During our rural road trip, we encountered multiple abandoned homestead settlements which led us to ponder the stories behind the homes and barns in various stages of caving in and what specifics led people to invest their back-breaking effort in that very location out in the middle of nowwhere. Did they consider how near to a creek they could safely build, or evaluate the rise of a hill as shelter from prevailing winds? Perhaps they wanted to be within a couple hour's ride from their nearest neighbor? Or were they just plumb tired and that little dip in the broad expanse of land seemed as good a stopping point as any other?
If we were motivated to look, I'm sure we'd find a book detailing the history of obscure Western settlement communities, or a Backroads of Montana episode highlighting Toole and Pondera counties.
But my best-retained history lessons come from historical novels. Any of Ivan Doig's books will drop you deep into a compelling story of Montana people and places back when. But the hazy Sweet Grass Hills specifically led me to dig up Deidre McNamer's "Red Rover" from the public library for Sis #3 to read while she's here.
Once she's done, I'll give it another whirl, because it's the kind of book worth visiting again - AND it features the Sweet Grass Hills up-close-&-personal, as a refresher to my imagination before our next northward adventure.