Once upon a time, people would only know “Eureka” if I added the identifying “you drove through it on the way to Whitefish” (where everyone goes skiing.) (Or if coming from somewhere other than Canada, people might have an idea where it is if I added “It’s close to the Canadian border…North of Whitefish, which is north of Kalispell, which is in Montana, which is in the northern part of the United States, and no, we don’t all live in teepees, and yes, we have electricity there, and indoor plumbing.”)
Although, to tell you the truth, when we first moved there, even further back, in the “once upon a time” story, we didn’t have electricity OR indoor plumbing. But that was just us. Well, and our neighbor. They didn’t have electricity or plumbing either… and they did live in a teepee… But, I’m pretty certain electricity and plumbing were available. I’m pretty certain some people had it…?
We moved to Eureka from Seattle, again “once upon a time… a long, long, long time ago.”
Eureka was so “old west” back then, that the week we moved to town, there was an actual “shoot-out” from the rooftops, between some of the locals (can I call them “red-necks”?) and the sheriff and deputy. I don’t know the cause, but a couple of years ago, I was reminiscing with my Mom, and she said that wasn’t the only time that happened!
When I was in school, there was (and this is true) a bike rack AND a hitching post for those who want to ride their horses to school. It didn’t get used often, but it DID get used!!
That was then… but now! people actually go TO Eureka! They go for the sake of being IN EUREKA! Can you believe that?
Having spent most of growing-up time in the Eureka area, this makes total sense to me, though. An abundance of beautiful, clear, warm lakes in the summer, never crowded. Mountains for hiking and huckleberry picking.
By the way – have you ever had huckleberries? They are THE BEST berries EVER!! Generally, you can find huckleberry milkshakes, syrups, jams, pies, hand lotion and jelly beans in little stores (and sometimes even Wal-mart) all over Montana and Idaho. (Apparently, they are Idaho’s Official State Fruit.)
Here’s how I remember Huckleberry Picking (which I loved to do): driving way up a mountain (generally one that had, at one point or another, gone through a forest fire), climbing up a steep slope, trying to get down-wind from bears (who also love huckleberries), wrapping one arm around the huckleberry bush (so you don’t slide down the shale) while holding the ice cream bucket…
My friend, Tammy, was the best-ever Huckleberry Picker. She would collect buckets of huckleberries for the day, and then she’d sell them for $20-$30 a gallon!! She supported herself a whole summer that way!
On the other hand, I would come back with maybe 1/3 of a bucket, purple stained fingers, purple stained lips, and scrapes and scratches, after either eating most of them OR dropping them all down the mountain.
In the winter, we have snow mobiling, snow shoeing (which I never did because I didn’t “get” that it was recreational – at one point, my parents used it for a source of transportation), cross-country skiing, and down-hill skiing at the nearby Big Mountain, in Whitefish (or Fernie BC – see blog Feb 10, 2013). Oh! and dog sledding. (I only found out about this in the last couple of years, actually – after I went to my first Iditarod in Alaska (see future blog, starting March 3rd.)
Eureka is said to have the best weather in all of Montana. (Is it said by people who live in other places?) We always called it “the Banana Belt” of Montana, and now that I’m researching, I see that that’s “official”. The summer is almost always hot and sunny (with the best lightning storms!); the winter always has the fun snow that you can go sledding in, or make a snow man – not usually too cold to go outside - it’s a Winter Wonderland! the spring is always on time, with fresh air and flowers; and fall is nice crisp air, with changing leaves. Oh! and we have Western Larch, which look like evergreens, with needles, but then the needles turn color and fall off, like leaves.
Also, since we have no pollution, you can see bzillions of stars, occasionally watch the Aurora Borealis, and/or catch a meteor shower.
Near Eureka (ok, about 45 minutes away), but “near” by Montana standards is the West Kootenai Amish Community.
Personally, I find the Amish culture fascinating! They still drive around in horse-drawn buggies. They go to school in a one-room school-house, and they speak German. They don’t have electricity or telephones in their homes. They make their own furniture. They make their own candles. You can go up to the community and buy home-made goods (jams, candles, bread, and I think, quilts and furniture).
And, my Mom tells me that nowadays, they also have an all-you-can eat dinner buffet on Friday nights. It’s so popular, reservations are recommended. (It kind of makes me giggly that there’s a website for this… )
If you are not completely intrigued and feel compelled to take a drive up to the Amish Community. This can only mean one thing: I haven’t explained it properly…
So, sometime early in the 1800′s, the great explorer, David Thompson came through the area, and because of the native strain of tobacco the Indians were growing, he named the valley, the Tobacco Plains. Eurekans commemorate his visit, annually in April, with Rendezvous Days, where everyone dresses like mountain men and carry muskets. (Not everyone in Eureka is a “character”, but there are more than a few REAL characters – I bring this up now because:…well, if you do go to Rendezvous Days sometime in the future, you should know that SOME of the people are not in costume, but those are really just their clothes.)
Officially “founded” in the 1880′s by cattlemen and homesteaders, the area was first inhabited for centuries by the Kutenai Indians. In 1904, the Great Northern Railroad came through the Tobacco Valley and “the town of Eureka was born.”
Oh goodness – you have to look at this website! The town now looks almost exactly like it does in the pictures! I’m serious – I’m certain some of those buildings are still there! I know that big white building is there (or at least it was there, last time I was on that road…) (There is pavement now, and the sidewalk is concrete, too… and there’s not that many horses on main street.)
At 1037 people (as per the 2010 census), Eureka is the metropolis! Taking in the outlying areas (which were assigned to our High School area – Lincoln County High School – GO LIONS!), we include Fortine (population in 2000 was 169), Trego (no data for “Trego” town, but outlying areas – approximate population: 541), and Rexford (105 in 2010.) My graduating class had 63 kids, and we were one of the larger classes.
Well, now that I’m talking about it, I’m feeling a tiny bit homesick…
Sunday, on to Whitefish, MT.