My father-in-law, Herb Russell, will be 100 years old on April 30, 2023. His father, Herb Russell Sr. came to America from Scotland in 1913 and homesteaded land on Limestone, which is still part of the present day family ranch at Nye, MT. It was in that homestead cabin on the backside of Limestone Mountain where Herb was born. Junior, as Herb was known growing up, was raised by his Scotish father, Herb Sr, and his Irish mohter, Delia, who also had a homestead north of Columbus.
I have always enjoyed the stories of his youth growing up in this rugged country,
In his youth, his folks only had a few head of sheep. However, by the time he was an adult, they ran a band.
They used to trail the sheep on foot from Limestone to the Patten Ranch, north of Columbus, MT. That was about a 3-day, 50 mile trek. Most of the time there were only 2 men herding. The first night they would camp in the vicinity of the Rhyneer Ranch on the Stillwater River. The second night they camped just outside of Columbus on Shane Creek. Herb woud leave early on the third morning for Columbus to find out the train schedule.
They had to be able to get the sheep across the tracks and a considerable distance out of town before the train approached, blowing its’ whistle. If they didn’t, when the whistle blew, the sheep scattered every which way all over town!
The lambs were loaded onto trucks in Columbus and shipped to Park City, or elsewhere across the region.
The ewes were then trailed to the Patten Ranch where they wintered. The Patten Ranch was owned by Delia’s uncles, and her homestead bordered it also.
Herb told me the last time he herded sheep to Columbus, was the night before his wedding to Susan Rich, his wife of 75 years. They are both still living independently on the Russell Ranch at Nye.
It is in Herb’s honor that this story and the following poem were written.
The Man and His Mountain
Take a minute and sit a spell
and if your ear to me you’ll loan,
I’ll tell you the story of a man we love,
and the mountain called Limestone.
He was born in a cabin on that mountain high,
of parents from the “Old Country.”
They came in a ship to homestead land
in the the home of The Brave and Free.
His name was Herb,
but for most around,
It was Junior, that he was known,
from the days of his early childhood,
to the days that he was grown.
From looking at that homestead site,
I know those times were tough.
The land was steep and rugged,
but I guess there was love enough.
‘Cause when he talks of days gone by,
days he was a lad,
it’s not of pain or suffering he talks,
but the good times that he had,
sitting on that mountain top,
basking in the sun,
carving a would-be-heirloom
on the stock of his favorie gun;
of trailing sheep from here to there,
from Baldy to Columbus land,
and the friendships made along the way
by the shake of an honest hand.
That honest hand is with him still,
along with a tender heart,
and values he has learned through life
of which he’ll never part.
Sheryl Craig Russell