The Man and His Mountain

Herb Russell on Limestone Mountain

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.

Delia and Herb Russell Sr. with sons, Sandy and Herb on Limestone homestead

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


My husband, Mike, and I used to live on a ranch in Nevada owned by a man who lived in Newport Beach, California. He was a neighbor of John Wayne’s. When we moved home to Montana to help run Mike’s parents’ ranch, our old boss came to visit us.

Our ranch was in a very scenic part of Montana, but was pretty isolated. It was a little over 30 miles to the nearest small town and high school.

The first thing he said to us when he came into the house, was “Hello, glad to see you guys again.” The second thing he said, with hands raised like ‘why?’, was ” What the heck? Are you mad at the world?”

He couldn’t understand why we wanted to be quite so far from “civilization.” But we weren’t really isolated. We had a few neighboring small ranches, and a very close community.

I personally loved it up there. We were right in the middle of God’s most favorite place! Well, I know techically that is Israel, because he tells us that. But I have never felt closer to God than when we lived there. The mountains, rivers, and creeks were breathtakinly beautiful. Besides our cattle and horses, we had all kinds of wildlife. We had deer in our yard all the time. We also had an occasional black bear in yard in the fall when the chockcherries were ripe. They loved those and we had a ton of them in the back yard. There were also elk in abundance. Nothing quite like being able to hear a bull elk bugle. It is incredible. We also had more than enough of coyotes, and wolves, mountain lions, and grizzly bears. A couple ofdifferent times we saw a bull moose and mounain sheep wander across the ranch, but they were rare.

The following poem was written kinda of as an answer to our friend’s question “Why?”

Verse by Sheryl Craig Russell

Artwork by Kathy McKinsey Haggerty

Cup Of Soup

Sister Pat and cousin Joanie on slider, Me and cousin Renee on swings- Portland, Oregon

I have mentioned before several times that I was raised on ranches.; except for a couple of years that we lived in Portland, Oregon,

Mom and Dad both had to work out to make ends meet. My Aunt Mae, Mom’s sister, baby sat my sister and me. She had a home day care that she ran for most all of her life.

The picture above was taken in her backyard. When I look at this, all I can think of is Campbell’s Tomato Soup. I can remember Aunt Mae warming up the soup and bringing it out to the swing set. She poured it into cups so we could drink it. I can remember thinking how fun and different that was. Mom always served our soup in bowls, with crackers, and we always sat at the table as a family.

I kinda felt like we were getting away with something. Photos can bring back so many memories. I love them. I have enough to go through, with so many stories to go with them, that I will never get them all told….but I will keep trying!

To this day, I often will warm up a cup of soup that I can sit anywhere with, and sip on both the soup; and the warm memories of my childhood.

Back Home

So many of my thoughts take me back to the days of my youth; days filled with the simple joys of life. Back to a time when there was little thought of stress in my life. I didn’t even know what it was. I was filled with the wonder of life itself, adventures on the ranch, always learning something new and fun, but mostly, surrounded by Mom and Dad and my sister, who all loved me and made me feel safe.

Backhomemt is the name of my blog, but before that I had a home business called Back Home, where I sold framed poetry. I told God I wanted to put merchandise out there that was not negative or sarcastic. I wanted it be uplifting and encouraging, I wanted to bring people’s thoughts to a place of peace and comfort. I wanted to show God’s blessings that were lathered on me in the form of a simpler time, backhome.

A few years down the road I was blessed enough to have a column in Western Ag Reporter, called Back Home. It was cut short because of circumstances in my life that got in my way which left me unable to focus on writing.

I am glad to be back to writing again. I want to thank all my followers who have been supportive of my blog. I truly appreciate you.

When I first started Back Home with my poetry plaques, this poem was my theme for my business, and still is today with my writing. This was also one of my best sellers. Hope you enjoy it.

Verse by Sheryl Craig Russell

Artwork by Kathy McKinsey Haggerty

Following Through


I am at a place in my life where I feel God pushing me to try some new things.  I feel a “pressure” to start now.

Pressure is seldom a good feeling.  It can be uncomfortable.  I have a tendency to want to move to get out from under it.  I like my comfort zone.

Sometimes there is only one way to ease that pressure and that is to yield to it; let it pierce, prune, mold you until it has produced the change that was needed.

Looking at this series of pictures taken of my grandson, Dylan, I think I see exactly what God has been trying to get me to understand.

  1.  Take the ball in your hands
  2.  Take one step at a time; large strides will get you there quicker
  3.  Keep your eyes on your goal and take that flying leap of faith
  4.  Follow through

I have started taking…

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Sherry, Pat, and Duke


Joys of

childhood days,

flying down hills,

Pulled by Grandpa’s horse,

behind the hay wagon

drawn by a team of horses.

What sweet memories I have now

that age and time cannot steal from me…

snowy, cold glimpses of winter’s magic.

Sheryl Craig Russell

My Son, Dustin and his Grandpa Jim
Pat, Sherry, and Jim Craig

The Old Porch Swing

I have always loved old houses, especially ones that have a big front porch. What I really still want is a house that has a wraparound porch. They talk to me. They give me a sense of calm, comfort, and contentment just driving by someone else’s. I want one of my own that I can sit out on every morning and enjoy a cup of coffee, and the newness of God’s Day. I want to sit out on that swing, or bench, and watch God paint his flamboyant masterpiece every night in the setting of the sun. I want to be able to wave at neighbors, or even strangers as they pass by, knowing some of them are seeing that contentment and wishing they had that also.

The old porch swing, sitting on the old porch goes one step further. It is a place where Grandma, Grandpa, aunts, uncles, and neighbors, stop by and chat. Stories are shared about the little things in life, about the big things in life; the good, the bad, the funny, the sad. It is where so much love is shared. It is where friends and memories are made.

The world today needs an old porch swing.

Verse by Sheryl Craig Russell

Artwork by Terri Routen

Filling Mama’s Boots

Me; Sherry Craig Russell in Mama’s boots

I have wanted to write this post for a long time, but I just didn’t know where to start; still don’t. So, I guess I’ll try to start at the beginning and let my heart lead me.

My mom, Harriett Wells Craig, was the sweetest, kindest, and most loving person I have ever known. She was also very compassionate. She was courageous, except where it came to snakes and frogs; she hated them both.

When mom was about in the 4th grade, she developed rheumatic fever. She had a very bad case of it and was bedridden for an entire year. She could not even turn over in bed without help. She had to learn to sit up, eat by herself, and walk all over again.

I have always thought this was one of the reasons she was so compassionate when it came to others. She knew what it was like to suffer. She knew what it was like to be left out while others played and had fun. She didn’t talk about it much, but when I asked her, she told me about a few incidents but would not elaborate on them. I am not sure if it was too painful for her, or she thought some things might hurt others she loved.

Rheumatic fever left her heart valve damaged, which would cause problems later on. For the most part though, she led a normal life.

I always thought the above picture was of me in my dad’s boots, until I found the picture below.

Jim and Harriett Craig (in “the boots”)

Mom always seemed happy. She had a smile that lit up the room. Children and adults alike were drawn to her.

Mom and Dad both loved to read. Our house was always full of books.

My mother was a very tender and nurturing kind of parent. She would play board games with us, jacks, hopscotch, and card games. She taught us how to use the hula hoop, took us sledding and fishing. She sewed clothes for our dolls. and would play paper dolls with us.

Mom only went through the eighth grade, and married at 17. When she was in her fifties, she went to adult education and received her high school diploma, with almost straight A’s! I was so very proud of her. She had plans to go to business school, but Mom and Dad moved to another ranch too isolated to continue her education.

A few years later, health problems again began to plague her and would for the rest of her short life.

Harriett Craig was also the best grandmother. I was fortunate enough to live next door to mom and dad for the biggest part of my kids’ childhood. She loved on my children and pampered them, and they loved her dearly. My sister’s two boys spent many summers with Mom and Dad, and I know they adored her also.

Like her mother, Mom was a pretty good sketch artist. The following are the only pieces of her talent I have ever seen. She gave these to me when I was in junior or senior high school. I unfortunately pasted these in an old scrapbook, and they have faded bad. The wrinkles from being glued down are also very unfortunate.

My Uncle, Bob Craig
My Father, Jim Craig
Cartoon Characters

Mom was not just a woman, she was a lady. She was very beautiful, slender, and gracious in every way. She was also a woman who believed in Jesus, and I know I will see her again someday.

I could not fill her boots as a child, and I will never be able to. But I will never stop trying to walk in the boot prints she left behind.

Thank You Lord

It seems this is a prayer I find myself having to pray often. It is so easy for us to find the busyness of ordinary days taking up most of our thoughts and actions. In my own experience, that is when the Lord gives me a trial of some kind to make me stop and focus on Him.

Trials can be painful. I don’t want anymore. I am trying, and getting better at it, but I know I still need to share more of my good days with the Lord in thanksgiving and conversations. I need to ask for guidance daily, because I need it daily. I need His love daily. I need His grace daily. I definitely need His mercy daily.

Perhaps someone else needs this prayer today also.

Verse by Sheryl Craig Russell

Artwork by Mindy Russell Young