Belgrade People is a monthly spotlight of community members.
Keith Mainwaring (Retired) Hometown: Ennis, Belgrade since 1960 Profession: Retired carpenter
So who’s this Keith character? Keith owns OTH (Over The Hill) Woodworks, focusing on cabinetry, bowls and pens, though he works primarily for friends now. Committed to the betterment of the community, he serves on the Belgrade City-County Planning Board and the Gallatin County Weed Board. On top of all that, Keith Mainwaring is a man with a mission. You probably read about him in the July 19 issue of the Belgrade News, or more recently encountered him on your way into the grocery store, spreading awareness about a local history gem: the Belgrade Bull. More on that later.
Ranching, Gravedigging and Falling in Love Born the 14th child in his family, some of Keith’s earliest memories involve him riding a hay wagon beside his dad. Following in his father’s footsteps, he worked ranches and around horses starting at a young age. Once the elder Mainwaring hung up his ranching hat to work as the sole police officer/night watchman/gravedigger in Ennis, Keith spent his high school years digging graves for money.
One day Keith’s dad was out digging when he spotted a young woman from Anaconda named Bobbie. “You married?” he asked her. “I got four sons lookin’ for a wife. One of ‘em’s gonna be here soon.” She wasn’t anxious to meet a gravedigger, Keith explains, so the two’s meet cute had to wait until a community dance. Keith and Bobbie married on New Year’s Eve, 1959, and moved to Belgrade soon thereafter, where they raised their twin boys and two daughters.
A Glimpse of Belgrade Past Keith, then 23, moved his family to Belgrade in search of new work. He’d been earning $0.69 an hour working ranches and was ready for a change. The sawmill wasn’t hiring, so he drove down Main Street -- the interstate didn’t exist yet -- to get a look at his options. He passed up a job in alfalfa before meeting with a friend’s uncle who worked as a business agent for the laborers’ union. His first day on the job in Bozeman, Keith had to dig a trench. His employers learned then and there he was no slouch with a shovel. “Evidently I impressed ‘em,” Keith chuckles, “‘cause I worked for ‘em for 7 years.” Eventually he started working as a carpenter’s helper before assuming the role of carpenter’s apprentice in 1962.
Keith was also a volunteer fireman for 4 or 5 years, during which time there were only 7 phones in Belgrade. If someone needed to report a fire, they had to get to a phone and start calling the other numbers until, hopefully, someone answered. That someone on the other end of the line would rush to the fire hall and activate the siren, at which point all the volunteers would converge on the hall. The men didn’t have any gear, only their trucks: a ‘28/29 Federal, a ‘57 Ford and a ‘59 International. The first man in would confirm where the fire was and open the station door; the second man in would drive the truck.
The Belgrade Bull Keith first heard about the Belgrade Bull from a rancher in Ennis nearly 60 years ago. In 1965 local historian Ronald J. Iverson self-published The Princess of the Prairie -- A History of Belgrade, Montana, which dedicates nearly 30 of the book’s 147 pages to the Bull, nicknamed Andrew Jackson Corbett.
Corbett was raised in Belgrade at a time when cows used to be let loose to traverse the town. He was supposedly just another calf that kids would try to ride and that learned to buck. The story goes that he was gentle until someone tried to ride him, then gentle after he taught them better. The woman who originally owned Corbett sold him to the Prescott brothers who, in turn, promoted his bucking. Corbett garnered a reputation that brought well-known cowboys to Belgrade in hopes of winning the title of first to ride the Belgrade Bull, not to mention the $25 prize money. Cowboys wages were typically $30 a month.
Rides (attempted rides, anyway) usually took place on Sunday afternoons, complete with spectators. A handful of riders claimed to have bested Corbett, but Keith maintains the Bull was never fairly ridden. Corbett was sold to a traveling wild west show in the early 20th century before being bought by a dairy farmer once the show went belly-up in Indiana.
A Belgrade Legacy At Festival of Lights last year Keith began a journey to have the Belgrade Bull immortalized on the side of Montana Camp. He considers it a piece of Belgrade history worth preserving and a source of local pride. That dream has become a reality with the help of the Belgrade Community Coalition and the support of donors. Local artist Wendy Marquis will paint the mural.
Dropping them off at Montana Camp during business hours.
Mailing them to BCC PO Box 127, Belgrade MT 59714.
Please make all checks out to the BCC.
What’s Next? Keith enjoys fishing and shooting, though he doesn’t hunt anymore. He plays guitar, likes to sing classic country music and has even performed a few times at the Belgrade Senior Center. Currently in the process of writing a historical novel, Keith also pens poetry.
Keiley McGregor would rather read than write. She enjoys dirty chais, cold beers and no humidity. You’ll probably see her being dragged around town by her huskies and/or tricked into doing something epic by her Special Man Friend. She takes full responsibility for any and all mistakes in her writing unless you point them out to her in person.