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A Yaaker's thoughts on increasing development

| February 10, 2023 7:00 AM

In 1980, my husband and I moved from upstate New York directly to Yaak, Montana, with some direction from Jim Bates, a realtor associated with Ryan Realty at the time.

Bill wanted to share his expertise and love for the hunting/fishing world with others from around the country so we needed a place where the roads weren’t too close together to start our outfitting business.

We fell in love with the Yaak and told all of our friends about it; welcomed them to enjoy it too. We built the Yaak Mercantile (the Tavern came to be at the hands of future owners of the Merc). We also built the Yaak River Lodge and developed the property where Turning Winds is located now, with the encouragement of Kenny Brietenstein who grew up on that property.

We never shut the gate once we had found our paradise.

The McConnells, Breitensteins, Hardings and Canavans were good and close friends of ours. They were original homesteaders or multi-generational families in the Yaak. We were welcomed by them.

Our home was in “downtown” Yaak for years, directly across the street from the Dirty Shame. This is the place to which our babies came home from the Libby hospital to grow up in the Yaak. These babies met Santa Clause at the Dirty Shame Saloon.

There were some raucous parties, but oh so much fun enjoyed by Yaakers, folks from Troy, Libby, Bonners and yes visitors from all across the country. We had fun, gave folks, (who might not otherwise have the opportunity) a chance to share and enjoy a remote and remarkable valley in Northwest Montana.

The Dirty Shame and the Yaak Mercantile (and Tavern) have seen a good number of owners and yes I do recall one gun incident at the Shame. The worst I’ve ever seen have been some fisticuffs. But for the most part it has always been a “good time”. There is no one left in the Yaak who was here before the Dirty Shame.

For the most part, folks in close proximity to “downtown” Yaak found both the Dirty Shame and the Yaak River Tavern here before they were.

Creating a new site for recreating that has passed all county scrutiny (fire, sewer, water, wildlife) and will be more closely monitored than any other location for camping in the valley is a solid prospect where visitors will be “under control” yet it affords those recreators a glimpse of what all of us have to enjoy regularly.

I no longer live full-time in the Yaak but have access to family property which allows me the peace, beauty, continued friendships, hunting and fishing recreating, as well as a chance to visit The Shame, The Tavern and the Hungry Hunter to be with my friends.

Yes, the Yaak is wonderful, but even though I have used it for the majority of my life I have no right to regulate it unless I choose to become a part of the Lincoln County government. Noise, wildlife, the drunk and disorderly were there before I was and that’s 43 years – this is the Yaak. I cannot imagine an impact from noise or light pollution having any appreciable impact on residents regularly. In those 43 years, we had occasional celebrations wherein locals and visitors partied all night.

Those occasions were called FUN. At 75 years old myself; I welcome a party that I, too, can enjoy. Open the gate for all to share this great little valley we so fondly refer to as The Yaak.

I know if Billy were still here he’d share my sentiments!

Judy Taylor-McAfee