In 1979, there was an energy crisis, and this energy crisis had an affect on my family that no one could have projected almost 40 years ago.
My parents both grew up on ranches and though they each ended up moving to Bozeman while in Jr. High, they always dreamed of getting back onto a ranch. That never panned out, however, and in 1975-1976 they opened up Lockie Excavating which pretty much blew up in size due to the booming town Bozeman was becoming. Things continued to skyrocket for them until the energy crisis happened. When interest rates reached 20% my parents did everything they could do to avoid bankruptcy. Towards the end of the year, my dad loaded up any remaining equipment on the low-boy (flat bed trailer used for hauling heavy equipment) and drove to Alabama to liquidate everything remaining from the excavating business.
My dad had always been good with his hands and during the crazy years of 77 and 78 my parents and grandparents had bought my dad some pottery lessons so that one night a week he could get away from the chaos and maybe, just maybe my mom might get a set of dishes out of the deal. When the excavating business closed, my dad started thinking what was next and started trying to figure out how pottery could be a part of it. A friend who went to the same church as our family was a potter and he encouraged my dad to consider making a go at it. With that my dad threw some samples and whisked them off to Yellowstone National Park, returning with a sizable order and a 50% down payment. With that, my dad bought Olsen's Book of Kilns, brick, pipe, and poured a slab for the kiln in the back yard. Thus Mountain Arts Pottery was born.
As Father's Day approaches, I’m reminded of what an incredible man my dad is. It would have been so easy to declare bankruptcy and within 10 years his record would have been expunged, but he stuck it out and finished paying of the bank instead. I remember 17 years later when they made the last payment to the bank. My Dad did everything himself from building that first kiln to welding up displays for summer shows. He also had an incredible sense of how to make things work better wether it was the first computer I ever knew of someone owning to keep track of clients, orders, glaze formulas or keeping the books. But my favorite memory was the laser calipers.
When throwing something that takes a lid for instance like a honey pot, you have to make sure the opening of the pot is larger than the outside diameter of the lid and you do this by holding a caliper up to the pot and then the lid. In the world of production pottery, it’s pretty time consuming, and if it’s something like a stack of plates, well you want them all to be the same size. Dad started kicking around the idea of getting a laser to bounce off of the ceiling that would hold a steady point on the potters wheel alleviating the need for the calipers. This was the early 80’s, 20 years before you could buy a laser pointer at the gas station for $10, lasers were in the thousands of dollars. Well he told my uncle Doug who had a startup in Silicon Valley who thought he was crazy. However, his good buddy’s wife was a potter and convinced my uncle that what my dad wanted was indeed something super cool. A few days later a FedEx box showed up with a 15 lb laser in it and the studio hasn’t lived without one ever since.
Many of you readers may be following my dad's health issues on caring bridge. If so you’ve known about his 30 year bout agains Trigeminal Neuralgia, or his back surgery that he underwent 5 years ago, his two knees that have been replaced, and the celebration of his one year of remission from Lymphoma this past Wednesday. But I’d like to ask a favor that will only take a minute of your time. On July 16th, my dad will undergo a surgery to fix his ankle. He’s been searching for a doctor that would even attempt to work on it (it’s that bad) and if this surgery does not work, the alternatives are not great. would you consider giving up a moment of your time to pray that there would be a good result from this surgery? The difficulties that would lie ahead with the alternative leave a much less mobile retirement for my parents and though they have always so gracefully accepted the health that they’ve had, we would wll love to have a good outcome from this July surgery. If you're interested, you can follow along on their caring bridge page here.
My grandma who of course raised her kids on that ranch in Eastern Montana would often tell me, “you come from good stock”. That’s not a phrase you hear often these days but it really is true, I come from good stock.
Thanks for following along with my parents, and now Kathy & I on this adventure. Thank you for being loyal customers and thank you for the loyalty you gave my parents. It means the world to us.
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