Dusting Off the Old Ones was published in 1961 by W. B. Clarke, Miles City, Montana.
Seeing Miles City
While browsing through the files of the Montana Historical Society in Helena a few weeks ago, Shade Tree Bill ran onto a booklet put out by the Miles City Chamber of Commerce in 1915 to advertise the resources of this section of the Treasure State. This piece of literature was titled "Seeing Miles City" and was written by our old friend "Buck" Buchanan in the form of letters to an eastern friend called "Bill", and contained photographs of many local scenes, and in which "Buck" portrayed, as only he could, the advantages to be found in this fair city of ours. "Buck" further describes these letters as "The Johnny Wise Letters after Three Years in Montana." In the first one of these letters, after friendly greetings and salutations, Buck went on--and we quote:

"Who was it said something about letting the dead past bury its dead? Anyway, this always strikes me as good fatherly advice when applied to the western town that boasts of a more or less picturesque past. I wasted several pages in my previous letters over the glories of the old days, but that was because I was a tenderfoot and fell a ready victim of the glamour and witchery of the past. You are a stranger in Miles City, my dear Bill, and I take it that the story of how the noble Cheyenne once lit his smoke signal on Signal Butte, or how Big Nose George and other distinguished exponents of high finance held high revel in the lobster palaces of Park Street in early days would not arouse your enthusiasm nearly as much as the cold statement of our monthly bank clearings expressed in dollars and cents. It is not that I lack in sentiment for the stirring days of the seventies and eighties but that I consider Miles City too progressive and virile a town to bother much about the slouch-hatted, bespurred and gauntleted past. The present and future hold too much in store for us, so with these apologies we'll consign the days of '83 to the novelists, the space writers and the movie men. They can coin it into great money."

In another letter, Buck describes some of the agricultural accomplishments of Montana under the heading "Four Great Expositions" as follows:

"Down at San Francisco the Panama Exposition is in full swing. At San Diego, there's another world's show that is an artistic gem. At Helena, the Montana State Fair recently closed its most successful year under adverse conditions, and at Miles City the Custer County Fair broke all records.

What's the connection? Just this, William--at the California expositions, Montana's claims as an agricultural state were definitely, officially and indisputably justified and confirmed in competition with the world. Get this, please--Montana captured the grand sweepstakes that establish the supremacy of Montana soil and sunshine as essentials in plain every day farming. Think of it, Bill, Montana threatens to become a granger state, 'allsamee' Iowa or Wisconsin. Well, getting back to the state fair, never was there such a display of farm products and at Miles City the same was true. When you learn that Custer County (of which Miles City is the capital) carried off the lion's share of the blue ribbons at Helena, in competition with thirty or forty other counties, and that these exhibits were part and parcel of our own county fair, you will realize that it is some distinction to live in the best farming county in a state that swept everything before it in an international exposition, and you bet we appreciate every bit of the glory coming to us. Now, will you be good? Far be it from me, Bill, to be a confirmed booster--personally I never aspired to an active or honorary membership in the perpetual sunshine club, but when the best pumpkin sharps in the wide world look over about forty acres of exhibits, including everything from turkey red to navy beans, and then hang the gold medal on Montana's window display and follow it up with more ribbons and diplomas for individual exhibitors than from any other atate--I think, Bill, when all this happens, it's up to us to finally admit the truth at least, don't you?"

Still quoting "Buck" and this time from one of his letters entitled "Marvelous Montana":

"Considering her wealth of natural resources, Montana is today the greatest undeveloped empire in America. Considerably less than half a million people now occupy land that is capable of supporting a population as large as that of Japan, for this state has about the same area, yet nature has been kinder and more lavish in her gifts to Montana than to Nippon.

Copper, gold, silver, zinc and other precious and useful metals, forests of valuable timber, marble, onyx, limestone, granite, thermal springs and water-power are the endowment of the western half of the state, and these have attracted unlimited capital that has appropriated and utilized these products and forces of Nature and established gigantic industries and built up a name for Montana as the Treasure State.

Meanwhile, the wide, boundless prairies of the eastern half have been used as a great free range by the stockmen and no encouragement has been extended to the settler who proposed to establish a home. But the homesteader or 'honyocker' as he has been derisively called, has persisted and the mere handful of pioneer farmers has become an army of energetic, enthusisastic toilers and their success has swept away all prejudice against eastern Montana as a farming section and has finally won recognition of the world through national land shows and world expositions.

And the result of this immigration and development is seen all over the state, for the town that has not gone ahead is the exception and not the rule. The towns and cities have improved mightily, civic pride has been fostered and developed, the tin can and the ash heap abolished from the landscape, pavements, sewer systems, public parks, schools, public buildings, libraries, garages, hotels, store and office buildings, theatres, churches, handsome and commodious flats and necessities of old communities testify to the progress and prosperity of a happy people"

Still quoting:

"Dear Bill: Since my letters of three years ago, Custer County has had two whaling big new counties sliced off and there is still enough left to match a New England state or two. These political changes have made no appreciable inroads on Miles City's business; in fact, the sooner other pending adjustments are settled for all time, the quicker Miles City will realize the advantages accruing to a natural distributing center.

An official municipal census was made about a year ago, which showed a population of 7,621 residing within the city limits, making this the largest town between Billings and Dickinson, North Dakota, on the Northern Pacific Railway, and Aberdeen (South Dakota) and Butte on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway.

Miles City is located at the confluence of the Tongue river with the Yellowstone and on the main line of two transcontinental railways. The Yellowstone valley at this point is about a mile in width and the country to the north is rolling prairie after the rough breaks of the river are passed. The country south of the Yellowstone is more or less hilly and there is considerable timber in scattered areas. Some day some local genius is going to capitalize the Montana climate just as Los Angeles has done with its insipid and colorless brand or perpetual sunshine, and then we will be selling perfectly good range along the Yellowstone with atmospheric and riparian rights, for fancy prices. And away out in the Pine Hills we will establish a colony or camp or sanitorium for the treatment of tuberculosis and the smell of pine and clean brisk air will put life and vigor into hopeless thousands.

There is something about this eastern Montana climate that is irresistible. There is a snap and tang to the air that makes one throw his chest out and step lively. One can sleep well because the nights are cool and the outdoor sleeping is rapidly growing in favor.

The precipitation ranges from thirteen to twenty inches and comes very largely during the growing months. Our coldest weather comes in January and February, but it is a dry cold and far less uncomfortable than the lake breezes off Michigan Avenue in December. Building operations are frequently carried on through the winter.

The first thing that impresses the tourist as he sizes up the town from his seat in the Pullman is the prevalance of shade trees everywhere. After passing through the almost treeless stretch between Aberdeen and this place it is especially noticeable.

There is no other town in the state that has gone so extensively into providing parks and public playgrounds. Riverside Park, located at the foot of Main street, is reputed to be one of the finest public parks in Montana. These ancient cottonwoods afforded shelter for Indian tepees long before Miles built the old cantonment across the river. This natural beauty spot has been preserved and the added charm of winding walks and floral beds give the finishing touch.

Wibaux Park, located on the south side, is our latest acquisition and is the bequest of the late Pierre Wibaux. It is located in an attractive residence section, has a fine grove of matured trees and is now being improved and beautified by the Park Commission.

There is a small playground occupying a fractional block on Montana avenue, known as Triangle Park, and another natural grove of forty acres bordering the Yellowstone that is being held in reserve for future development as a public park.

Unlike many small towns, Miles City is a place of varied interests and in fact is quite cosmopolitan in this respect. It has always enjoyed being the livestock center of the state and is still predominant in this line. It is a wool center that has long held first place as a primary market. It is the headquarters of the Government Land Office for this district, and home seekers and land buyers make this their objective point. It is a payroll town as the railway shops, the Remount Depot, the saddle factories and other institutions here give employment at high wages to hundreds of skilled workers. It is a wholesale and distributing point for eastern Montana and is an outfitting point for the hundreds of settlers who are pouring into the country each season. But is occurs to me that, as I am writing this, I am neglecting one industry that perhaps has done more to put Miles City on the map than any other and that is the great horse sale market that continues through the summer and fall. Since the opening of European hostilities, Miles City has been a busy place, as horse values have gone skyward and buyers and sellers have made this their rendezvous. It has meant the distribution of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I will reserve this subject for a more extended mention.