The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Helen DePuydt
Saco Stories 

Listen to the Quiet: Part 1


You will find as you leave the country road and turn onto the winding prairie trail, you are leaving the noisy distractions of modern life behind. The tall toothpick-like sentinels bringing electricity and phone service to the widespread ranches and farms, do not turn into this rustic home on the knoll, a mile to the west. This is entirely by choice, not necessity.

Visualize, if you will, an east window framed prettily by flowering plants with the early morning sunlight filtering through the lacy leaves of the Virginia Creeper growing majestically against the outside of the house. The view of the horizon is the rugged Frenchman breaks; the choice hunting grounds for countless deer hunters each autumn. Winding like a narrow grey ribbon a mile away, the Frenchman Creek Road seemingly slices the prairie in half from north to south.

Those sunbeams fall and ricochet off the shiny linoleum floor of the small combination dining-living room. Let your eyes wander for a few minutes over the stunning miniature-flowering orchid plants, the petrified carrot lying among other curiosities on the window shelf. If you are 6-feet tall, you will have to duck to avoid bumping into a small hand-carved replica of Lindbergh’s famous plane, ‘The Spirit of St. Louis’, dangling from the ceiling above the window. The creation was not an exact replica however as it was two-winged while Lindbergh’s plane was monoplane. The walls of this room and the bedroom on the south are lined with a wide assortment of memorabilia, mostly handmade long ago by some member of the Kientz family.

Nearly everything in this house has a fascinating history. Take for example, the hydrangea plant with the showy blossoms. This plant is an offspring of the original plant which traveled to Montana via the railroad in 1913, when the Kientz family moved here from Blue Earth, Minn. That shiny linoleum is the same one which was placed on the floor in 1920, and which had been ordered from M. W. Savage, mailorder house in Minneapolis and brought by horse-drawn sled from Saco, a distance of 23 miles. That trip was not without mishap. The 12-foot wide linoleum (not inlaid) tipped off the sled into the deep snow, but was unharmed. If you want the secret of its longevity, it’s the loving care given it each year – a coat of varnish applied in the morning and the linoleum is ready for use by evening. The result after these many years is a mellowed appearance very similar to decoupage.

Now, let us meet the occupants of the country home, for they have aroused the curiosity of visitors for some time. Curiosity is the proper word because by far and large, many individuals believe that happiness and expensive worldly goods are synonymous; here is a family which can dispel that line of thinking. The two ladies of this tiny rustic home are lizzie Kientz, 86 years of age and her blond daughter, Leona. Lizzie is a replica of Whistler’s Mother, ruffled cap atop the silvery hair and slender hands folded on her lap. Don’t let her frail appearance fool you – those hands were extremely busy hands as you will soon discover. The lone man of the household is Otto, who is quick to tell you – 87 years young. He is a craftsman, whittling on some item nearly every day. Otto, besides being a farmer-stockman, fisherman, mechanic and fiddler, is a man of many talents. Otto’s unwounding wit sets the mood of this delightful home and which brings friends and relatives from far and wide. This alone is proof of the esteem this family enjoys in the community.

Leona, the eldest of the two daughters born to Lizzie and Otto, has been the mainstay of the family since the illness of her mother in February, 1958. She willingly relinquished a job on the west coast to return to the farm to care for her ailing mother and has been there ever since. Relaxing in the comfortable, cushioned rocker alongside the east window, one can’t help but comment that Leona’s choice was a wise one, noticing the sparkle of pride in her parents’ eyes.

Besides the care of her invalid mother and household chores, Leona milks a cow which means butter to churn and cottage cheese to process at times. Raising chickens and caring for a few head of cows also are on her agenda. Besides this, the family is involved in rug weaving. This operation will be described later.

A bountiful garden is raised each year, which is watered by rainfall, supplemented by irrigation from a small reservoir to the south. The vegetable plants, such as tomatoes and Copenhagen cabbage, are started early in the house and set out after danger of frost. The Kientz garden is undoubtedly the earliest in the community. Although lacking modern conveniences, Leona considers her many responsibilities a labor of love.

Leona’s younger sister, Luella “Babe,” is Mrs. Arnold Loftos of Bremerton, Wash., who has been employed for 28 years with Mountain Bell at Seattle. She is staff manager, which means much traveling, but this does not prevent her from finding time to visit frequently with her beloved family out here on the prairie of Montana.

Helen DePuydt is a regular contributor to the Courier and a member of a homesteading family in the Saco area. All of her stories are true.

'Listen to the Quiet' originally appeared in multiple installments in Hinsdale's Independent Tribune beginning in July, 1973.


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