So often in life we think we know someone just because they are familiar to us. We’ve seen them every once in a while over the years and talked with them on many social occasions. We may have even read about them in the local newspaper. But we’ve never really sat down with them and asked about their lives. It may seem invasive, or we may assume that we already know most of what there is to know.
Bill and Ramona Holt are great examples of such people in my life. They are very prominent Lolo residents who own a private museum, the Holt Heritage Museum. I have, on a number of occasions, made arrangements with them to tour their museum with Dunrovin Ranch guests. It is a very eclectic and fascinating place, full of artifacts, art works, and memorabilia from the western cowboy and Indian cultures. During each visit, I would acquire another tidbit of information on them as they told their stories. But never did I realize the depth and breadth of their accomplishments and interests. They are humble people who do not offer up the fascinating details of their extraordinary lives.
Then I decided to write an article about them for the 2016 Spring Edition of Distinctly Montana (flip to page 42). In preparation for the article, I arranged for a couple of photographers to accompany me to their museum to capture them in action showing their vast collection. I also set aside an afternoon to interview them and tour their private home, which was built in the 1880s and is full of original furniture, art, tools, and dishes. It is a museum in itself.
While I expected to hear some very fun and interesting stories, I simply had no idea just what incredible pioneers these two beautiful people have been across so many different fields—in the sciences, in the arts, in the cattle industry, in the western rodeo world, in the tourism industry, and in local and regional charities. The sheer scope of their experiences, knowledge, and contributions lead me to dub them “Renaissance Ranchers” in my article. It seemed the only way to adequately capture the arch of their accomplishments and convey how out of the ordinary their lives have been lived. There are few scientists who are also rodeo announcers and leaders in the cattle industry; there are even fewer cattle-women who are ichthyologists (fish scientists) who started their own fisheries business. Both became airplane pilots when planes were rare. Both have been instrumental in establishing artists within the western art world. The list goes on, but I will not repeat what I have written in the Distinctly Montana article and encourage you to read it as part of this article.
Now that my eyes have been opened to what a treasure this unique couple are to our local community and culture, I want to know them even better and share their experiences with our D@D members. Starting in the fall of 2017, we will host a Holt Heritage program series to bring them, their artifacts, and their captivating stories to our members through live broadcasts and chat opportunities. Few people in our area have such depth of historical knowledge and experience with the western and Indian cultures as do the Holts. It will be great fun to circle our computers around them to hear their stories.