columnist wore a map of Ireland on his face | Books

KAREN E. DAVIS Belgrade News

I have known various members of the Helmville Geary family for decades. Irish in the literal sense of the word, they wear the map of Ireland on their faces and in their hearts.

This Helmville tribe is a mix of County Cork and County Limerick, the Fogarty and the Geary. This original ancestor was a miner, who came to this country in the 1850s, before moving on to what would become the Treasure State.

Dick Geary, a fourth generation Helmville breeder has spent years as a columnist for the Missoulian. His great-grandfather Mike founded the Geary Brothers Ranch, a ranch that Dick loved all his life and managed for a few years.

He started out writing columns for weekly newspapers in his neck of the woods – the Silver State Post, the Phillipsburg Mail, and the Blackfoot Valley Dispatch.

Geary, 74, passed away last year and his family and friends assembled all 368 columns into a 625-page, two-pound self-published book, large enough to be the weight the back of your truck has. needed in a snowstorm in Montana.

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Sparse words, a voice of his own, and a deep understanding of the breeding heritage he was born into and fully embraced make The Geary Columns a pleasure to read.

Eventually he was “discovered” by the Missoulian and wrote a weekly column for the newspaper for nearly six years.

It’s a page after page volume of ruminations on haymaking in Helmville in the 1940s, ranch cats, the Lawrence Welk Hour, calving, Irish families, beaver castings, fence repairs, blizzards. and vans. Then other pages reflecting his time with the Peace Corps in Brazil as an agricultural extension agent. Then more pages of just Dick Geary’s “Thoughts”.

And yes, on page 486 he quietly jokes about himself as a Renaissance man in the company of all the “other” famous Montana writers.

How did this column come about?

Retired veteran Missoulian reporter Kim Briggeman said the Missoulian subscribed to all the local weeklies and “I saw his column in the Silver State Post. Our fathers knew each other, went to high school together at Deer Lodge.

“I had no idea about his writing, and I met him at Helmville Rodeo. Even then, he wasn’t happy with his writing. He was reluctant to expose himself. I went to our editor, Sherry. Devlin, and said ‘he’s a good hometown column.’ “

And it was the start of a love affair between Missoula and Dick Geary and Helmville.

“Richard Geary… And that’s all I know: The Collected Columns of Dick Geary 2013-2020” is on sale on Amazon for $ 15.

This book is published by Missoula’s Fact and Fiction, and her sister Joyce has sold – so far – 500 copies in her own home in Missoula. At the time of this writing, his family had had no luck having him transported by Bozeman’s Country Bookshelf or Vargo’s.

In his own way, Geary managed to expose his heart. These columns are Dick and the Daily Raising, not John Wayne’s sunset vision of Western life.

Briggeman added: “Everything he wrote is nice. Not a word you hear a lot when it comes to the work of the columnists.”

His sister Elaine once told me that he was a “real” cowboy. Not the fictionalized version of the Marlboro Man movie that some young men have to work on a ranch – until they have to calve in a blizzard, or fix a fence during a blizzard, or find a way to. get another season from a baler that saw its best days over 20 years ago, or ride a horse who isn’t interested in having you on board.

He was the cowboy who would have fitted in perfectly on a ranch a century ago.

“We’ve had so much positive feedback,” Briggeman continued. “To read him is to know him. His face is from the Old West. That Irish twinkle aside.” It was a tribute to his talent that Missoula, who doesn’t exactly distort agriculture, ate up Geary’s columns.

He also had the courage to personally tackle a taboo subject on so many levels: sexual abuse by the local priest. It was in a Missoulian column from June 6, 2015, where he wrote that he was sexually assaulted as a little boy by Reverend Leonard Spraycar, a native of Anaconda.

Spraycar died in 1984. He was one of dozens of priests in the Western Diocese that the diocese would eventually settle legal claims against, including Geary. Of the dozens of priests listed on a diocesan website as sex offenders, five served in the parish of Helmville. One wonders if the Church is against Helmville.

He ironically noted in his column (“Priest”, page 501) that the diocesan abuse regulations were sufficient for a used car.

He also wrote about another heartbreak – working for the Grant Creek Ranch, owned by Denny Washington. His family told me he loved this job more than any he had had in his life, but he crossed paths with a few other employees and lost his beloved job (page 585).

Here is what has to say about the book:

“Dick Geary was a multifaceted man; rancher, paratrooper, Peace Corps volunteer, agricultural extension worker in Brazil, trained audiologist, recovered alcoholic, misanthropic, cynical, and yet somewhat of a confident believer.”

An Amazon review by reader Bruce Bair, who was in the Peace Corps with Geary, states, “This book is like the ranch it was raised on, bigger than its parts. The voice is unmatched. Dusty, acerbic , scholar on many subjects (when he moved away from breeding, especially practical, disgusted with the state of humanity, kind and patient with all animals, master of bathos.

“At the end, I will appeal to editors and publishers, reporters and ordinary readers. Don’t miss this book. It’s an American classic if there is one. It could be read like the novel. definitive ranch story, definitive ranch history, a study of the interpersonal dynamics of the ranch, a monumental bitchy time, etc. Dick took every ranch shot I ever read and made literature. ”

Dick, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Speaking of the Peace Corps, Geary was a rancher from Helmville who spoke fluent Portuguese due to his time in Brazil. He almost died in Brazil too. One of the weeklies he wrote for realized he hadn’t received a column from him in weeks and called his family. It turns out he was mortally ill, had all of his money stolen, and was on the verge of death. His sister Joyce phoned the US Embassy for an emergency visa. Friends from Missoula set up a GoFundMe page and raised thousands of dollars to take him home. All in a few days.

In case you haven’t figured out how “unique” Geary and his family are, he has another brother in Missoula who recently had a local badger move into his house. He lived under his stove until he was ready to move on.

Her sister Elaine once told me that she thought all her brother wanted in life was “just … to matter.” I have watched this family for decades and think he just wanted his dad to love him.

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