Up in the HILLS

JoAnne Jolly finds freedom up in the hills.

There among the trees, the only interruptions come from wind and wildlife: whitetail crashing through the forest, herds of elk on the move or birds chorusing at first light. 

Her favorite rides are up and down the canyons along Bridger Creek, near her home. 

Sometimes, she is accompanied by a friend, but mostly she rides alone, content in the quiet peace of the natural world. 

These are the moments that keep her rooted here in Sweet Grass County.

— Finding Montana —

Jolly came to Big Timber from the dry country of eastern Colorado. Her dad had sold their 60,000 acre ranch, the backdrop of her childhood, and bought a place in Reed Point. 

On the ranch, Jolly was her dad’s right hand man. She was the oldest of three, and though she was not the boy he hoped for, that didn’t stop him from raising her like one. 

“I was the hired man. I could rope cows and trip ‘em off a horse, and get them down by myself. … I was the oldest, and he wanted a boy. He proceeded to make me a boy, and that’s how I grew up. I learned to do all that,” Jolly said. “Everybody says you’ve gotta quit working so hard, you’ve gotta quit digging ditches and all this — well, why? It’s all I’ve ever done.”

They ranched on Work Creek for a number of years before Jolly’s father got an offer on the place that he couldn’t pass up. Jolly moved to Oklahoma and found work as a anesthesiologist for an equine hospital, until, as luck would have it, the new owner defaulted on his payments.

To read the rest of JoAnne's story, pick up the March 17 edition of the Big Timber Pioneer or subscribe to our E-edition. Current subscribers are provided complimentary access to the e-edition with registration.

Story and photo by Mackenzie Reiss / Pioneer Staff Writer 

CUTLINE: JoAnne Jolly is all smiles in an April 5 photo at her employer’s barn on Swamp Creek Road. Jolly, who now cares for Horatio Burns, has worked in home health care off and on for 20 years after her father sold the family ranch. 

Editor's note: This is the fourth installment in a yearlong monthly Pioneer series featuring stories about the moment our readers fell in love with Sweet Grass County. The features will run on the first Thursday of each month throughout 2016.



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