Rural Montana Magazine - November 2013 - page 6

eeping our lights on is
their primary occupa-
tion, but that makes
up only part of what these
Fergus Electric linemen can
do. In their spare time, Curt
Olson and Jim Richter are
imaginative and skilled
craftsmen who create one-of-
a-kind works of art.
A Malta native, Curt
moved to Lewistown to work
for Fergus Electric
Cooperative in 2004. He
enjoys his journeyman job
because he can work outside
and see different areas of the
state. It also gives him the
opportunity to scout for
branches and logs he can put
to use.
“I build stuff no one else
does,” Curt says. Although
other craftsmen create furni-
ture similar to his, such as
end tables, lamp stands and
bedsteads, Curt also fashions
some truly unique pieces.
One such item is a living
room lamp, complete with a
running water fountain.
Crafted from a juniper
branch, it stands about 6-feet
tall and includes a tabletop
perfect for a cup of coffee
and a good book. Curt used a
54-inch flexible drill bit to
run the electrical cords
through the wood. Water
pumps through a similar
shaft up the antlers on its
“You do have to take it
easy and drill slowly,” he
Curt’s 7-month-old son,
Jett, loves the rocking horse
his father made from another
piece of juniper. Everything
is natural to the piece of
wood; even the horse’s fore-
lock and ears are part of the
original branch. Curt merely
stripped the bark, cleaned it,
sanded it and applied some
polyurethane to create the
horse’s head and body. A few
nips with a chisel added eyes,
nostrils and a mouth to give
it a whimsical expression.
Then, four legs and two rock-
ers completed the project.
In the master bathroom Curt
shares with wife Michelle, a
vanity showcases side-by-side
sinks, each made of a single
piece of juniper. “I had to use
twice as many coats of finish
on those to waterproof the
bowls,” he says.
His masterpiece is the fam-
ily’s dining room table. One
large juniper trunk forms the
pedestal, with branches sup-
porting a glass tabletop. Curt
estimates this table required
20 to 30 hours to create after
locating this piece of wood.
“Big pieces of juniper are
hard to find,” he says. “I put
in lots of hours searching for
deadwood. Usually, I set
aside one day on the weekend
to scrounge a pickup load.”
He finds pine and aspen
near his home in the Snowy
Mountains, but he travels as
far as 70 miles to gather
juniper. “It’s fun to hike
around and see what I can
find. The character in the
wood comes from weathering
and bugs.”
Curt operates a personal
business, Snowy Mountain
Furniture (366-5563). All of
his business comes from
word-of-mouth, and he
enjoys projects that people
request. “I like using my
imagination,” he says. “If I
can think of it, I can build
Jim Richter enjoys the
Linemen create one
From left: Curt Olson says his masterpiece is the family dining room table fashioned from one large juniper trunk. Jim
Richter’s home is filled with items he has made. The kitchen cabinets are crafted from underground wire reels he collected
from the co-op.
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