A Story of the Bob Marshall Wilderness: (Why Our Family Doesn’t Own Horses)


Back in the early 70’s, we had just moved to Whitefish because my father couldn’t wait to do what he loved best, meaning hunt and fish. Where we lived previously in Oregon, we didn’t have immediate access to the woods, streams, and forest, but in Montana, we did. My father led a double life. In his everyday world, he was a hairdresser performing cuts, curls, sets, and perms on women with violet hair, but on the weekends and downtime he was the “Marlboro Man.” He was rugged and outdoorsy and would camp and fish for days and became very proficient at both to the point where when I was 15, he was hired as an ‘Outfitting Guide’ in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

In Beaverton, Oregon (where we lived before we moved) we had a small farm where we raised a few animals, grew a small garden and we had a few horses. My father even rode and performed in rodeos.

When we moved to Montana we did own horses for a short time but my father boarded them somewhere else as we lived in town.

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My father loved Montana. He loved everything about it. He worked in “The Bob” for three years, (and often was a cook too) but the last summer tragedy struck, and it haunted him to the bone.

It was a frigid chilly day with pouring rain and extreme fog. The sky was dark, and it was windy; it was muddy with horrible visibility. Then the unthinkable happened. My father was on his horse and was with another guide, and two other horses were with them. It’s a miracle my father didn’t go over the cliff too. Those two “additional horses” went over the edge and plummeted to their death. It was probably the most devastated I’d ever seen my father. Upon returning home, he sold his horses, sold all his guide gear, and never looked back.

Horses seemed big and frightening to me when I was a child and after the experience my father endured it just wasn’t ‘in our blood’ to pursue owning them.

“The Bob” is a vast and sprawling wilderness and, on many occasions, not kind. -Brenda Roskos

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