In search of English Creek

A sign for Dupuyer Creek in Dupuyer, Montana. Photo by Jeff Rice.

A sign for Dupuyer Creek in Dupuyer, Montana. Photo by Jeff Rice.

Ivan Doig’s second novel English Creek introduces one of Doig’s best-known literary creations, the McCaskill family. Its main character, Jick McCaskill, is a 14-year-old boy negotiating small-town life in Depression-era Montana, and English Creek is his coming of age story. Jick and the McCaskill’s are loosely based on Doig’s memories of his own family and the people he knew while growing up along the Rocky Mountain Front near Choteau and Dupuyer.

As much as the book is a work of fiction, the places and people in it ring true. English Creek itself winds through fictional composites of the small towns where Doig lived much of his life through high school. “Some of the geography is actual,” writes Doig in the book’s Acknowledgements. “I’m afraid, though, that anyone who attempts to sort the real from the imagined in this book is in for confusion.”

In a way, that has been my job this summer—sorting the real from the imagined in some of Doig’s work. I have been visiting several of the places that Doig wrote about, and trying to capture a feel for them. In the case of the eponymous English Creek, Doig would not necessarily say that it was a real place on the map, but if it were (he has implied), the nearest thing to it would be Dupuyer Creek. That creek runs right through the town of Dupuyer, where I visited earlier this month.

Bear spray is recommended for those traveling along the rocky Mountain front. Photo by Jeff Rice.

Bear spray is recommended for those hiking along the Rocky Mountain Front. Photo by Jeff Rice.

One thing about this creek, however, is very different from the one described in the novel. It is also different from the one experienced by Doig growing up. Over the past 20 or so years, some new residents have arrived in Dupuyer. Grizzly bears have been expanding their range and now regularly show up in and around the town and other areas along the mountains and prairies. I was told by a local resident that the bears like to follow the creek bottoms, and will often nap in the heavy brush during hot afternoons. I was advised to keep an eye out and carry bear spray, even when recording the creek in the center of town.

Take a listen to Dupuyer Creek (AKA English Creek) in the recording below. But don’t get too comfortable.

I’ll be posting more recordings related to the book English Creek and other Doig writings in this space as the summer continues.

Meadowlark song

The writer Ivan Doig was a keen observer of the natural environment, especially the birds of the West. “None of us spoke while the songs of the birds poured undiluted,” remembers a character in Doig’s novel Ride with Me, Mariah Montana. It was a deference shared by the author, who was an avid birdwatcher.

This summer, the Acoustic Atlas is traveling to some of the places that influenced Doig, and we are capturing recordings of many of his favorite birds. The recordings will become part of the library’s collection of Doig’s papers, now being digitized for presentation online this fall.

“I suppose we were afraid the spate of loveliest sound would vanish if we broke it with so much as a whisper,” Doig wrote in the novel that would become the second part of his McCaskill Trilogy. “But after a bit came the realization that the music of birds formed a natural part of this place, constant as the glorious grass that made feathered life thrive.”

One such constant is the Western meadowlark. We hope you will enjoy this recording of a solitary bird made near Ringling, Montana just outside of White Sulphur Springs where Doig spent his early childhood years. (Special thanks to BirdNote for inspiring this blog.)

Long Time Coming

Asking people to raise their own taxes is a tough sell. Just ask our local county government how easy it was to get the money to build a new jail a few year back, and how easy it is now to get voters to approve a new “Law and Justice” center.

But imagine how difficult it must have been to raise taxes for a new library while the entire world was battling fascism in the 1940s. At a time when school kids were collecting scrap metal and newspapers, and adults were continually bombarded with solicitations to purchase war bonds, how could anyone have entertained the notion that a new tax to build a library would be acceptable? Only an eternal optimist, or an incredibly dedicated librarian, that’s who.

Meet Lois Payson, perhaps the most pie-eyed optimist who ever worked for our library. Born in Laramie, Wyoming on Christmas Day, 1895, Lois earned two bachelor’s degrees; one in Botany from the University of Wyoming loisand another in Library Science from the University of Illinois. She first came to work at Montana State College as assistant librarian in 1928, but she resigned in 1930 to work at the United States Department of Agriculture library in Washington, D.C. Lois returned to us in 1933 when she became the college librarian, a position she held until she went on to run the library at Yosemite National Park in 1947. She retired in Bozeman in 1956 and died in 1970.

But Lois Payson never worked in the Montana State College library building, and for good reason: we didn’t HAVE a library building in the 1930s and 40s. Books and reading facilities continued to be available in Montana Hall during those decades, sharing space with stuffed birds (and perhaps a few stuffed college administrators, too.) But Lois could see our hres-parc-000494college’s future clearly, and she knew that we had outgrown the space allocated to the library almost as soon as she took the job. That’s why she headed up a Building Committee that in 1939 issued a carefully researched report outlining the need, and worked tirelessly to get Referendum Measure No. 45 placed on the Montana election ballot of 1942. The measure, that would have allowed for the building of a library, failed that fall by 27,845 votes out of a total 85,173 cast. Not surprising since most people were more concerned with defeating Hitler than putting up a place for books.

However, Lois Payson and her successors never gave up, and less than eight years later Montana State College got its first real library building, a full fifty-seven years after the institution was founded. Lois was able to admire it when she returned to Bozeman, and she lived long enough to witness the addition of what we now call the main building in the mid 1960s. I hope she felt it was worth waiting for.

Ear Mountain

Ear Mountain near Choteau, Montana. Photo by Jeff Rice.

Ear Mountain near Choteau, Montana. Photo by Jeff Rice.

If a place ever beckoned to a nature sound recordist, it is Ear Mountain. I had never been there, but saw the name on a map and had to visit.

I happened to be in nearby Choteau, Montana for a project related to the writings of Ivan Doig. This summer, I am tracing some of the locations Doig wrote about in books like This House of Sky and English Creek. The project is supported by the library’s Acoustic Atlas, and over the past month it has taken me from White Sulphur Springs to the Rocky Mountain Front, with a few detours to the northernmost tip of western Washington. Continue reading

New Database: History of Mass Tourism

The History of Mass Tourism provides a look at the evolution of British and American working class tourism from c.1850 to 1980. This collection includes material from the world’s oldest travel agency, the Thomas Cook Archives.

Yellowstone_HistoryofMassTourism

Every document has been indexed by themes allowing for investigation into diverse subjects, such as:

  • The evolution of educational travel, particularly in relation to the Polytechnic Touring Association (later Lunn Poly)
  • The popularity of outdoor activities, wilderness travel and the environmental impacts of tourism
  • The role of travel agencies, including Thomas Cook, Raymond Whitcomb Travel and the Anspach Travel Bureau
  • Portrayals of race, particularly within the American south
  • The technological advances which played an integral part in the growth of the tourism industry.

Key locations for American and British leisure travel during this period have been highlighted. Important collections on the White Mountains and Yosemite National Park discuss wilderness travel, whilst comprehensive studies of Florida, Coney Island and Blackpool trace the development of crucial seaside resorts. Guidebooks, scrapbooks and travel journals also present the evolution of New Orleans as a key southern vacation city.

This collection is available via networked computers on the MSU campus in Bozeman and via the proxy server at . Please direct questions or comments to Kirsten Ostergaard, Electronic Resources & Discovery Services Librarian, kirsten.ostergaard (at) montana.edu.

New Database: Naxos Music Library

naxos_logo_300Naxos Music Library is a comprehensive classical music library available online. In conjunction with hundreds of top music labels, it contains titles spanning medieval music to modern, jazz, electronic, world music, pop, rock, and more, making it an unrivaled streaming music library. Subscription access allows for up to 3 simultaneous users at a time.

Noteworthy Features:

  • Over 1.6 million tracks from more than 112,000 albums and over 750 labels, with hundreds of new CDs added weekly.
  • Customizable playlists: Professors can create and edit playlists of exam pieces and extracurricular listening for their students. Students can create their own private playlists as well.
  • Search by keyword, composer, genre, label, artist, duration, period, and more using the Advanced Search feature.
  • Opera libretti and synopses in up to 5 languages
  • Music glossary and pronunciation guide
  • Analyses of major classical works by Naxos’ team of musicologists

This resource is available via networked computers on the MSU campus in Bozeman and via the proxy server at http://www.lib.montana.edu/resources/item/687. Please direct questions or comments to Kirsten Ostergaard, Electronic Resources & Discovery Services Librarian, kirsten.ostergaard (at) montana.edu.

New Databases: Defining Gender, Everyday Life and Women in America, and Victorian Popular Culture

VictorianPopularCultureThe MSU Library now has three new Adam Matthew Digital Collections:

Defining Gender- explores the study and analysis of gender, leisure and consumer culture. This collection contains original primary source material from British archives including ephemera, pamphlets, college records and exam papers, commonplace books, diaries, periodicals, letters, ledgers, account books, educational practice and pedagogy, government papers from the Home Office and Metropolitan police, illustrated writings on anatomy, midwifery, art and fashion, manuscript journals, poetry, novels, ballads, drama, receipt books, literary manuscripts, travel writing, and conduct and advice literature. 

Everyday Life and Women in America- ​The Everyday Life collection features texts of rare books, periodicals, pamphlets, tracts, and broadsides. These documents cover a variety of themes including popular culture, social history, family life, education, race, class, and employment. There is also an emphasis on advice literature, and on both women and men’s issues. 

Victorian Popular Culture- contains a wide range of source material relating to popular entertainment in America, Britain and Europe in the period from 1779 to 1930. http://www.lib.montana.edu/resources/item/686

This collection is composed of four modules:
1. Spritualism, sensation and magic
2. Circuses, sideshows and freaks
3. Music hall, theatre and popular entertainment
4. Moving pictures, optical entertainments and the advent of cinema

​These databases are available to unlimited users via networked computers on the MSU campus in Bozeman and via the proxy server. Please direct questions or comments to Kirsten Ostergaard, Electronic Resources & Discovery Services Librarian, kirsten.ostergaard (at) montana.edu.