Deep Roots, Out Where the Sage Grows So Tall

Out where the sage grows so tall,

You can scarcely see the herds of cattle at all.

Out where the sun set is so red,

There’s where the jack rabbits were plenty,

And the fluffy little cottontails were many.

The Big Muddy Creek where many trout were found,

And the little gray squirrels ran all around.

There is where we played in the water cool,

And where I nearly drowned in the boys swimming pool.

We would wake in the night to the tune the coyotes howl,

And later to our two shepherd dogs’ deep growl.

The coyotes’ shrill music piercing the night,

They would never quit singing /till broad day light.

In the morning the birds would sing

We found joy in everything.

The air is so fragrant from wild flowers,

The creek banks were lined with wild rose bowers.

All summer long we ran in our bare feet,

And many different wild berries we would eat.

Time goes on, days fly past

Fall is here and we are back in class.

The school nearly three miles away,

In zero weather we were taken in a sled filled with hay.

On weekends what fun and how nice,

We could skate up the creek for miles on ice.

In evening odor of burning diamond willow filled the air,

And there sat our mother in a straight backed chair.

She read to us for an hour or so,

‘Till off to our beds we had to go.

A small coal-oil lamp furnished the light,

And the fire in the old stove grate was a wonderful sight.

Out there in the sage where my dreams turn back

To the old homestead and the tar paper shack.

—Marion Isabel Stevens Foster Wesffall, Luman’s daughter and Lizzie’s cousin

The Lewis and Luman Stevens families had finally arrived in the Bozeman area of Montana after a six-month  journey by wagon train from Gilroy, California. Lewis and Luman each had married a Blanchard sister, from Iowa, and when the twins arrived in Montana, they moved in with their father-in-law, Frank Blanchard, who had a home near where Big Sky is located in the Gallatin Canyon not far from West Yellowstone.

From Nila’s mother’s memoirs:

Mother kept a day by day diary of the trip from Calif to Montana. We left Gilroy Monday 4-3-1905 and arrived at Dudley Creek on Sept 20, 1905. Her diary’s last entrance [sic] said, from Mom’s diary, broken down this is the route—Sep 3-crossed continental divide-Challis, Salmon City (60 mi), Gibbonsville, Wisdom, Divide, Butte, Whitehall, crossed R.R. track at Boulder, Madison R. At supper at the bridge, Salesville Wed. 20, 1905.

Salesville, Thurs. Sept. 21. Tried to rest. Children are having their fun. Dear, dear, 8 dogs, and 13 kids.

The count on the kids was the total for both Luman’s and Lewis’s families. They continued to live with the Blanchards before Lewis moved his family to Bozeman to a house on Sourdough Creek, now North Church Street. [in Bozeman, Montana]

The above is an excerpt from “Deep Roots, Out where the Sage Grows so Tall” by Milt Burgess. Marion Westfall was Nila Burgess’ aunt who grew up on a homestead not far from  Nila’s mother’s family homestead  near Wilsall, Montana north of Yellowstone Park.

Leave a Comment