Local daycare providers shutting their doors

Grim news for parents in the Gallatin Valley this morning. The Chronicle reports that The Children’s Place, a nonprofit daycare for kids from birth to 6 years old, closed unexpectedly on Friday, leaving working parents in a child care bind and putting 11 people out of work.

The Children’s Place is just one in a series of expected or announced daycare closures in the valley. Most are closing because of a lack of business as working parents just can’t afford to keep their kids in licensed daycare. At the time of its closure, The Children’s Place was licensed to care for 40 kids. Only 28 were enrolled.

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Bears

“Two houses, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we lay our scene.”

Clichéd, yes, but there never was a more fully crafted representation of two parties who did not agree than the Montagues and Capulets.

I bring up the bard’s prologue because I spent the day trying to reckon two accounts of a wild weekend in West Yellowstone.

Unfortunately, no star-crossed lovers will knit the troubles between the two sides in this dispute.

On one side, a pair of campers, one who says he was bitten by a bear in a campground while he slept and another who says the bear tried to get into his cabin. Both are angry that the campground didn’t warn them properly against bears (in their opinions).

On the other side, the owner of the place, who acknowledges the bit, doubts the cabin story, and says he and his staff warned campers about the bear danger adequately.

One side senses a cover-up; the other senses paranoia and overreaction. Who’s right?

No one, of course, and no one is happy at the outcome of the weekend. All that remains are (at minimum) three different bears who have been left to roam around the campground at will (for now) because, as Fish, Wildlife and Parks told me, it would be more dangerous to set a trap and just see what wanders in.

Back to Shakespeare: the entire incident gives “exit, chased by bear” a whole new context. (And yes, this is a line from Shakespeare. I’ll let you look it up if you’d doubt it).

The Red Thread

More or less, an old Chinese folktale tells of a young man who wishes to know who he will marry and learns that he is connected to a surprising future by a red thread.

I know of this folktale because an adoptive parent evoked the folktale this afternoon at Bozeman’s first ever Adoptive Families Picnic while trying to describe how closely connected she felt to her adopted Chinese daughter.

Most of the people I spoke to had similar reasons for adopting–most had to do with age or infertility or some combination of the two. Most chose international adoption because it was easier, especially for older couples; the domestic adoption “market” is not so age friendly, I was told.

None admitted to any qualms about adopting a child from a completely different culture. (Ethiopia, China and Kazakhstan were all represented at the picnic.) Some did remember a surreal moment when the adoption official first handed the child over to them, a strange disconnect between the photo that had been posted on their fridges at home for months and the face that was now looking up at them.

Some said their children had problems adapting to life in the United States, a length of time that varied depending on how old the child was at the time of adoption, anywhere from four days to four months in the families I spoke to, but all seemed happy, healthy and decidedly American at the picnic, snacking on fruit juice boxes and hot dogs.

One man, at 59-year-old software engineer, happy to finally be a parent after years of trying unsuccessfully with his wife, said that parenthood was something “meaningful” and important that he could do. A rare feeling, he said.

Cannon Fodder

This weekend, I visited the Museum of the Rockies to see a Civil War-era cannon. The reason I went to see the cannon was because someone sent an e-mail to me at the paper wondering just where the cannon went. For years, it sat on the corner of College Street and South 8th Avenue, just outside the Johnstone residence hall. It was a fixture there until 1986, as it turns out, but the cannon, now 146 years old, had a much more exciting history before being literally nailed to the ground at that intersection.

The cannon was forged in 1861, during the Civil War. It spent a portion of its early life on the northern defenses of Washington, D.C., said David Swingle, the historian at the museum who did much of the research into the weapon’s history. After D.C., the cannon disappeared for about a decade, finally resurfacing in Fort Ellis, near Bozeman.

The gun was meant to be a psychological weapon against the Indians, but at more than 1,000 pounds, it was too heavy to tow around the marshy grasses of the Gallatin Valley, and the gun more less remained silent until it was abandoned when the fort shut down in the 1880s. There it remained until college students stole it in 1910.

Over the years it spent on campus, the cannon was a part of many of the hijinks that college students are wont to perform. Eventually, though, the university got sick of the noise and sick of the damage to the cannon. In the 1950s it was nailed down at the intersection. In the 1990s, it was restored for the university’s centennial.

From there, it went to the museum, where it still sits today in a seldom traveled corner of the Montana History Hall, an odd curiosity to woman passing by it to use the bathroom or for their companions waiting for them to emerge from the toilet, just one of those pieces of cultural history we don’t even recognize when we see it.

Next: Cheap Eats for Hungry Collegians

Fires

There would have been a story about the cannon today, as I mentioned in the last post, but a couple fires around here decided to explode and make we work nearly 12 hours today. More to come at a later, rested time…

The Story of a Car

This morning it was the Montana Pioneer and Classic Auto Club’s car show. About 40 owners of classic cars gathered at the Holiday Inn to show off a little to each other and to whoever passed by, though only 28 of them stood tall before the judges to be studied, poked and ribboned–if they were lucky.

The club boasts about 700 members in 12 statewide chapters according to its Web site. Among them are guys who have collected cars for only a handful of years since retirement and men who have lived through a lifelong obsession with the cars they grew up in.

Even when they don’t collect actual cars, they still have something to hold on to. The photographer at the event told me that he collects miniatures instead and doesn’t feel left out of the larger show.

Another man I spoke to, the one who headlines my article in the paper, has owned his car since 2002. His is a ’30 Franklin, a car made by a company that only built cars until 1938, when the Great Depression finally took its toll. While in business, Franklin innovated, fitting cars with safety glass and air-cooled engines. If purchased today for the same (albeit adjusted for inflation) price, this man’s futuristic, high-tech car would run $180,000.

Of course, in 1929, it cost only $2,950. Still no chunk of change, especially three months after the stock market crash. Yet the owner, a bachelor, bought it for himself as a Christmas present and took perfect care of it until it passed from his possession around 1940. His only stipulation upon letting the car go: it should only be driven in parades and shows.

Since then, the car has only driven 7,000 miles. I guess people followed the bachelor’s advice.

Now, our 69-year-old Belgrade man is the fourth owner of the car, a position he views more as “stewardship” than “ownership.” Most of the car is original, about 95 percent of it as a matter of fact, and he intends to keep it that way.

Hopefully, the fifth steward will keep the faith.

Tomorrow: Finding a loose cannon at the Museum of the Rockies…

Potter Squatters

This is old news by now, since many of you have already purchased the book and read it three times as of this writing, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released for sale last week, and I spent a good portion of that evening traveling between the city’s bookstores, meeting with the people who were waiting in line to get first crack at the book.

The thing to note first of all is that Harry Potter fans love big events. No one I spoke to during my three hour tour was unhappy to be waiting in line. It was ritual. It was part of the expected pattern of events that 10 years of show-time released have conditioned a generation of readers to expect. One wonders just how they will get excited about books in the future if they don’t have national release parties to go to.

The next thing to note is that Potter fans love to dress up. It’s partly a condition of the party atmosphere and partly the nature of the source material, but it’s like a second Halloween for many fans, ages 6 to 20 (at least). And nevermind the anti-Potter arguments put forth by people who say he is anti-Christian (an argument best saved for another forum), these people were having a lot of fun at their mid-July holiday.

The last thing I’ll note is that parents and adults love Harry Potter too. Of the parents I spoke to, many of them make Harry Potter reading a part of their shared family time. The children and parents will gather around to hear the next installment of the saga, waiting together on bated breath to learn what will happen to Harry & Co. next. And adults are just as excited as the kids, with their own ideas of how the story ends that, in conversation, sound little different than the children’s ideas.

Final observation on that note: it is odd to hear an adult speak a rational sentence that contains the words “horcruxes,” “muggles,” and “Severus Snape.”