Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Prairie Figs

Johnny Grant, founder of the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, was the son of the factor at the Hudson’s Bay Company fort near Pocatello, Idaho. Johnny’s memoirs, wonderfully edited by Lyndle Meikle under the title Very Close to Trouble, are full of interesting historical anecdotes. One memorable footnote recounts the story of a green Missourian who came into the fort store. Johnny’s father decided to have some sport with the unsuspecting traveler. Castorums are beaver glands that trappers used as bait. There were a number of these foul objects hanging in the store. The Missourian asked what they were. “Prairie figs,” replied the elder Grant. “Are they good to eat?” asked the Missourian. “For those who like them,” answered Grant. “Can I taste one?” Grant answered, “Certainly.” The traveler picked a good full one and bit into it. The putrid gum and oil ran down the sides of his mouth, and Johnny recalled how comical it was to see the man making faces trying to spit it out. For some time he couldn’t speak. Finally he said, “They might be good for those who like them, but I declare I do not.” This comical story and the singular name suggests that Prairie Figs would make a terrific name for a modern-day band!

Johnny Grant posed for this photo sometime after founding the Grant-Kohrs Ranch.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, 942-461

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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