©Bert Gildart: According to Cliff Ulmen, the old “Sore Head” seen on the sign that graces Highway 2 near the turnoff to Rudyard died a long, long time ago.
“Ole Sore Head,” said Ulmen, “was the first of the egg-laying dinosaurs to be found in Montana, and it died almost 60 million years ago. Jack Horner (famous as a anthropologist) helped excavate it at my ranch about 20 years ago.”
Ulmen is one of the other 596 people (“Actually, it’s about 300,” says Ulman.) the sign brags about, and though 92 years old, he seems to remember everything. He says his father proved up on the land in the early 1900s, and then, later, he took over. “When I was about 13 my father gave me a choice. “ ‘You can go to high school and I’ll loose the farm. Or you can help me.’ ”
STAYED TO FARM
Ulmen chose to help his dad, but he has done much more. He has also helped one of the small settlements along the Highline garner a reputation.
Cliff Ulmen surrounded by donated saddles and a harness his dad made; gasoline powered iron; mannequin showing clothing worn to win the Rudyard fashion show.
Most of the little towns along this 300-mile-long stretch had ignominious but almost instant origins. They began in the late 1800s when railroad magnate John Hill established his rail lines across this northern part of Montana. Rumor has it that many of the little towns (Kremlin, Havre, Shelby, Dunkirk, Malta, Hingham, Chester, etc) derived their names by the simple toss of a dart.
Aiming at a map of Europe, the settlement’s name was determined by where the dart landed. Others, such as Chinook and Wolf Point took their names from features which shaped them, like the Chinook winds; or the practice of wolfing, as conducted when ranchers began lamenting the canine’s presence.
All the towns have personality, but Rudyard may have some of the most conspicuous. For one thing, it is on Montana’s Dinosaur Trail.
For another it has a most compelling museum, created in part by earth hardened people such as Cliff Ulmen, who is still on the board and who seems to have self educated himself so that he speaks as well as any college-educated man.
Initially funds were raised by selling stones for a wall, first to the area’s homesteaders, then to its veterans. “We’ve sold hundreds of engraved stones which quickly raised funds,” said Cliff.
“And when we had enough for a building, we began asking people to contribute antiques and mementos. The response was overwhelming.”
EVOLUTION OF FARMING
“People brought in old gas clothing irons, early day dresses, harnesses, saddles, old wagons, and scores of photographs.” Ulmen says that the museum provides a feeling for the way in which farming evolved along the Highline.
And, of course, there is the dinosaur thing, aided by the erosion of the nearby Milk River, which in some ways contributed to the preservation of Ole Sore Head, whose life as an egg-laying dinosaur is still celebrated and retold in open and friendly town of Rudyard, Montana.