Seeley Swan Pathfinder
July 30, 1998
by Mike Thompson,
Game Range Columnist
When you've got a whole year to plan a grand celebration, what do you do with all that time? Well, you don't start the barbecue right away.
But, you might arrange for Monte Dolack to paint a commemorative poster.
You may recall that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and your local Citizens Advisory Council plan to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Blackfoot-Clearwater Game Range with you next June 12. We want to do it up right, to show respect for those who worked to establish the Game Range in 1948, and to draw attention to serious challenges that lay before us. In Montana, we have a word for that sentiment:
When you let those syllables roll off your tongue as one word, you can almost hear the Blackfoot River rushing and glimpse the pileated woodpecker flying. Mr. Dolack's name is synonymous with these and other images of our world that have been subjects of his widely acclaimed and popular work.
Earlier this month, John Firebaugh, Mike Hillis and I met Monte at his Missoula gallery to discuss the possibilities. To begin with, I think I was probably over-conscious of the fact that this exceptional artist is flooded with requests for his time and talent. As a result, I bent over backwards to avoid a strong sales pitch. This made for pleasant chit chat, but risked failing to inspire he among us who possessed the talent we desired.
Mike Hillis (a wildlife biologist with the Lolo National Forest) tolerated this sluggish approach for as long as he could. Finally, he exploded with pent up drive and enthusiasm.
"Before we go any further, let's not lose sight of the fact that this Game Range is really important," he began. "It probably represents the greatest winter concentration of elk anywhere on (or associated with) the Lolo National Forest. Without this Game Range, we'd lose a tremendous wildlife and recreational resource in western Montana. The rough fescue grassland is just beautiful, and..."
Mike's speech was abruptly interrupted by a misplaced blue taco chip and subsequent choking fit. This was fortuitous for Monte, who was furiously trying to keep up with his notekeeping and needed a short break. We knew we'd made our point when the artist observed, "It sounds like I'll be featuring elk in this poster."
"That's great," he assured us. "The only elk I've done before is one that I placed on top of a half buried jeep." He felt compelled to explain the symbolism of that work after I blurted out, "We don't want any junk vehicles in our poster!"
The punch line is that after 50 years, it looks like the Blackfoot-Clearwater Game Range will finally earn its wings. Its image and our feelings about the Game Range will be captured and perpetuated in a poster by Monte Dolack in time for our celebration next spring.
Plans are tentative at this point. At this time, we're envisioning the printing of about 2,500 posters - enough to adorn every home in Seeley Lake, and then some. No state funds will be used to compensate the artist. Mr. Dolack's commission will come from private sources and sales.
Tentatively, Monte is thinking of a September scene that he can have finished by March or April. So, if you encounter an artist during your wanderings on the Game Range this fall, you might want to quickly run a comb through your hair, just in case. But, before you decide whether to linger and pose before the artist, keep this in mind.
Monte Dolack has a mischievous sense of humor.