After Nancy Reece Jones’ mom died, she realized she needed to talk more about death, about how to have a good one, about how to be kind to others who also need to talk. Maybe all of us should say what we want to say about the inevitable over tea and cookies. Turns out there’s a movement for that and it’s called the Death Cafe. Reporters Katheryn Houghton and Nicky Ouellet visited the Flathead Valley’s cafe and talked to the living about death.
Also: Nicky is back with this episode’s short feature, a story about a Whitefish ’80s cover band with dreams to blow it up, maybe even pay rent or play Vegas. It’s a story about ambition, punctuated with some killer kick drums.
Jan 15 2018
Episode 12: Singers + Runners (The Beer Episode)
What makes a person screw up enough courage to try open mic night at a brewery, where people are there mostly to drink beer and not hear you sing? You might be surprised and even impressed with what expert pint-pourer and audio producer Colin May watched evolve on the small stage of one Missoula brewery.
Also in this episode: Runners with a drinking problem. You think pounding beer and running a mile is easy? Photographer and filmmaker Erik Petersen lived to tell the tale. Barely.
[credit: Open mic photo of Jeff Overturf by Colin May. Beer Mile photo by Erik Petersen.]
Aug 31 2017
Episode 11: Owning Pray
The sign to Pray, Barbara Walker in the old post office and Madge Walker, one of its former, glorious postmasters.
Barbara Walker owns a town in Paradise Valley, Montana, just north of the only year-round entrance to Yellowstone National Park. For years, she’s been its mayor, its rent-collector, its head maintenance person and the chief lawnmower. The town of Pray, complete with a U.S. Post Office and its own ZIP code, is a place the Walkers have owned since the 1950s. She inherited it from her husband’s family and it became a place to love and take care of and honor its history. It’s complicated, but the truth is she’s ready to move on. She first tried to auction her town in 2012, but that didn’t work out and she’s still waiting for someone else to write Pray’s new chapter. Now, this is as much a story about Barbara’s legacy as it is her town’s. Reported by Last Best Stories host Jule Banville.
Jun 08 2017
Episode 10: Bears + Advice
In the backcountry of Glacier National Park, two seasoned trail-crew workers watched a couple of cute, fuzzy cubs cross their path. “And then you think, uh oh, where’s mom at?” Jon Bentzel and Micah Nelson tell producer Charlie Ebbers what happened when they found mom, or rather this is what happened when mom found them.
Also in this episode: the musings and stylings of journeyman musician Bob Athearn, who’s got a lot of thoughts about love and sex and women. But his best advice: Take care of your teeth!
May 23 2017
Episode 9: Sticks + Stones (The Winter Sports Episode)
As it turns out, there’s a difference between Canadians and Americans and its name is hockey. Down here, we don’t worship at the temple of Don Cherry. Anna Cole, a real-life Canadian, finds out why and other things, including whether or not her dad thought she was any good when she played for the Carstairs hockey league back in the day.
Also in this episode: Curling. Outside. In Stanley, Idaho, which is famous for two things: hosting the Stanley Outdoor Bonspiel and being one of the coldest places in the Lower 48. A sound portrait, a love letter, a collage of folks who may have been drinking when interviewed by producer Sergio Gonzalez.
Jan 19 2017
Episode 8: The Plane Crash
When the pilot of a plane saw a fireball explode on Emigrant Peak, about 15 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, the dispatcher called out for another plane that was supposed to be on that flight path. Fido 15! Fido 15! But Fido 15 never responded. It’s been more than five decades since an Air Force bomber on a Cold War training mission crashed in Paradise Valley. People who live there know vaguely that it happened. Oh yeah, they’ll say. That plane crash. When was that again? But one man, Bryan Wells, who lives at the base of the mountain and somehow found the wreakage when he was 15, has more recently made it his life’s mission to make sure the men who died up there are never forgotten.
This story is a collaboration between Last Best Stories podcast and the Bozeman Chronicle. It’s narrated by Michael Wright, a staff writer at the paper, and by Jule Banville, who co-reported it. Find Michael’s written feature and great photos by the BozeChron’s Adrian Sanchez Gonzalez at the bozemandailychronicle.com.
As a bonus, the end of the episode also details what happened after Bryan led us to the plane wreck. For awhile there, we didn’t think we’d make it off the mountain to tell the tale. Spoiler alert: We did.
Jul 17 2016
Episode 7: Death + Bike Polo
When Erwin Byrnes died, it was not exactly sad. That’s because his wife of 63 years and his family were ready when he picked the day and time to open the valve of his feeding tube and ingest the right dose of prescribed medicine to drift off. Montana’s Death With Dignity laws are pretty unique. This story explains why.
Also in this episode: 3-2-1 Polo! Making up the rules on a parking garage in the shadow of a mountain.
Photo credit: Kurt Wilson of the Missoulian. Used with permission.
Jul 05 2016
Episode 6: Madmen, Poets + Singers
David Poole woke up in the snow in Colorado, his lower half numb, and has been working since then to get back to his life outdoors near home: Townsend, Montana. It’s the long story of the episode by independent producer Danielle Thomson.
Plus: Tyler Knott Gregson, world-famous typewriter poet, profiled by Clay Scott of Mountain West Voices. And a Christmas bonus! Producer Colin May’s portrait of Mary Hickman, a caroling force outside the Orange Street Food Farm in Missoula.
Jun 28 2016
Episode 5: Garage Pop + Germs
Ruth Eddy produced both of the stories featured in Episode 5.
“I made you a mixtape!” Even though Hana Zimorino started dating the guy Mikki Lunda had been living with for three years, Hana thought, really? They needed to start a band together. So Hana wooed Mikki and it worked and Needlecraft became, well, popular in some circles.
But the friendship between two charming, infectious, alpha ladies was always bigger than the band. And then, as producer of “Garage Pop Forever?” Ruth Eddy, explains to our host: Some drama intervened. Ruth also produced the short story for this episode, “The Five Second Rule.” And you know you do that, right?
Music used in this episode is all Needlecraft all the time, from the first album, Needlecraft. You can still buy it!
Jun 28 2016
Episode 4: Conversion + Combat
Jacob and Ben Cronin are brothers with parents who think God can show the path to the good life, which turns out to be the one straight people are on. Their stories about coming out show it’s a touch more complicated than that.
Also: War stories. Real war stories from two Marines, one who went to Iraq and one who went to Vietnam. Their tours were very different but both continue to live, in their own way, for the people who were there with them.