For Cowboy Poets, One Topic is Taboo
In Colstrip, Mont., long before the second-largest coal-fired power plant west of the Mississippi coughed to life in the mid-70s, ranchers used to ice the Rosebud Creek. They cut fat, glistening blocks from idle pockets of the river and stacked them in a house insulated with sawdust. They butchered their beef, wrapped it in Bemis Seamless feed sacks, and packed their chuck and sirloin in the ice before the temperatures rose and the sandhill cranes returned. The original refrigerator. At the saloon in the nearby town of Rosebud, they’d place bets on when the Yellowstone River would melt. They’d list the date and the time of day, morning or afternoon, when the ice would break and the waters would run again.
“We can’t ice the creek anymore, because the creek doesn’t freeze this thick in a slow spot,” says rancher and Colstrip native Wally McRae, chin on chest, holding his hands a foot apart. “And the ice doesn’t go out of the Yellowstone anymore, because it doesn’t freeze. So don’t tell me there isn’t such a thing as climate change.”