Centennial Valley

I should probably be posting winter-themed material now, but I want to revisit some time I was able to spend in Centennial Valley Montana. This valley sits just above the toe of Idaho and was once the western entrance to Yellowstone. At its peak, hundreds of homesteaders came to the valley pursing the American dream of independence and prosperity.  Today, it’s home to cattle ranches, moose and trumpeter swans; this winter the only permanent residents will be the caretakers at Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge.

In the days ahead, I’ll share a series of posts from the valley. Images and words from today and the day before yesterday.



for jane buck,

(who we never knew)


it’s always morning, always

spring when they come to the valley

lugging their  trunks full of hope

and industry, fueled by the stew

of anxiety and ambition, stink and sweat­­


they’d heard this was good ground for grass

and for cows, but birthing anything

is hard business and this is hard land

a land of bad roads and sharp winters

shallow roots and bitter winds


how were they to know

they’d planted their hopes

in such a place of leaving?


empty homesteads dot the valley

like the prints of a great beast, leaving only bones

and skulls, the blackened eyes of glassless windows

roof-beams buckled by relentless snow

and loneliness. this morning


there’s ice on the long grass, and winter

stalks the high country. the snows

are coming. old foundations will be buried

unvoiced memories will blow on the wind

collecting into drifts in the dark corners

winter will return

to repossess time


©  Old Bones, New Snow/ J. A. Fink 2013

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