Vern E. ‘Bud’ Cheff, Sr. (1915 – 2011) and friend and mentor Eneas Conko (1874-1954).
Bud Cheff Jr.’s ancestors first came to what is now Montana in the early-1800’s from Ontario, Canada. His French and Iroquois grandparents settled on the Flathead Reservation in 1907, and became good friends with the tribal families that were their neighbors. Bud’s dad went on hunting and gathering trips in the Montana wilderness with these family bands from the time he was a small child. He learned the old ways, and spoke Pend’ Oreille fluently. Bud Jr. was born in his grandparent’s log house at the foot of the Missions Mountains in 1936. Growing up on the family ranch and traveling on those same old Indian hunting trails was an ideal childhood for Bud. As he put it, “I grew up with a foot in both cultures.” He spent many happy hours listening to the elders telling stories, and worked hard to memorize them as a child. In later years he recorded some of them.
When he was 9 years old, Bud and his sister Ola found a war club in a cave near Glacier National Park and he became interested in collecting artifacts as well as stories. Later, a fire burned his childhood home, destroying the war club, and other treasures. These experiences led him to realize the importance of preserving the history and personal stories of Flathead Reservation.
When most people are beginning to contemplate retirement, Bud instead fulfilled his lifelong dream and built Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana with the help of his wife Laurel. His father, Bud Sr., and many other friends and family contributed time, effort, donations and snippets of history.
Join Bud as he shares stories and historical accounts of the Mission Valley, and keeps us up-to-date on what is happening with the wildlife on the ranch!
THE MAKINGS OF A HISTORY PACK RAT
In the summer of 1946 I was almost ten years old. Our family was traveling from Ronan, Montana to the new town of Martin City. The town was named for my great, great aunt Vina, and uncle Joseph G. Martin, as the town was built on part of their homestead land. As we were traveling through the Bad Rock Canyon we had a flat tire on the folk’s 1936 Chevrolet car. To change the tire Dad had to jack the car up, take the wheel off, then take the tire off the wheel, and take the tube out, and patch it. Then put it all back together, and pump it up with a hand pump. Then put the wheel back on the car, let the car down, and take the jack out. This was a lengthy process, and while he was doing this my sister Ola and I climbed up on the mountain cliffs above the road. Ola was three years older than me, but we were best pals. We found a cave-like rock crevice and we climbed into it. Ola spotted an object sticking out of a big pack rat nest in the back of the cave. Through the years I have found many amazing things in pack rat nests. We got on our hands and knees as the ceiling was low in the back. We dug the object out, and were surprised and excited when we realized it was an Indian war club. It was bone dry in the back of the cave, which was probably why our find was still in good shape after all the years. Finding the war club sent our imaginations racing as we had heard the Elders telling of the battles that took place in this canyon in the old days between the Blackfoot and the Flathead Indians. We could almost hear the fight, war cries echoing from the canyon in our minds. We were really excited as we hurried back to the car. Dad was waiting on us, but forgot that he was unhappy with us when he saw what we had. Finding the war club in that old pack rat nest triggered my life long quest for old artifacts, and the stories they tell. I guess I’ve got a bit of pack rat in me.
For those that are not familiar with pack rats, they are grey in color with soft fur, and a furred tail. They are a little bigger than a pine squirrel with a cute face, large ears, and big eyes. They are a night animal, and are vicious little devils. They make a nest out of sticks, grass, leaves, moss, or most any thing they can find. Some times their nest will be as big or bigger than an old-fashioned wash tub. They will carry anything that catches their eye and hide it in their nest. They are especially fond of bright or shiny objects. As a boy I used to find a lot of lost things in their nests.