July 3, 2001
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
Ron Ogden, retiring law enforcement officer with the
is this year's Grand Marshall in the Seeley Lake Fourth of July Parade.
Ron and his wife, Debbie, celebrate his retirement.
By Donna Love
For the Pathfinder
On Saturday, June 24, the community of Seeley Lake wished Ron Ogden a fond farewell at a retirement party held in his honor at the Seeley Lake Community Hall.
Ogden served the community for over thirty years as the Forest Service Federal Law Enforcement Official, retiring exactly 35 years to the day that he began working for the Forest Service.
Ron and his wife, Cindy, celebrating his retirement
Born in Polson in 1946, he attended high school in Florence. As a boy he fell in love with Seeley Lake when he visited his father, Gene, the County Road Crew Foreman for the area.
Ogden graduated from high school in 1964 and started his Forest Service career in Seeley Lake that same summer on June 1.
At that time Seeley boasted two mills, Gray's and Pyramid Mountain Lumber Company when "it was nothing to see 40 or 50 log trucks parked along the streets of town," Ogden said.
The community has changed in other ways as well. The downtown still had two small grocery stores, the Mercantile, where the Grizzly Claw Trading Company is now located, and Dan's Groceries, which is now Pulici's Propane.
The community's demographics have also changed. "The community had more working families than it does now," Ogden said.
The Ranger Station was different too. The District Ranger was Tom Coston and up to 100 employees worked for the district, many of whom lived on the compound itself, both in the residences and in trailer houses. Summer crews lived in tents.
During his first years with the Forest Service Ogden worked as a Fireman and on the Brush and Trail Crew. In 1967 he became a full time station fireman and fire prevention technician, the lead fire position.
He continued to serve as a fire investigator for the State and Forest Service in the Seeley Lake, Condon and Clearwater areas into the 1980's.
His move to law enforcement occurred in 1970 when he was encouraged to complete law enforcement training. It was natural for fire prevention to move into law enforcement because "the fire prevention guy always did quasi law enforcement work" inspecting logging operations, writing tickets and investigating fires.
During this time he was already serving part time in Seeley Lake on the weekends as a Special Deputy for Missoula and Powell County Sheriff's Department.
Law enforcement was needed because Seeley Lake was considered a "wide open town" with little or no law enforcement. Problems in the 60's and 70's escalated with riots, drugs and other illegal behavior, especially in the newly constructed campgrounds.
This led to Ogden's training during the 1970's in Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Law Enforcement at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy. Ogden has the distinction of being the last of the first 38 Forest Service Agents to complete training.
Being one of the first agents was "interesting" Ogden said because the Forest Service wasn't sure what they needed their law enforcement to do and he served a large area, which covered Rock Creek, Lolo, Powell, Missoula and Seeley Lake.
"Wherever I was, I was in the wrong place," Ogden said and it was difficult because each of the different ranger stations had different ideas about what he should do.
One ranger wanted him to use his light bar, another didn't. Some didn't want him to wear a "visible firearm" and others did. Ogden always wore a weapon because the way he figured it, he "had two choices." He "could either die, or have the Forest Service mad at him," so he wore one.
In 1979 Ogden attended further training at the Federal Law Enforcement Academy in Georgia and was called on to be Special Enforcement Team Leader that served on several national incidents.
He helped with AIM, the American Indian Movement that in 1973 seized the village of Wounded Knee, South Dakota and had a part in Pitt River Uprising in northern California.
At a rededication of Mount Rushmore he served on a security detail to protect President Bush, Sr.
Forest Service officers were called in because they had experience in law enforcement in the forest environment. On that incident he laid on the head of Lincoln in the heat for two days in a "pool" of his own sweat.
He was also called on to be a tracker and point man in the Holter Lake Incident, in which he helped track two fugitives in the Helena area.
In addition Ogden was a Class I Security Manager on several major fires around the United States. He recalls that the Pattee Canyon Fire in Missoula in 1977 was a "logistical nightmare" trying to evacuate people.
The Stanaslaus and Happy Camp Fires near Hayfork, California had fire fighters tripping booby traps around marijuana plantations. The Huckleberry Fire in Oregon in 1987 and the Canyon Creek Fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in 1988 were difficult because they were so big.
He feels that his two failed marriages and his heart attack, which he suffered in the early 90's was a result of those difficult, busy years.
At his retirement party Ogden apologized to his two grown children, son, Rowdy and daughter, Tara, for being away so much of the time. In a touching moment they said there was no need to apologize.
After his heart attack he told Ann Zimmerman, the Seeley Lake District Ranger at the time, that he "was quitting that [all the traveling] and was coming back to Seeley Lake to just take care of his District." The agency agreed.
On the district the common problems he faced "ran the gamit" from campground disturbances to drug raids to suicides.
"The unique thing about Seeley," Ogden said, "is you wind up doing a lot of work with other law enforcement agencies" by providing backup to the county officers because help is in Missoula an hour away.
It wasn't unusual to see him at a bar room brawl downtown or see a county officer in the middle of a Forest Service issue.
He took some flack for that, but when he did he would invite "whoever was giving him the rough time" to ride with him for a weekend. That usually ended the criticism.
Ogden always preferred the title "Peace Officer" above Law Enforcement Officer "because a good officer always finds opportunities to help," and one thing that gave him "great satisfaction" was helping the kids. Many that had "difficult teenage years" grew up to be his friends.
Always active in the community he helped establish the first Fire District in Seeley and the first Search and Rescue Unit, becoming their coordinator. He also served as the first president of the Quick Response Medical Unit.
He enjoyed working with the Boy Scouts when his son was young and for a time was the adult scout representative for western Montana.
Ogden has received many awards down through the years, but the one that means the most to him is the Meritorious Performance Award that he received from the Missoula County Sheriff's Department in December of 2000.
Along with the award he was given a county badge with his badge number on it, and it meant a lot to him that many of the law enforcement community from Missoula attended including city and county police, crime lab people, highway patrol, judges and attorneys.
The award was also special because it came from another agency and it had never been given to someone outside the agency before.
Now that he is retired, he and his wife, Debbie, a 911 operator in Missoula, will continue to live in Seeley Lake. He loves to garden and someday hopes to build a community greenhouse.
He also plans to spend more time on his hobby refurbishing old trucks, and he will continue as president of Seeley Lake's snowmobile club, the Driftriders.
He has found it hard to "come down" from the sleepless nights and to "shut off the faucet of 35 years of adrenaline," but he feels it was the right time to retire because it's good to go while you're still on top.
At his retirement party, Ogden introduced his replacement, Matthew Banks, a Law Enforcement Officer from the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada.
Banks has been a city policeman, and was in the Marine Corp for eight years as an artillery sergeant serving in Desert Storm. Banks, his wife and their three young children will live in Seeley Lake.
Ogden will be the Grand Marshal in the Fourth of July Parade this year. He is honored, but he gets a chuckle out it. Every year beginning with Logger's Day Parade in the early years he has driven his green Forest Service rig in the parade as the lead car.
This year, when he could finally relax and enjoy the parade, he still won't get to see it!