Jim Elliott

I started out to write about this being a good time of year to be helpful to others and that began to sound so preachy and goody-two-shoes that I thought that maybe I should just thank some people who helped me when I needed it.

I first came to Montana in 1969 and had the opportunity to move here five years later. Lots of people say that it was the scenery that compelled them here. For me it was the people. The folks I met in my visits to Central Montana were friendly, kind, and generous. The scenery wasn’t bad there either, but, as it turned out, I wound up buying land in Trout Creek, West of the Divide.

The people remembered here are from my early days in Trout Creek and the one that looms largest in my mind was Roger Shopp. He was a big man who could fix (or lift) anything for anybody who needed help. He did it out of the goodness of his heart, and when my 1952 AC Dozer engine froze up he was there helping me rebuild it. It was late fall, and cold, and we used a wood fired burn barrel to keep warm.

There were the Robbins brothers. Bob who cut the 26-foot larch beams when I built my house, Chuck who did my welding and welcomed me into his family, and my friend and neighbor Chet who didn’t wait for me to ask him for help, he saw what needed doing and did it before I saw it.

There was Harvey Keister who taught me the dollar value of knowledge when he explained a $25 dollar repair bill by saying, “I know it sounds expensive, but it’s only five bucks to fix it, it’s twenty for knowing how.”

Laurence Molzohn, who, when I was having trouble calving out, said, “I know the pickle you’re in, Jim,” and packed up my small herd of heifers and took them to his place where he calved them out for me.

Walt Esterby, the Bridge and Building foreman for the railroad who gave me the best advice on how to move the one by two by twenty -four-foot timbers he had just swapped for a bottle of Four Roses. Suddenly realizing that I actually had to get them home and having no experience with big timbers, I said, as he was walking away “Hey, how do you move these things, anyway?” He paused and turned to look at me, and said softly,” You gotta be tough.” And walked on.

And to Danny Rasor, Forest Service packer, for showing me how two men and with a rope could do it.

Bob Miller, another friend and neighbor who, with his wife Mary, owned the local market and social center. He propelled me on my journey into public service by walking a mile down my mudded-out lane to convince me to serve on the Trout Creek Dump Board so the health people wouldn’t shut it down.

Dude and Shorty Mercer who appropriated equipment belonging to the L-P lumbermill where they worked and unloaded my farm equipment from the railroad flatcar parked at the mill siding. Old Wayne Hill who showed me the best way to roll up barb wire.

The people of Sanders and Lincoln Counties who sent me to the Montana Legislature six times.

To the land I live on which has rewarded me many times over with crops, timber, health, and sanity.

And to Bob Uithof, of Libby, who wrote a letter to the editor to say, “I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with Jim Elliott on anything, but I never had to wonder where he stood.”

When I came here, I was green as grass, and although I didn’t know it, everyone else did. But nobody laughed at me, they just showed me the way. It was their nature, like breathing.

Most of them are dead now, but not to me.


Montana Viewpoint has appeared in weekly and online newspapers across Montana for over 25 years. Jim Elliott served sixteen years in the Montana Legislature as a state representative and state senator. He lives on his ranch in Trout Creek.