The Billings Outpost

NILE gets under way Tuesday at MetraPark

A cattle drive and parade kick off the Northern International Livestock Exposition at 2 p.m. Saturday. The cattle drive, which goes from downtown to MetraPark, encompasses 75 head of cattle, a trail boss, outriders, chuckwagon and bunk wagon followed by a motor-less parade.

NILE itself begins on Tuesday, Oct. 14. Among the highlights:

Lou Taubert Cattle Drive

A part of the NILE’s mission is to respect our western traditions and heritage. The idea of a western parade and cattle drive was born from the desire to share with our modern culture our agricultural roots. The event will encompass a cattle drive assembled by the Yellowstone County Museum, which will also serve as the grand marshal.

The proposed route will go west down First Avenue North and back on Second Avenue North, then continue out to MetraPark.

Ranch rodeo

Elite ranch rodeos from across the region sanction with the NILE. All rodeos are guaranteed a spot for one team to compete in the NILE Ranch Rodeo Finals (with the exception of the Wyoming State Fair Ranch Rodeo Finals that will fill two teams slots).

Again this year, the NILE has sanctioned with the WRCA, which will allow the first place team to compete in the Ranch Rodeo World Finals in Amarillo, Texas.

This year’s NILE Ranch Rodeo Finals will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Rimrock Auto Arena.

Cat-Griz Shoot Out

Date: Oct 16

Time: 07:30 p.m.

Location: Rimrock Auto Arena

The biggest sports rivalry in the state of Montana will take on the toughest bulls and broncs at this year’s NILE ProRodeo Cat/Griz Rodeo Shoot Out.  In a unique competitive style, the rodeo teams from each school will draft Pro-Rodeo Contestants to compete for their school earning points throughout the night. 

Up for grabs will be prize money offered by the NILE garnered from $1 of every paid ticket.  After the dust settles the winning school will receives 60 percent of the prize money while the other school will receive 40 percent.

The money will be awarded to each college in the form of Scholarships to be given to collegiate rodeo athletes. 

Western Expo

Date: Oct 14-18

Time: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

These vendors showcase authentic western art or jewelry, saddles, tack, and western wear as well as livestock equipment, feed and supplements, and cattle genetic based companies.

Don’t forget that it’s the only place to get NILE merchandise. It all unfolds at MetraPark in Billings.

In 2013, The NILE Stock Show and Rodeo saw:

• Over 1,000 head of livestock on the grounds.

• Total five-day attendance: 40,000 people.

• Visitors were from 38 states, and 85 percent were from Montana.

• Visitors came from several  Canadian Provinces and other countries.

Horse Extravaganza

Date: Oct 17-18

Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: Ford Super Duty Arena (Montana Pavilion)

The 2014 Horse Extravaganza is a two-day horse showcase Spectators will have the opportunity to view a wide range of equine demonstrations, Stallion Row and peruse the equine based trade show booths and exhibits.

Those include:

• NILE Raffle Filly

• Stallion Row- a breed showcase of horses

•The Newest in Equine Equipment and Tack

• Horse-shoeing Demonstrations 

If it’s related to horses, the Horse Haven trade show should have it.

For information, contact Traci at 651-0440 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 October 2014 10:57

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Big game hunting prospects strong

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here are hunting outlook reports for antelope, elk and deer in this section of Montana. The reports are from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.


Things are looking up for Montana antelope with populations continuing to recover from previous years’ winter mortality and reduced recruitment in central and Eastern Montana.

This year, there are even a few more special licenses available reflecting that reduced but improving status. 

Successful antelope license applicants may recognize increased fawn production in many areas as populations respond to generally favorable weather and habitat conditions in 2014.

Montana’s antelope archery season will close Oct. 10 and the general rifle season for antelope will run Oct. 11-Nov. 9.

For more information on antelope hunting in Montana, visit FWP’s website at, click “Hunting” then click Hunting Guide.

Antelope numbers throughout south central Montana are stable to increasing from the past couple of years.  Fawn production increased dramatically in the spring of 2014 and should result in hunters seeing more antelope than last year. In areas impacted by bluetongue in 2008, population numbers remain below average, but are increasing. 


With elk populations continuing to be strong across most of Montana these are good times for elk hunters.

In some areas of Western Montana, where populations have declined, wildlife biologists have recently observed increased recruitment of calves.

In many hunting districts, however, because access to private lands can be difficult, which can affect hunting success given landownership patterns and distribution of elk.    

Montana’s general, five-week long, elk hunting season opens Oct. 25.

Even if you didn’t draw a special permit this year, remember Montana offers numerous opportunities to hunt for elk with just a general hunting license.

Elk numbers along the Beartooth Face and in the Crazy Mountains, Big Snowy Mountains, Bull Mountains and southeastern Belt Mountains are at all-time highs, though most are restricted to private land where access is difficult. Harvest will likely be slightly higher than last year.


Mule deer numbers have experienced recent declines in many areas of Montana but should be improving with favorable weather and habitat conditions in 2014. 

Recent seasonal insect-related disease outbreaks have reduced white-tailed deer populations in parts of eastern, central and west-central Montana.  Other areas have stable populations with favorable weather and habitat conditions in 2014 enhancing recruitment levels across the state. 

Bottom line, deer hunters in Montana will find improving populations but a mix of hunting opportunities when the general season opens Oct. 25.

Mule deer numbers throughout south central Montana are stable or up slightly from last year, though they remain 30 to 40 percent below the long-term average. Harvest likely will be similar to last year.

White-tailed deer numbers are quite low at lower elevations and north of the Yellowstone River, at least partially because of last summer’s outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, commonly known as EHD. Numbers closer to the mountains, where the bugs that spread the disease are not present, remain reasonably strong.

 Whitetail buck harvest opportunities likely will be similar to last year, while antlerless harvest will decline due to significant reductions in B-tag numbers.


Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:51

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Observe safety rules

The 1,200 volunteers who teach Hunter Education remind all hunters there are four basic rules of gun safety.

1. Always point the muzzle of your gun in a safe direction.

2. Always treat every gun as if it were loaded.

3. Always be sure of your target and beyond.

4. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.

      Hunting is a safe activity. It is up to each hunter to make responsible decisions to keep it that way.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:50

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Be aware of wild bears

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee recommends the use of bear spray and urges hunters to learn other bear-aware safety measures.

Hunters in bear country need to:

• Carry bear spray and know how to use it.

• Hunt with a partner, leave detailed plans with someone and check-in periodically.

• Pay attention to fresh bear sign. Look for bear tracks, scat, and concentrations of natural foods.

• Use caution when hunting areas that have evidence of bear activity or areas with scavenging birds such as magpies, ravens, or crows.

      Most grizzly bears will leave an area if they sense human presence. Hunters who observe a grizzly bear or suspect a bear is nearby should leave the area. If you do encounter a grizzly, stay calm, don’t run, and assess the situation by trying to determine if the bear is actually aware of you. Is it, for instance, threatening or fleeing? Always keep the bear in sight as you back away, and leave the area.

  Here are some guidelines for using bear spray:

When to use bear spray

• Bear spray should be used as a deterrent only in an aggressive or attacking confrontation with a bear.

How to use bear spray

• Each person should carry a can of bear spray.

• If a bear is moving toward you from a distance of 30-60 feet direct the spray downward toward the front of the bear with a slight side to side motion so that the bear spray billows up and creates a wide cloud that acts as a barrier between you and the bear.

• If the bear is within 30 feet spray continuously at the front of the bear until it breaks off its charge.

• Spray additional bursts if the bear continues toward you. Sometimes just the noise of the spray and the appearance of the spray cloud is enough to deter a bear from continuing its charge.

• Spray additional bursts if the bear makes additional charges.

• A full canister of bear spray is essential for bear encounters.

• The expiration date on the spray should be checked annually.

Selecting a bear spray

Purchase products that are clearly labeled “for deterring attacks by bears,” and that are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.

      No deterrent is 100 percent effective, but compared to all others, including firearms, bear spray has demonstrated success in a variety of situations in fending off threatening and attacking bears and preventing injury to the person and animal involved.

      For more on living with bears and being bear aware, see the FWP home page at; then click Be Bear Aware.

      For information, go to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee website.


Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:49

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Outdoors in brief

Block management enrollees

For the 2014 hunting season, about 1,230 landowners have enrolled about 7.4 million acres in Montana’s Block Management Program.

      The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks program provides hunters with public hunting access to private land, and isolated public land, free of charge, while assisting landowners in managing hunting activities.

      Information about specific Block Management Area opportunities is available at all FWP offices and on the FWP website at

       Hunting Guides and most BMA maps also will be available on the FWP website. Click “Block Management.”

      Again this year, FWP will publish one statewide Block Management Hunting Access Guide that will list information for all seven FWP administrative regions.

      While many BMAs do not require reservations, some do. Hunters can use the Hunting Access Guides to determine how permission is obtained for individual BMAs. While some BMA reservations may be made this season beginning Aug. 22, others won’t open reservation lists until later in this fall.

Ask before you hunt

Montana’s millions of acres of private land offer some good hunting opportunities—the only catch is gaining the landowner’s permission to hunt.

It is Montana law that hunters obtain landowner permission to hunt on all private land.

Here are a few things to keep in mind that will greatly improve results when attempting to secure hunting access to private land.

• Show courtesy to the landowner and make hunting arrangements by calling or visiting at times convenient to the landowner.

• Plan ahead and secure permission well in advance of the actual hunting date.

• Provide complete information about yourself and your hunting companions, including vehicle descriptions and license numbers.

• Explain what type of hunting you wish to do, and be sure to ask any questions which can help clarify the conditions of access.

• Follow the landowner’s instructions, and bring with you only the companions for whom you obtained landowner permission.

• Be sure to thank the landowner after your hunt.

Hunters and landowners can learn more by investing some time on Montana’s Hunter-Landowner Stewardship Project, an information program for anyone interested in promoting responsible hunter behavior and good hunter and landowner relationships in Montana.

 Visit FWP’s website at, then click the “For Hunters” tab.

      For more information on hunting access in Montana, check out the “Hunter Access” pages on FWP’s website at

Game bird forecast

 Here’s a rundown on the current status of Montana’s top upland game birds.

Gray (Hungarian) Partridge: While no formal surveys are conducted for huns in Montana, various observations along with weather and habitat conditions suggest huns will be average to below average again this season. Observations in Regions 4, 6, and 7 suggest average numbers. Observations from Region 5 suggest numbers will be below average and lower than last year.

Mountain Grouse: Observations in western Montana suggest average to slightly above average numbers of all species.  Preliminary information from Region 5 suggests overall blue grouse and ruffed grouse numbers will likely remain below the long term average.

Pheasants: Montana is experiencing a large decline in CRP acreage along the northern tier of the state, which may have an impact on hunting experiences in Regions 4 and 6. In this area, spring “crow counts”— where wildlife biologists travel specific routes to count and record the “crowing calls” of cock pheasants to determine population trends—were 42 percent above the long term average. Region 7 reported that populations will vary between fair to near the long-term average in good habitat.  In northwestern Montana, weather in Region 1 resulted in below average numbers on the Ninepipe Wildlife Management Area. Region 3 reported average numbers for southwestern Montana. In Region 5, pheasant crow counts varied but were below the long-term average. Overall, Region 5 expects the 2014 season will be similar to last year’s season. 

Sharp-tailed grouse: Region 6 reported fair to average numbers in good habitat. Lek surveys and other observations in Region 6 indicate sharp-tail numbers will be near the long term average across the region. General observations from Region 5 suggest below average numbers. Region 7 reported that sharp-tail populations will be near the long-term average where habitat conditions are good.

Chukar: Region 5 reports that chukar numbers remain below average but may have some potential for improvement this year.

Special youth season

Montana’s young hunters are the focus of a special weekend youth waterfowl and pheasant hunting season Sept. 27–28. Legally licensed hunters age 12 through 15 will be able to hunt ducks, mergansers, geese, coots and ring-necked pheasants statewide on these two days.

In addition, youngsters 11 years of age who will reach age 12 by Jan. 16, 2015 may participate in this hunt with the proper licenses. A non-hunting adult at least 18 years of age must accompany the young hunters in the field.

 The bag limit, shooting hours, hunter safety requirements and all other regulations of the regular pheasant and waterfowl seasons apply.

      There is an exception to the youth waterfowl season at the Canyon Ferry WMA near Helena—shooting hours will extend from one-half hour before sunrise to noon Sept. 27 and 28.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:47

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Local veteran wins award for service to disabled vets

COLD SPRING, Ky. –  Ernest L. Flynn of Billings and Frederica Haymaker of Los Angeles, were selected by Disabled American Veterans to receive the 2014 George H. Seal Memorial Trophy for extraordinary volunteerism.

The awards were presented by DAV National Commander Joseph Johnston at the organization’s 93rd National Convention Aug. 10-13 in Las Vegas.

“This year’s Seal award recipients are dedicated volunteers,” said Commander Johnston. “They represent the finest DAV has to offer in serving veterans.

“Volunteerism is one of the most important components of our mission and serves injured and ill veterans and their families,” said Johnston. “And DAV has more volunteers than any other veterans service organization.  From our hospital volunteers to our Transportation Network drivers, to our Local Veterans Assistance Program; we reach out to deliver assistance to the veterans who need us.”

The prestigious awards honor the best of thousands of remarkable volunteers who serve in the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service Program. The awards are conferred in memory of George H. Seal, who was DAV’s Director of Membership and Voluntary Services and the leading organizer and administrator of DAV volunteer programs.

“Our 2014 Seal Trophy winners show what volunteers can mean to our veterans,” said Johnston. They are there to honor the promises made to the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our freedom.”

DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity.  It is dedicated to a single purpose; fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served.

 DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life.  DAV, a non-profit organization with 1.2 million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932.  Learn more at

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 15:15

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St. V pastoral education receives accreditation

St. Vincent Healthcare has announced that its Clinical Pastoral Education Program has received accreditation by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education Inc. of Decatur, Ga., as a Satellite Program Center.

SV CPE is a satellite of Tri-Cities Chaplaincy in Richland, Wash. The program supervisor of SV CPE is the Rev. Wes McIntyre of Tri-Cities Chaplaincy. The Rev. Terry Hollister is coordinator of ministry formation and CPE at St. Vincent Healthcare.  

SV CPE was granted provisional accreditation in December 2013 and offered its first unit of CPE from February through June 2014. In late April, 2014 the Rev. Beverly Hartz, Accreditation Committee chairwoman, made a site visit to evaluate the program’s compliance with ACPE Accreditation Standards. Based on her findings and upon her recommendation, the ACPE Accreditation Commission took action to approve SV CPE as an accredited Satellite Program Center at its May meeting.  

SV CPE plans to continue offering CPE units in future. An extended unit will be held from October 2014 through May 2015. Eight students will be participating in that unit.

Two of those students will make use of videoconferencing technology as they participate remotely from the two other SCL Heath affiliate hospitals in Montana; Holy Rosary Healthcare, Miles City and St. James Healthcare, Butte. Plans are in progress for a 12-week summer intensive unit, to begin in late May or early June, 2015.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 15:14

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Clinic opens ExpressCare

Billings Clinic’s second ExpressCare retail clinic opened for business in March. Located near the pharmacy in the Billings Heights Albertsons store at 607 Main St., the clinic offers patients quick access to primary care in convenient locations for minor medical issues provided by Billings Clinic nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 15:12

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For healthier eating, embrace bitter flavors



The people who shaped modern food have consistently selected against nutritional value, writes Jo Robinson in her fascinating book, “Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health.” We all know we’re supposed to add vegetables to our diet, she argues, but given the state of modern vegetables, that’s not usually enough. The vegetables you consume should be as nutrient-dense as possible, and as a general rule, the most nutrient dense foods are usually the strongest flavored and least domesticated.

“Early farmers favored plants that were relatively low in fiber and high in sugar, starch and oil,” she writes. These seed savers chose the least bitter specimens to replant, at the expense of their and our health. “It is now known that many of the most beneficial phytonutrients have a bitter, sour or astringent taste,” Robinson writes.

Phytonutrients are biologically active, plant-derived compounds associated with positive health effects, even if they don’t taste too like doughnuts.

If bitter is indeed better, perhaps it’s time we rethink our relationship to this difficult flavor. It’s a shift that might not be as hard as one might think. The first time I tried beer, for example, I thought it was horrible, largely thanks to the bitterness. But as my body began to associate the flavor of beer with getting hammered and hanging out with similarly inebriated coeds, those same bitter beer flavors began to invoke feelings of expectation, comfort and delight.

Something analogous can happen with dietary bitter greens, thanks to a whole-body understanding of how good they will make your body feel. For some, this flavor becomes like the burn from a set of pushups, a la “no pain, no gain.” For others, like my sweetheart, who I’ll call Shorty, bitter is truly sweet. She eats radicchio like some people eat potato chips, dipping the leaves into an oily dressing as she goes. It’s half olive oil, with the other half equal parts soy sauce, balsamic and cider vinegars.

Shorty is the exception. Americans consume more servings of iceberg lettuce per week than all other fresh vegetables combined (not including potatoes), Robinson notes. Iceberg is the poster child for modern agriculture’s nutrient drain. It’s about as bland and non-bitter as water, and nearly as pale as the ice formation it’s named after.

“The most intensely colored salad greens have the most phytonutrients,” Robinson writes. “The most nutritious greens in the supermarket are not green at all but red, purple, or reddish brown. These particular hues come from phytonutrients called anthocyanins ... . Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that show great promise in fighting cancer, lowering blood pressure, slowing age-related memory loss, and even reducing the negative effects of eating high-sugar and high-fat foods.”

Taking Robinson’s telltale signs to their logical conclusion, one might expect radicchio, with its dark purple leaves, to be among the most nutritious greens of all. And indeed they are, just a few steps behind radicchio’s wild cousin, the dandelion, which contains an even richer supply of nutrients - just make sure any gathered specimens haven’t been fortified by neighborhood dogs, or with added fertilizers or pesticides. Endive and escarole are also in the same family, as is chicory, their wild progenitor.

If you’re not a bittervore like Shorty, or aren’t the type to make peace with the bitter side of your sustenance, there are some easy ways to soften, obscure, and even put the bitter flavors to work.

Adding chopped dandelion greens or radicchio to a salad of paler, milder leaves like lettuce can add depth to the salad’s flavor, as the mellow leaves dilute the pain. If such a salad is still too bitter for your taste, consider a sweet or creamy dressing, like honey mustard, or even ranch. “Fat is one of the best antidotes to bitterness,” Robinson writes.

Indeed, what isn’t fat the best antidote for?

At the same time, cover-ups like fat and sweet, while making bitter greens palatable, are crutches. They turn eating your greens into a constant uphill battle in which some form of assistance is always required. Embracing the bitter side makes a lot more sense. As you get used to these flavors you’ll be able to distinguish one plant’s subtle flavors from another’s, along with differences in texture, acidity and juiciness. You’ll find variety among the shades of bitter.

Another worthy approach to consuming bitter greens is to combine them with other bitter foods, which can create a bouquet of bitter flavors. This works best with bitter foods that also have redeeming characteristics to counter their inherent bitterness. Walnuts, for example, are astringent, but have a compensating oiliness. Grapefruit’s bitter flavors are balanced with tartness and sweet.

Here’s a salad recipe that blends bitter red and green leaves with grapefruit and walnuts. It’s a bright, unexpected gathering of components, with each one’s bitter side adding to a smooth, bitter bouquet.

Ingredients for four servings:

2 heads radicchio

About the same amount of other greens, such as dandelion, endive, escarole, lettuce or

lambs quarter.

Two or three pink grapefruits

½ cup chopped onion (red, of course)

1 cup walnuts

½ cup olive oil

coarse salt and pepper

optional: smoked or baked salmon, fried scallops, bacon or other protein; perhaps a soft goat



On low heat, dry roast the walnuts in a heavy pan, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until they brown. When the nuts cool, crush them.

Peel the grapefruits and separate the fruit from the membrane. Do this over a plate that catches all the juice that drips. Give the fruit a little squeeze so more juice comes out. You want about half a cup for the dressing.

Wash, dry, and chop the radicchio and other leaves, about as finely as coleslaw. Mix with the onions, grapefruit pieces, walnuts and optional animal proteins. Whisk together the olive oil and grapefruit juice, and dress the salad.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 15:11

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How meat cartel arose



Although at first glance, a book about the development of a fully vertically and horizontally integrated cartel controlling the raising, slaughter and marketing of poultry, pork and beef may seem dry, “The Meat Racket” author Chris Leonard tells a compelling story.

He follows the rise of the Tyson family in the creation of the meat cartel in a balanced and non-inflammatory manner.

Leonard concludes that the handful of companies that now control the production and marketing of all meats can set prices at will.

The disappearance of free markets in agriculture mirrors the disappearance of free and open markets in much of the rest of our economic lives. What Leonard chronicles in the rise of the Tyson family is the banality of evil when it aligns itself to our own petty self-interests. Meat is now produced in a system based on exploitation of everything it touches – the animals, the environment, the contract growers, the plant workers, and ultimately the consumers themselves.

My awakening to the growing threat to the competitive markets for beef came in 1987 when Benny Bunting, a disaffected contract poultry grower from North Carolina, addressed the annual meeting of the Northern Plains Resource Council. He concluded with this warning: “Do not allow yourself to become a serf on your own land.”

“The Meat Racket” is a kind of requiem for the three decades of work and passion that I and many other staff and leaders of WORC have devoted to prevent the “chickenization” of the hog and cattle industries. We organized, we studied the complexity of the issues, and we came to the simple, elegant conclusion — rule — to save the integrity of the hog and cattle markets from what happened to the chicken market: forward delivery contracts for slaughter-ready beef and hogs must be publicly bid.

The rule

It received serious consideration by a number of academics and from U.S. Department of Agriculture leadership. In the end, it was not that the giants were too large and powerful for us to confront but rather that their minions, the “orcs” you might say, were so numerous and pernicious.

After a long battle on many fronts, the rule has never been implemented. Instead, the vertically integrated contract meat production system has become even more entrenched.

Leonard ends his book with the dismal assessment that now that the vertical and horizontal integration of the poultry, hog, and cattle feeding industries is complete, it is not possible to restore the ideal of independent farmers selling their livestock in open competitive markets. For us ranchers and farmers this suggests we accept the fact that we will be nothing but the serfs of our corporate overlords. For consumers, it means higher prices, lower quality, and more safety issues will be our new normal.

However, even though meat, as a commodity, is firmly in the hands of the meatpacking “racket,” they still do not control the market for local, natural, or organic meat. The opportunity for niche producers and for consumers interested in local consumption is viable and growing. The local market network may remain a fraction of the size of the commodity market, but it offers an opportunity for farmers and consumers to collaborate in quality food. That is scant reassurance, however, for most western ranchers because we simply do not have enough local consumers for all of the beef and lamb that we can raise.

But is it all over for us ranchers? It will be if we give up trying to restore free, public, and competitive markets for cattle and sheep. I am not ready to give up and I know many who feel the same as I. If you are interested in food, and concerned about how your food is raised and where it is sourced, you should read The Meat Racket. Then you should join us in the fight to restore free, public, and competitive markets for all agricultural commodities.

Gilles Stockton is a rancher from Grass Range and a member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils, a regional network of conservationists and family farmers and ranchers based in Billings.


Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 13:04

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Wolverines not threatened


By DEB COURSON SMITH -Big Sky Connection

MISSOULA – A decision on whether wolverines should be considered “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act took 14 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided the animals are not imperiled, citing uncertainty about the ecology of the wolverine.

Wolverines are found mainly in areas that receive deep, late-season snow in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington. Kylie Paul, who has been researching wolverines for several years at Defenders of Wildlife, said wolverines are clearly at risk of extinction - and climate change is part of the problem.

“If we’re not willing to protect a species that has only 250 to 300 individuals,” she said, “one of the rarest mammals in the Lower 48, how imperiled does a species have to get to get federal protection?”

While there may be up to 300 animals, Paul said their reproduction rates are low and it’s estimated that only a few dozen females are able to reproduce each year. Wolverines do survive in higher numbers in Canada.

Paul said wolverines have declined not just because of changing snowpack levels and timing but also because of trapping, loud winter recreation and habitat degradation.

“They’re just this amazing, tenacious animal,” she said. “This native species that we have - it will be on its way out within our lifetime. They need to be able to withstand these issues that face them, now and in the future.”

Wildlife organizations including Defenders requested ESA listing for wolverines in 2000. Fish and Wildlife proposed listing the species as “threatened” last year, mainly because of climate change, but reversed that stance last week.

Details of the decision are  at

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 August 2014 15:26

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To help environment, try meat with, gulp, tofu



Since Meatless Monday first became a thing, in 2003, it’s become a popular New Year’s resolution to skip meat for one day a week. The amount of food - and the land required to grow it - that’s used to produce meat could feed vegetables to a lot more people, with less greenhouse gas production and other environmental fallout.

As this idea has become ingrained in the mainstream understanding of where meat comes from, many have concluded, sadly, that they should cut back on meat.

I’m fortunate to be able to shoot enough deer each year that I can avoid many of the ethical issues related to industrial meat production (hunting has its own set of issues). I eat a ton of wild game without compunction, but I sympathize with the purchasers of feedlot meat who want to reduce their consumption.

While some meat eaters aren’t ready to make this step, others are ready to take it a notch past a mere Meatless Monday. Both groups could do well to consider the ancient Chinese secret of mixing their meat with tofu, which effectively cuts meat consumption in half for a given meal.

For some, Meatless Monday could flow into Bacon Tofu Tuesday, while those taking baby steps could try half-meat Monday.

Meat lovers often look down on tofu as a bland substitute for their protein of choice. Indeed, protein content notwithstanding, they are nothing alike. You can’t just swap tofu for meat and expect no one to notice.

That much was clear to me when, as a young vegetarian, my dad tried to make me eat bean curd, as he called it, so I wouldn’t become malnourished. Bean curd’s culinary virtues, as he explained them, were based on its ability to absorb the flavors around it. While by itself tofu may taste like a more succulent version of chalk, if you cook it with yummy ingredients it will taste similarly yummy.

Alas, when those accompanying ingredients are plant-based, as is the case with vegetarian tofu dishes, it’s a laughable meat substitute. But when the accompanying ingredients are pork-based, another side of tofu emerges. While Swiss chard-flavored tofu might not satisfy a carnivorous hunger, bacon-greased bean curd is a proven winner.

My local Chinese restaurant does spectacular things with pork and tofu. The Jackie Chan special, for example, combines slices of pork belly with dried tofu and mustard greens, while the “Chinese-style” twice-cooked pork is half tofu - and nobody complains. The kitchen also cranks out a great version of the Szechuan comfort food mapo tofu, in which ground pork and chunks of tofu are cooked together with tongue-numbing Szechuan pink peppercorns (not related to black pepper), in a black bean chili sauce. In China, Mapo Tofu is so popular there are restaurants that serve nothing else.

Tofu and pork are cooked together in the cuisines of other Asian countries as well, including Korea and Japan, each of which has its own version of mapo tofu, as well as Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam.

In the U.S., where tofu is still largely considered a meat substitute, rather than having an identity of its own, the combination of pork and tofu is often considered an oxymoron.

But I love everything about this counterintuitive pairing, from the flavor to the sentiment behind it. Nothing screams “tofu is not a meat substitute!” more than mixing it with bacon.

While a poor meat substitute, it’s a great meat extender. Adding a brick’s worth of tofu slices allows you to use meat than you would have, without feeling deprived.

One of the easiest ways to experience porky tofu is to fry it with bacon, in oyster sauce. Firm tofu is best for this. Start by frying the tofu, in a little oil, and when it’s nearly done to your liking add the bacon, chopped in inch-squares. Stir gently so as not to break the tofu chunks. When the bacon is nearly done, add minced garlic. Stir it around for a second, then add a few tablespoons of oyster sauce, along with some white wine or water if the pan is dry. Serve with rice. Vegetables can be added to this dish as well, at different points, depending on how long they take to cook. I like to keep it simple with just one vegetable, like broccoli, or kale.

I’m not often mistaken for a Chinese chef, but the results were impressive when I followed Marc Matsumoto’s Mapo Tofu recipe that I found on the PBS Fresh Bites blog ( Matsumoto also discusses the meaning of the dish’s name, which translates into something like Pockmark-Faced Lady’s Tofu. Not the most appetizing name, but boy does it hit the spot. My pork-averse wife ate more than I did.

If you can get your hands on sprouted tofu, you should give it a try. Even raw, it tastes considerably better than succulent chalk, and has more nutrients than unsprouted tofu.

Sprouted tofu is typically sold in firm bricks, rather than the soft variety that’s best for Mapo Tofu. But with bacon and oyster sauce, firm sprouted tofu works great. And there is something deeply satisfying, on a semantic level, about eating sprouted tofu with bacon. It’s like eating something that doesn’t make any sense and shouldn’t exist, like braised perpetual motion. This, and the amazing flavor of pork and tofu, can make cutting back on meat feel more like a gift than a sacrifice.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 August 2014 15:24

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Australian bluesman Harper has new album


By ALAN SCULLEY - Last Word Features

Australian blues musician Harper’s newest album isn’t a Harper album in the strict sense.

Called “Bare Bones,” it’s a collaborative album with fellow Detroit-based bluesman Motor City Josh. What also makes the album unusual is it finds the two artists stepping away from their accustomed plugged in, full band sound on an album that features just Peter Harper’s harmonica playing, Josh Ford’s acoustic guitar and vocals from each artist.

Harper likes the way the album came out.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Harper said of the project during a recent phone interview. “I grew up listening to blues, and I guess over time I’ve changed slightly in my style of writing. But it’s always there, that bluesy kind of feel. So it was nice to get right back to the beginning again.”

For Harper, blues came into his life not long after, at age 11, he moved with his parents from their native of England, to Perth, Australia. In that Western city down under, the budding musician discovered a thriving scene for blues, folk and other forms of roots music.

Harper (who uses only his last name professionally) was still in his mid-teens when he first started playing music professionally. From the start, he focused on writing original music, and he found a receptive audience down under, releasing six albums before his 2005 album, “Down to the Rhythm,” became his first album to be released in the United States.

By that time, Harper had established his presence in the states, He first came over to tour in 1996 and returned multiple times in the years that followed. After landing his first U.S. deal with Blind Pig Records he moved to Ann Arbor, Mich.

Along the way, Harper’s songwriting expanded well beyond its original blues direction. His three albums on Blind Pig – “Down to the Rhythm,” “Day by Day” (2007) and “Stand Together” (2010) – had songs that touched on edgy rock, classic soul, funk and rhythm and blues and even Southern-tinged acoustic rock.

The diversity was a product of Harper’s desire to find his own sound and branch beyond the structures and styles common in blues and other forms of roots music.

But an unforeseen chance to collaborate with Ford at a fundraiser for a food bank in Flint, Mich., in December 2012 sent Harper back for an initial encounter with his early blues roots.

“They (organizers of the fund-raiser) were expecting us to bring our whole bands, but we couldn’t get that together,” Harper said.

So Ford suggested the two team up for an acoustic set instead – an idea Harper immediately seconded.

“We did that and we really liked each other’s playing,” Harper said. “It was funny, after that we went ‘Well, we should do something together.’”

The stripped back guitar-harmonic-vocal approach to the album works wonderfully because Harper and Ford wrote songs with strong melodies, solid playing (Harper’s harmonica is especially impressive) and lyrics that have something to say – whether it’s a good humored tune like “Pot Hole BBQ” (about the quality of Detroit’s potholes) or more serious commentary as in “Hydrogenated Food” or “Just Too Big to Fail.”

Harper and Ford did some touring earlier this year, but Harper is now out doing a headlining show.

Ostensibly, Harper and his band are touring behind his most recent album, a 2012 concert disc, “Live at The Blues Hall of Fame.”

“I’ve always wanted to do a live one. People were always asking for a live CD,” Harper said. “Unfortunately, at the time I was signed to Blind Pig Records, and they didn’t want to do one. They wanted to keep the studio ones going. So when I finished my deal with them – and I love them, by the way; we were not parting as enemies. I really respect Blind Pig. I think they’ve been awesome for me. So as soon as I finished my contract with them, I just went out, and it timed perfectly because we had the hall of fame thing. I thought that’s a great place to be able to record something really special. And that was a great way to have a live CD, just the fact that it was a special time in my career. So it worked out perfect.”

As the title of the live album suggests, Harper recently was inducted into the Canadian Blues Hall of Fame. He enjoys a strong following in Canada, and Florida has also become a touring stronghold for Harper. He said he makes sure that he has something new to offer in his live show - even if he has played a certain city recently.

“I like to change my shows,” Harper said. “I don’t want to be one of those bands that you see, and then 10 years later, you’re still saying and playing the same things. So I always like to keep it fresh. And I think it’s good for the players, too. You can get too comfortable with stuff, and then it looks like you’re just going through the motions. So it’s always good to change things up. And at the moment, I’m trying to write a new CD. So there will be new songs as well coming in. I  usually road test them and see how the audience reacts before I’ll stick them on an album. So it’s nice to do that as well.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 August 2014 11:48

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Trombone Shorty reunites Meters


By ALAN SCULLEY - Last Word Features

There’s no telling how Trombone Shorty’s latest album, “Say That to Say This,” will be remembered in the future. The CD was only released in September, and how “Say That to Say This” will impact the course of Trombone Shorty’s music and career – or music in general - won’t be known for some time.

The album still might become a commercial breakthrough for the New Orleans-based trombonist/trumpet player. Perhaps it will be hailed as an artistic high point in his young career. Or, maybe “Say That to Say This” won’t have any such dramatic impact and it will go down as just one of many albums that make up Trombone Shorty’s catalog.

But before those or any other outcomes begin to take shape, “Say That to Say This” – his ninth studio album – has already done something few albums achieve – it’s made history.

That’s because this is the album that brought together the original members of the seminal New Orleans band, the Meters, to record together for the first time in more than three decades. They back Trombone Shorty on “Be My Lady,” a song the Meters first recorded on that group’s 1977 album “New Directions.”

The significance of the occasion is not lost on Trombone Shorty (whose real name is Troy Andrews).

“They know how much they mean to New Orleans music, and I know how much they mean,” Andrews said in a recent phone interview. “I don’t know what the contemporary sound of New Orleans music would sound like if the Meters didn’t do what they did.”

The influence of the Meters, indeed, can’t be overstated. During their initial run together from 1965-1977, Art Neville, George Porter Jr., Leo Nocentelli and Zigaboo Modeliste (with Cyril Neville added to the lineup a bit later) forged a trailblazing sound that blended funk and the traditional second-line rhythms of New Orleans with rock, jazz and soul.

While Art Neville and Porter have continued to perform as the Funky Meters over the years and the original members have done an occasional live show, they hadn’t been in a studio together until Andrews did the improbable and coaxed them into recording “Be My Lady.”

The idea of the reunion happened casually enough. Andrews had been working on “Say That to Say This” and one day was riding around New Orleans with his cousin while they listened to some classic music made in that city.

“We were listening to all that old music from New Orleans, the Meters, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Ernie K. Doe, and for some reason we were really excited about that, as if it came out while we were living,” said Andrews, who was born in 1986.

“So the Meters thing came on and I was like ‘Man, they’ve got everything that represents my band, vocals, horn parts, funky grooves, and I was like ‘Let’s re-do that song,’” Andrews said. “‘I’m going to get the Meters to play with us.’”

His cousin laughed off the idea, but Andrews was serious. And he had one thing in his favor. He personally knew the members of the Meters and considers them to be like his uncles.

The elder musicians had watched Andrews as he grew up, starting out as a precocious child prodigy – he started playing trombone at age 6 – going on to attend the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts before embarking on a recording career that has now seen Andrews release a half-dozen acclaimed albums that have established him as arguably the brightest young talent on the city’s music scene.

So Andrews phoned each member of the Meters and presented his plan.

“I told each one of them that, and there was a silence on the phone when I said that,” Andrews said.

“I reached out (first) to George Porter and I said ‘Man, I want to do ‘Be My Lady’ from y’all’s record, ‘New Directions,’ but I want to get the original cast.’ Like I tell you, no joke, no lie, I told each one of them that, and there was a silence on the phone when I said that,” Andrews said.

But he could tell that, if reluctant, they were also intrigued by the idea. One by one, they signed on.

“Be My Lady” is one of many high points on “Say That to Say This.” Its silky funk sound provides a relaxed change of pace on an album that finds Andrews continuing to develop his distinctive hybrid of New Orleans funk, jazz, soul and gritty rock ’n’ roll. This collision of styles is especially effective on songs like “You and I (Outta This Place),” “Fire and Brimstone” and the title track, where guitar riffs, punchy, sharp syncopated rhythms and jazzy horn lines make for a modern, enervating and original type of New Orleans music.

The rocking character of the music is what sets Andrews apart from other New Orleans artists. He credits a touring stint shortly after graduating from high school with Lenny Kravitz with helping him figure out how to bring rock music and his New Orleans roots together in his sound.

“That situation changed my whole mentality, changed my life,” Andrews said. “Once I did that, I was able to come back to New Orleans and add what I learned from him to my New Orleans (sound). Now you had the sound that you hear now.”

Trombone Shorty and New Orleans Avenue are busy bringing their energetic music to the people on a summer tour and introducing audiences to songs from “Say That to Say This.”

“We’ve been doing some music from our previous records and then we’ve been trying to slide in four or five songs from the new record here and there,” Andrews said.

“We’re just trying to figure out what’s a good way to slide them in. We’ve been doing it mostly toward the end of the set, after we get everything out of the way. Then we hit them full swing slipping in the new material there. So it’s been really cool.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 August 2014 11:44

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Train headlines concerts on Saturday at fair


By ALAN SCULLEY - Last Word Features

As Train hits the concert trail this summer and prepares to release its latest album, “Bulletproof Picasso,” in September, the group is down to two original members.

Drummer Scott Underwood quit Train in June, leaving singer Pat Monahan and guitarist Jimmy Stafford as the remaining members in a revamped lineup that now also includes guitarist Jerry Becker, bassist Hector Maldonado (they both became touring members in 2009) and new drummer Drew Shoals.

But don’t get the idea that, even though Monahan and Stafford are officially the only full-fledged band members, that Train has become a group in name only, according to Stafford.

“We don’t want to appear like Tears for Fears (which essentially was Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith). We’re not Tears For Fears,” Stafford said in a mid-July phone interview. “We want to feel and look like a band, so we include those guys in everything. They’re in the new band photos. We treat them like equals. We ask their opinions. We ride on the same buses with them. It’s not like Pat and I are flying around in private jets and those guys are in a van.”

In fact, Stafford says the current lineup is especially cohesive and tight knit.

“We’re having a good time on stage and I think the crowds can see that, and I think it comes across in our music as well,” he said. “But you know, there have been pluses to every formation of the band throughout the years. The original five guys, we had a thing. We had a, you know, we just kind of had a vibe and a thing that attracted people to us in the beginning. But we had to move on from a couple of those original members. Then we had a couple of new people in, Johnny Colt and Brandon Bush, for awhile, and that was cool time, too, and we wrote some cool songs together. We had a really good time during that period as well.

“I think we’re just in a really good place right now,” Stafford said. “We’ve got awesome musicians, just everything feels really good and really solid and really positive right now for the band.”

Obviously, long-running bands usually go through changes, and Train, which celebrates its 20th year as a group this year, is no exception.

The original lineup – Monahan, Stafford, guitarist Rob Hotchkiss, bassist Charlie Colin and Underwood – made three albums together – scoring hit singles with “Meet Virginia,” “Drops Of Jupiter” and “Calling All Angels,” among others. Colt and Bush replaced Hotchkiss and Colin for the fourth album, 2006’s “For Me, It’s You,” before they departed and Monahan, Stafford and Underwood decided to move on as a trio for the 2009 album, “Save Me, San Francisco.”

But the change that may have had the biggest impact at that point was the decision that Monahan would work with outside songwriters instead of keeping songwriting within the band – a move Stafford endorsed.

The shift in the songwriting approach worked like gangbusters for the newly slimmed down edition of Train. “Save Me, San Francisco,” produced a blockbuster hit single in “Save Me, San Francisco,” and Train was again a force on pop and Top 40 radio.

For the 2012 album, “California 37,” Monahan worked with many of the same outside writers – most notably Espen Lind and Amund Bjorklund (known collectively as Espionage). Once again Train hit paydirt with the multi-format hit single “Drive By.”

Now comes “Bulletproof Picasso,” which like “California 37,” was produced by Butch Walker. Its first single, “Angel in Blue Jeans,” is another collaboration between Monahan, Lind and Bjorkland (who also co-wrote “Hey, Soul Sister” and “Drive By”).

“Bulletproof Picasso,” Stafford said, fits the mold of other Train albums, while offering a few shades of difference.

“It’s pretty diverse, and there are some acoustic type ballads and then there are rock tunes. There’s almost like a little Western flavor that runs through the album,” Stafford said. “I think production wise, it was produced really well by Butch Walker. And I think these are Pat’s best lyrics, in my opinion. It seems like more mature lyrics. You know, he’s had a thing, it’s almost Pat’s style in the past to throw some quirky lyrics in here and there in some songs. This record is a little bit less of that. It’s just a really strong lyrical album, great melodies.”

Fans, though, won’t hear much of “Bulletproof Picasso” at Train concerts this summer. That’s a bit frustrating to Stafford, but he understands the situation.

“We can’t play too much of the new music because people won’t be familiar with it,” he said. “And we’re dying to play the new songs. We can play the new single (Angel in Blue Jeans”), and the past few nights we’ve started slipping in one or two new songs during every show. But people just, they’re not familiar with it, so it’s tough until the album comes out in September.”

Last Updated on Friday, 08 August 2014 11:45

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