X-Bar-A Guest Ranch
The family summer vacation in 1963 was a transition, an unusual adventure. John R., the oldest son, was working as a research laboratory assistant at The Rockwell Institute near Buffalo, New York. Our grandfather, Dr. Root, had passed away in Franklin, New Hampshire at the end of the summer in 1961. In 1962, for the first time, we missed the long-standing two-week stay at the farm. We repeated our regular two-week stay on Cape Cod at the Marine Lodge Cottages in Dennisport, but then rented a cottage in Rockport, Mass. for the second half of August. There was an outbreak of the polio-like 'Echo' virus in central New Hampshire that year, so we did not go up to stay with the Meaders as planned – Uncle Ralph, Aunt Olive, and cousin Mary.
For a real change of venue the next year, my parents set us up with a trip to Montana and Yellowstone National Park. Long-distance travel in 1963 was an adventure in itself. We flew from New York to Billings, Montana in a Lockheed Electra II turbo-prop. (I took particular note of the plane because there had been a well-publicized crash due to technical problems with the Lockheed Electra I, a couple of years previous.) The trip was long and noisy, with a stopover in Chicago, I think. My father had arranged for the ranch owner, Bo Clark, to meet us at the airport in Billings; the ranch itself was more than a days' drive west, but there was no airline service closer.
In Billings we loaded ourselves into a station wagon and headed west. "Big Sky" is a very apt description for the territory; we stopped overnight in Big Timber, about halfway across the state. The following morning it was a novel sight to look down the road ahead of us and see over a hundred miles of flat roadway – with a crystal clear view of the Rocky Mountains for a backdrop.
McLeod, Montana was a tiny town in a turn of the river just outside of the Boulder River valley, where the Gallatin mountain range faded down to the plains. The main features of the town were a general store and post office, about a dozen houses – and a hot-spring-fed municipal swimming pool. Cold water from the river was mixed with the spring water to bring it down to bath-water range; the geothermal reach of the Yellowstone super-volcano is surprising.
The current view from Google Earth is my best guess of the ranch location. The Boulder River ran east of the ranch and provided water for the range land there. The so-called 'McLeod Ditch' was a man-made irrigation ditch along higher ground by the valley road, providing a valley watershed – and water for the ranch swimming pool! The swimming pool was concrete, small, and cold – gravity fed from the ditch, draining to the river, no chlorine required.
Photographs Copyright © 1963 by John B. Tuttle
This page last updated 05-May-2016