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You would think that this tiny towns name somehow relates to its proximity to some of the finest fishing in Montana. Some of the residents there say that a local mountain formation that looks like a fishtail had something to do with the name. There is even a Fishtail River nearby. In truth, this little community located about 25 miles southwest of Columbus, was named for a Mr. Fishtail who resided in the area at the end of the 19th century. In about 1901 the town became official when a post office was established to service the surrounding Fiddler, Fishtail and, and Rock Creek area. Stressley Tunnell established a store at the time which was later purchased by the Columbus Mercantile in 1908. The store is still in operation today. The town sits in the foothills and the shadow of the Absaroka Mountain range. Today the town is only one block long, but manages to muster up a two mile long parade during the festival it sponsors every summer. It's also known to host one of the biggest yard sales in the state during that same festival.

Excerpted from "The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia".

On This Date in Montana: November 16, 1886

The first severe storm of the devastating winter of 1886-1887 hits Montana with heavy snow, strong winds, and bitter cold.

Few, if any, winters in the written history of the West were as devastating as the winter of 1886. The summer preceding it was unusually hot and dry. Some areas received no more than two inches of rain all summer. Others received less and the range was parched and overgrazed. At the time, there were over a million head of cattle grazing in the state. The ranchers prayed for a wet autumn and an easy winter.

On December 24th it began to snow and the temperatures plummeted. By the 27th, the temperatures had dropped below zero and the Missouri River was frozen at Fort Benton.

The cattle couldn't break through the snow to feed. The cowboys, in what was mostly a futile attempt, worked round the clock in temperatures reaching -55º F with wind chills approaching -95º to get feed to the cattle.

The storm continued into March when it finally broke. The ranches were so devastated, many didn't recover. The toll was significant. Almost 60% of the million head of cattle perished. A cowboy could walk from carcass to carcass and never touch ground. Food was in such short supply that a bag of flour sold for $7 in 1886 prices.

Excerpted from "The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia".

Copyright © 2003 Michael Dougherty. Use of this material for radio and television programs, printed media, webcasting, and any other source of mass dissemination is prohibited without permission of the publisher.

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