet Spencer has put together a compilation of Montana-related miscellany ranging from the truly interesting (Q: Women were given the right to vote nationwide in 1920, but when did women get the vote in Montana? A: 1914) to the absolutely unnecessary (Q: How many grasshoppers can a whooping crane eat in an hour? A: 800). A total of 1,263 trivial questions are answered, making for great bathroom reading. ($9.95; published by Riverbend Publishing of Helena.)

Eat Our Words: The Montana Writers’ Cookbook

Featuring recipes from 92 Montana authors, including Rick Bass’s Rebecca’s ‘My Hair is on Fire’ Lobster Soup and Jim Harrison’s “Bear Posole,” this book is a clever compilation of meal ideas and excerpts from food-related writing. Put together by the Montana Center for the Book and the Montana Committee for the Humanities, Eat Our Words promotes Montana’s abundant literary talents and celebrates big appetites. ($19.95; published by Farcountry Press)


Montana Almanac

This second edition by Andrea Merrill-Maker is a wonderful reference book for all things Montanan. The updated book is a treasure trove of information on history, sports, agriculture, weather and geography. Surpassing simple statistical information, the book includes brief biographies on notable residents of Montana like Jeannette Rankin and Stephen Ambrose. ($16.95; published by Morris Book Publishing)