Stories From the Tamaracks:

'I Remember When...'












Photo of Irvine (I.P.) Sperry, taken in the Seeley Lake area. Date is unknown. Photo courtesy of Tom Demmons.

October 5, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

Stories From Long Ago About The Tamaracks of Seeley Lake Compiled by Jack Demmons.

This is part 6 of a series of articles about The Tamaracks Lodge which was prepared by Tom Demmons, son of Ken and Valle Demmons, who were long-time residents of the Lodge and helped manage it through the years. Part 6 contains stories told to Tom by his uncle Frank Anderson, who had taken over the Seeley Lake Post Office and was managing Kenny Freshour's store while he was in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

I remember the time when The Tamaracks started building the new saddle shed. Ken Demmons got I. P. Sperry to come up - he was good with an ax, oh God could he notch logs. So Ken and Henry [Turner], all three of 'em, was out there and Ken asked, "Now I. P., just how do you go about notchin' these things?" I. P., he says, "You pick up your ax and you see it's good and sharp and you just start cutting the ____ out a things." That's all the instructions I. P.'d give.

I saw this with my own eyes. It was just colder than old Billy Hell and it was in the evening, just getting dusk. Now I. P. had a great big old Chalmers car - a huge car. It had a great big radiator cap on it with some kind of emblem, and it had a hole through it in case the radiator got hot, and had to let some steam out.

Well, that car went boilin' past my place and I just happened to be out at the gas pump when I saw it go by. Now this was in '44, and about three minutes later here come this state game warden's car - saw two fellows in it, and they went a-zoomin' by. And I thought, now what the hell is this all about? But I didn't pay any more attention until about 40 minutes later, here come ol' I. P. boilin' past the store again. He must have taken all that time to go around the lake because he was goin' in the same direction. I could see a little steam comin' out the top of that radiator cap, and then, about the same length of time, here come the gov'ment car - pszoom! Then shortly here come ol' I. P. the third time and the steam was really comin' out of the top of that fancy radiator cap. The gov'ment car wasn't far behind, but this time it stopped and one of 'em jumped out all hot and flustered and asked, "Did you see a big ol' Chalmers come by here not too long ago?" I replied, "No, I don't believe I did." I said, "It could've happened. I don't watch out there much."

What ol' I. P. had done of course, is go around the lake and take that ol' Steep-Stepper Hill Road, and he went home, and those agents kept goin' around and around, lookin' to catch him, but never did.

I'll tell you what those gov'ment boys were after him for. It seems a few "gov'ment beaver" got in I. P.'s way down on the Clearwater. The gov'ment was trying to take some of the beaver out of the Clearwater and someone would be waitin' until the gov'ment trapper set his traps. Then around 2 o'clock in the mornin' - and there was snow of course - someone would follow the trapper's tracks right to where the traps were set, take the beaver, then reset the traps. The gov'ment never did prove anythin' about I. P. He was too smart for them.

He carried an old .38 revolver - carried it in his car all the time. He carried it because the coyotes were getting mean up where he lived. He came across the street from the bar one day - he was a good drinkin' man - and he came into the store, said he wanted some stuff, and I got his stuff all ready. And he had this goddam gun on him, with a cartridge belt and holster and everything, and I asked, "What the hell you doin' with that gun? You lookin' for someone I. P.?" "No, no," he said, "I went some place today and just put it on." I asked, "You know how to shoot it I. P.?" He said, "Come here."

Well, across the highway - it was a good 75 feet - there was a sign which read RESTRICTED AREA: GAME PRESERVE. "You want me to shoot some of those letters out for ya?" I said, "Ya, I'd like to see that." WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! He was laying those bullets into those letters and he'd had a few drinks. He made a believer out of me, I'll tell ya he did.

Then one time in Coyle's bar after it was first opened - about 1946 [Eddy and Jerrie Coyle had opened the Key Bar Resort in 1947.] Ken Demmons and I were in there. Some gal was tendin' bar, and she was just a pretty girl - a nice girl is what she was - I liked her. These four punks come into the bar from Missoula - university kids - and they wanted a bottle of Jim Beam. So she set the bottle out for 'em, and she told 'em what it cost. One asked, "You mind puttin' it on the tab for me?" She said, "I can't do that. I don't even know you." Now I. P.'s standin' there, takin' it all in. One of the punks said, "Well, I'm sorry then, we'll just have to leave with it. I haven't any money to pay ya." And she said, "Well, you know it will come out of my pocket if you don't pay me." I. P. kinda edged down the bar and he reached into his coat pocket and he pulled out a goddamned switch blade knife, and he reached over and he stuck it under the fella's ribs there, just the point of it and he growled, "Don't move, just pay the lady. If you move, I'll run it up to this goddamned handle." And that guy turned white, and he asked the other guys standin' behind him, "You guys got any money?" One of 'em said, "Ya, ya we got some money." "Well for God's sake pay her!"

And they paid and they left, boy they left. And that's the truth - God, he stuck that knife in there so quick - I saw that! He even scared me - goddamn right! I moved down the bar and so did Ken.

[I. P. was Irvine Sperry. Eddy Coyle has a picture of him and a caption below I. P.'s picture reads: "Real Loveable Old-Timer." He was one of the early-day loggers in the Seeley Lake area, and deeply respected. Stories about The Tamaracks and the people who lived and worked there will be continued in future editions of the Pathfinder.]


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