Stories From the Tamaracks: Part 20
I Remember When...'
The Tamaracks main dining room. The picture was taken in the early 1940's.
Fish Finders, Technology of the Present, were unheard of at The Tamaracks.
Then, of course, they were hardly needed. Ken Demmons at right.
The guest at left is unidentified.
February 22, 2001
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
Stories From Long Ago About The Tamaracks
of Seeley Lake Compiled by Jack Demmons.
This is Part 20 of a series of articles about
The Tamaracks and surrounding Blackfoot-Swan Valley areas.
It has been mentioned several times that most of the stories about The Tamaracks were collected by Jack's cousin, Tom Demmons, the son of Ken and Valle Turner Demmons. This will be the next to last article about The Tamaracks. The final one will address what the final fate was for each of the characters in these articles.
Some comments that were made by Pel Turner, the youngest son of Henry "Heine" and Maude Turner, original owners of The Tamaracks, are: "Since The Tamaracks was a family operation, we all had our areas of responsibility. Ken (Demmons), being a "jack-of-all-trades," was head of all maintenance. I was in charge of the horse end along with brother Bud. Sister Valle and Mom took care of the dining room and cabins. Valle did all the correspondence and bookkeeping. Ken, who was also an expert with rod and gun, became the licensed guide. Needless to say, all responsibilities overlapped and we share the major projects, such as putting up the wood, and cutting and storing the ice from the lake in February. Electricity would come to Seeley many years later...
"At that time, the Double Arrow Ranch, about five miles south, the Gordon Ranch north on Holland Lake Road, and the Circle W Ranch in the Ovando area were also catering to guests/dudes from the east. One of the highlights of the year was the "Range Ride." The guests would all gather at one of the ranches and then ride on to the others, staying overnight at each, and enjoying planned activities such as miniature rodeos, races, and other equestrian games. Our big drawing card was water sports, since ours was the only place with a lake. 'Swimming the horses' was a big event. Rowboat races, canoe sports, swimming and diving contests were all part of the schedule.
"The Helmville Rodeo, held every year on Labor Day, was the grand finale of the dude season. The competition between the respective dude ranches was fierce, especially in the relay and pony express races!! Many hours of practice by the participants went into preparing for those events, and many wagers were won or lost on the outcomes. A farewell dance followed the rodeo, and everyone said their good-byes until next year.
"During WW II the 'pickings' were pretty slim. Brother Bud became a Marine Corps fighter pilot and was in the thick of the South Pacific Theater. I was seven years younger so missed out on the 'action,' though I spent three years in the Marines. This left Ken and Valle (who had four children by then - Sandy, Ann, Tom and turner), and Maude/Mom to run the place. There was a military detachment at Missoula (Fort Missoula) whose members spent much of their personal R&R (rest and recreation) on weekends at The Tamaracks - and that basically kept the place going. In 1946 I returned, but Bud (a captain by then) decided to make a career of the military.
"In the fall of that year, the cabin Mom and I shared burned to the ground. Ken Demmons and I set right out to rebuild it, but the Forest Service had a plan for it in a different location, so it was never replaced.
"After the war, people's vacation habits changed. The autos and roads were so much improved that people did not rely on the trains as their main transportation, and their length of stay became shorter. My wife Joyce came out from Minneapolis in 1948 and we were married that same year. In 1949 we sold the last of the horses, and as the glory of the dude ranch seemed to have faded, The Tamaracks reverted to its original usage - a beautiful, quiet lake resort."
And so, sadly, it came to be that the cast of characters left The Tamaracks and Seeley Lake, and went on to other pursuits elsewhere. Tragedy overtook some of them, and only several are still alive. (As mentioned at the beginning of this article, their fates will be disclosed in the next and final article about The Tamaracks, as well as closing statements by Tom Demmons.)