Big Sky Connection

Eric Tegethoff

September 2, 2016

HELENA, Mont. - Opponents of payday and car-title lending say they lead to financial abuse of consumers, and a new report supports new federal rules to combat the problem. In the report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, researchers analyzed close to 10,000 recent complaints made to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They found that 91 percent involved aggressive debt-collection practices, bank-account closures, and/or long-term cycles of debt.

Mike Litt spokesman with U.S. PIRG said payday lending is structured to set consumers up to fail.

"The borrower is using their uncashed check as collateral, and they have a short amount of time to pay that off," he explained. "And there are a lot of people out there that can't afford that interest and so that sets them up to re-borrow and take out loan after loan after loan."

The report also found that around 15 companies accounted for more than half the complaints, many charging triple-digit interest rates. The report said some of the biggest offenders are doing business under the names CashNetUSA, NetCredit, Check 'n Go, and ACE Cash Express.

Consumer advocates say the federal government should adopt a rule that requires lenders to determine, in advance, a borrower's ability to pay the loan and afford necessities such as food. Litt said the average income of a payday-loan consumer is more than $27,000 annually.

"We're talking about people who are already working to make ends meet and then they get stuck in a debt trap," he said.

The public comment period on the new rule ends on October 7th. The complaint form is here.

By Diane Larson

“I feel so grateful to be able to play music that people want to hear and that makes an impact and that I get to actually make money at it,” says Heather Lingle, Butte’s own singer-songwriter of Americana music.

At about the age of 8, Heather began performing in front of her church. This she says is the beginning of her love for music and performing. Shortly after music, would take on a more important role.

When Heather was ten years of age her father passed away. This event changed her whole perspective. She would use dance as a way of to find comfort. What dance didn’t fill or heal, music did. Music started to become much more important and helped her heal. Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” Dance and music helped to express what she felt from such a loss and heal the pain.

Heather studied dance for sixteen years. Both music and dance remain key components in her life. Yet she didn’t study music formally. She considers herself to be a natural musician. Her step-dad, Floyd Luker, also a member of her band, “has been a great influence on my life and has mentored me in music for many years, Heather explains.”

In college, Heather studied philosophy and theology for which she holds a bachelors and a master’s degree.  

When she was younger Heather experienced a deep calling to ministry. She attended a Catholic University and felt a calling to be a priest. Heather is an Episcopalian and at that time in the church, women were not allowed to become priest. Not giving up on her strong calling to ministry she took what she felt the next natural step. She began looking into being a nun.  But as she pursued that avenue, door after door seem to close on her and she soon realized that being a nun was not meant to be.

Today Heather’s call to ministry takes her to teaching Sunday school and outreach programs through her church. Spirituality remains a major part of her life, and her spirituality finds its way into her music as well.

Heather considers her music to be Americana. When asked to describe the Americana style of music she explained that Americana has been an obscure genre for years. It is a music that comes from all over the country. “It really blends folk, country, sometimes blues, sometimes rock,” said Heather. In the end it is American roots music, it is very much embedded in the rural culture of America and travels through the many places that are America. Thirty years ago it could have been labeled as country, but country music has changed and this type of music is steeped in traditional America, explained Heather.

Through the years she says that many have tried to persuade her to move to a larger venue where her music can be exposed to many more people. Places such as Austin, or Nashville. But Heather likes Butte, and Butte is a muse of sorts for her.

Butte is a great place to live for an artist; Heather explained, it has an inspired atmosphere that gives energy to the creative, she said. She went on to say, “There is a synergy right now with visual artist, performing artist, I think it’s really rich with that creative culture and I feed off of that.”

Heather uses her background in philosophy to help communicate some of the more complex thoughts and ideas she gets for her music. She does not consider herself a philosophical song writer, but it is a tool she uses. “Through philosophy you really learn how to analyze information in kind of a higher level thinking, a more abstract way and when I’m writing I pull a lot from that,” Heather explains. “Philosophy helps me weed out the unnecessary and deliver something digestible,” she said.

Heather can also be seen performing with her partner John Emeigh. Together they are Anglophilia and sing covers of hits from the British Invasion era. “John takes the lead and I sing harmony, dance. Basically I am John’s sidekick,” she says with a huge smile. She says they work really well together and it is something she enjoys.

In July Heather released a video for her song, “Man of Mine” which was a project between her and John. John did all the camera work and editing. You can view her video at,

When asked about what sort of venue she liked playing, Heather said that she loves it when she is playing with her band and there is a dance floor. In this atmosphere because of her background in dance as well as music she says she gains a lot of energy.

Heather’s band consists of her step-dad, Floyd Luker, Mark Iwaniak, Kevin McGlynn, and Michael McDaniel.

In 2017 Heather will release her third album. Just about all of Heather’s music is her original, although she has written with her mom, her grandmother and has recently started collaborating with her partner John Emeigh.

Lord Lytton, an English novelist, poet and playwright said, “Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.”

Heather’s approach to music in her life, as well as how she so graciously gifts her music to the world, and how she uses her environment in her music is the embodiment of Lytton’s quote.

For a complete calendar of the events where you can find Heather go to her web site at Check out her music, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

August 30, 2016

Billings - It is a rare opportunity to hear artists speak in depth about what inspires them. On Thursday, September 8th, 6:30-7:30 p.m., the public will benefit from an informal conversation between exhibiting artist Catherine Courtenaye of Bozeman and the Yellowstone Art Museum’s Senior Curator, Bob Durden. Ms. Courtenaye’s work is included in the museum’s exhibition Echo: Unspoken Dialects, which remains on view through October 2nd.

Speaking about the “conversation,” Durden stated, “Curators have the privilege of accessing profound moments when speaking to artists in their studios, witnessing firsthand the surroundings that reflect their ‘creative wells,’ and hearing the backstories to what inspires their artistry. This is the second conversation we’ve hosted to echo these honest dialogs and provide museum visitors with deeper insights into the creative process and artistic intentions of works included in our current exhibition.” During the evening, visitors will have an opportunity to ask their own questions and converse directly with the artist, of whose work Durden states “Catherine Courtenaye uses script—real and invented—to modulate the surface of beautiful color-field paintings. Her calligraphic characters dance and travel through time and space—often balanced with bird imagery to reinforce the themes of flight in her paintings.”

Museum visitors will further their knowledge of art and learn about a community that is hidden amongst us when photographer Jill Brody speaks on the topic of her exhibition Hidden in Plain Sight at 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 22nd. The subject of her exhibition and talk are images from the daily life of Hutterite colonies in Liberty County. The exhibition is appropriate for all ages and remains on view September 1 – December 30, 2016. A public reception takes place at 5:30-7:30 p.m. this Thursday, September 1st

If anything is commonly known about Hutterite colonies, it is the reputation for being self-contained and private. So much more is the privilege, then, to be able to view this selection of photographs by Jill Brody, a photographer who earned the trust and support of the Hutterite colonies in Liberty County, Montana, to the degree that they allowed her to document their daily lives and share her masterful photographs with audiences who wish to build their understanding of the broad diversity of ways of life among people.

Area art lovers will not want to miss an opportunity to meet with and honor the museum’s outgoing Artist-in-Residence, Neil Jussila who has spent nearly a year in the Gary and Melissa Artist-in-Residence Studio at the museum’s Visible Vault, located at 505 North 26th Street. The reception will take place at the Visible Vault at 5-6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 29th. Light refreshments will be served.

Neil Jussila is a beloved local artist and long-serving former faculty of Montana State University, Billings. He is best known for is widely expressive abstract paintings that are inspired by places and memories. Neil’s latest creations will be on view in the studio.

The museum is a barrier-free facility and free parking is available. Members are admitted free, and the general public can visit for a nominal admission fee.  For more information, visit the museum’s website


Aug. 25, 2016

by Eric Tegethoff
Big Sky Connection

GARDINER, Mont. - Today is the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service, and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is celebrating the event in Gardiner, Mont., outside of Yellowstone National Park. 
Gov. Steve Bullock will join Jewell, along with National Park Service officials and country singers Emmylou Harris and John Prine. 

Scott Christensen, director of conservation for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, says it's significant that the secretary has chosen to celebrate the Park Service in Yellowstone, the country's first national park.

"It's appropriate that Yellowstone is a focal spot for the centennial celebration," he states. "I think we have a great opportunity to reflect on the last 100 years of the park service, and then think about the next 100 years and what it may bring."

The event begins at 7 p.m. Mountain Time at the Roosevelt Arch and be livestreamed on the Internet. 
Jewell has been touring national parks throughout the country this week in observation of the National Parks centennial.
Before Jewell heads to Yellowstone, she'll stop in Glacier National Park to see the effects of climate change firsthand. 
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the park has only one-sixth of the glaciers it had in 1850. 
Steve Thompson, chairman of Climate Smart Glacier Country, which is working with local communities near the park to find climate solutions, met with the secretary this week. 
He says Glacier has been partnering with the local area to work on solutions, such as changes to infrastructure, even though some climate change effects might be irreparable.
"What can we do?" he questions. "And some things there's not a lot we can do, but going into it with our eyes wide open recognizes there's going to be some impacts. 
"What can we do to adapt to those impacts, rather than get run over by them?"
Christensen says visitors from all over the world come to national parks - Yellowstone has seen record numbers of visitors in the past few years - but the parks are still being neglected.
"It's time that people step up and advocate for our parks and let their voice be heard, and ask and really demand that their elected officials adequately fund the parks and protect them as we go forward," he stresses.

August 24, 2016


- In the past twenty-four hours  there have been reported 5 new fires totaling 20,036 acres from Northern Rockies Coordination Center. There have been some scattered showers and isolated wetting storms but central and eastern Montana will be mainly sunny with coll conditions. 

Sheridan Fire - Unknown cause, 7,400+ acres twenty miles southwest of Plentywood. There are county and DNRC resources on the scene. 

Bierney Creek Fire - Unknown cause, eighty acres, 0% contained, 108 personnel, crews are strengthening and building fire line around the perimeter and putting out hot spots. 

Colorado Gulch - Missoula County, four miles north of I90 in the Grant Creek area. Unknown cause, 15 acres, 100% contained. Mop-up in progress. 

Copper King - Seven miles east of Thompson Falls. Started 7/31, full suppression management strategy. Unknown cause, 21,045 acres, 15% contained, 516 personnel, approximate cost-to-date 10M. Burning in timber, with active fire behavior and uphill runs.
Residences, BPA power lines, Big Hole Peak Lookout and municipal watershed threatened. 
Evacuation, road, area and trail closures in effect. Anticipated containment 10/31.

Maple Fire - 27,101 acres effected, 6% contained, 81 personnel. Approximate cost-to-date 500K. Burning in timber and grass with active fire behavior, short crown runs, group torching and long-range spotting. Structures threatened, trail closures in effect.