Big Sky Life: Seeing my town, suffering, through my lens

LYNN DONALDSON

DENTON — Nothing in my three decades as a photojournalist could have prepared me for the gut punch I got on the morning of December 2 as I crested the hill before Seilstad’s cattle sheds on Highway 81, about seven miles east of this town.

The expansive view of the Highwoods that stretches out along the horizon with Round Butte and Square Butte anchoring the east end — possibly my favorite vista in the state — was charred black, both grass and summer fallow. This was the eastern edge of the West Wind fire. I could see several water trucks and firefighters putting out hot spots on my uncle Howard Donaldson’s place across the highway from his house, which thankfully still stood.

I had never been so anxious for daylight as I was that Thursday morning as I drove up to check on my family farm in Denton. I grew up in the house my great-grandparents built about five miles east of town, and my heart is  tethered to my farm and hometown.

The posts on social media that my childhood friends and I, who no longer live in Fergus County, had followed in silent horror since about 3:30 pm

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