The Caribou Crossing film production “A Montana Legacy: The Melton Buffalo Ranch 1948-1962” will be presented during a free screening Thursday, April 18 at the Ronan Community Center. The film will be shown twice — at 6 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s exciting! You need a fast horse and he’s got be sure footed.” That’s how LaRue Melton enthusiastically describes riding alongside buffalo on a horse running full speed over rocky terrain during the roundup at the Whiskey Trail Ranch. The last roundup actually took five months to corral and move about 300 head of bulls, cows and calves.
More than 30 individuals participated on the Saturday kickoff of the roundup in September of 1961. Five cowboys hung in to the end in mid-February, 1962, when the last bison were corralled and sent to a buyer in Wyoming. The five who hung in to the end were Ike and LaRue Melton, Tide and Bob Darlington, and Larry Christensen. Those cowboys and a few others were also on the Yellowstone National Park buffalo roundups in the 1960s.
A newspaper advertisement published at that time said, “Buffalo Hunters Wanted! ... All You Need is Bow and Arrow or Gun — and — $450 Each. Interested parties were asked to contact Bryan Melton by mail at Hot Springs, Montana.
With archival 8mm silent film and interviews with the three surviving children of Ike and Villa Melton as well as two cowboys who participated, the film paints a vivid picture of the family and life at the Whiskey Trail Ranch. The three surviving children — Nora Jean Malinak, LaRue Melton and Terry Melton, as well as Larry Christensen, Bud (Stan) Harris, Marlene Melton, Gary Abbey and Laurence Walchuck reveal details of building corrals, sure-footed horses, trucking buffalo and Villa’s National Bison Range experience.
The film was produced by Caribou Crossing, a local media partnership, and co-directed by Frank Tyro and Larry (Joe) Darlington. DVDs of the 56-minute program will be available at the screenings.