Rapelje Jack was as much a Montanan as the sky is big, Bison head-butt Japanese tourists, and the deer and antelope play (until October, than they play dead). He could rope anything that ran, sauntered, crawled, galloped, or lumbered.
Growing up he practiced ropin’ his twin sister’s, the three-legged family dog – Tripod, the mailbox, mailman, and the family goat they milked. The goat went dry after Jack tried to ride it and rope a large rattlesnake at the same time. He could rope a crow sittin’ on a pile of cow dung at twenty yards.
The rope was an extension of Jack’s right arm. When it came to hunting, Rapelje could ride full speed into the middle of a quickly dispersing herd of Elk, rope a bull, hop on its back and ride it with the rope in the left hand while his right hand was smackin’ the loins of the bellowing beast.
When he had enough of crashing thru the brush wide-open, he’d rope a Spruce tree and swing off like a tether ball. Around and around the spruce he would swing until he had a soft, but prickly halt to his forward progress.
Rapelje Jack was once asked if there is anything he couldn’t rope. He said, “I ain’t roped me a wife, but I’m pretty sure if I see a pretty one, I could lasso her off the porch and swing her onto my horse. After that, we would and ride off into the Beartooth Mountain Sunset. After I hitched the horse, she’d be next.
Jack got hungry one day while off hunting in the Hellroaring Plateau and realized there was nothing in his saddlebag but a rope, recycled chew and an emptied 30 cal. Winchester. As he came down off the plateau, he came upon a clear, rushing stream, and saw the most beautiful animal that man could lay his eyes on, a Rocky Mountain Rainbow Trout. Hunger was talking loudly from his stomach and saying, “I don’t care how pretty the fish looks, jump in there like a Grizzly bear and swat one up on the bank, or catch one in your teeth and shake it like a Hula girl.” Sushi, its whats for dinner. Jack never fished in his life, and he got mighty cold standing in the stream with thirty-eight degree water filling his cowboy boots and chasing his hat as it fell off and floated downstream.
Then he realized something. Something big. He was a ropin’ maniac. “There ain’t nothing alive that I can’t rope, including a slimy lookin’ rainbow fish!” He thought it best to be on his horse, so when he roped a big one, at his command, the horse would just back up, and he wouldn’t need to jump in and fill his boots again.
Jack was true to his gift. When a large Rainbow Trout surfaced to grab a hopper, Jack deftly tossed a short back-cast, and the eighteen foot rope snapped forward like lighting and lassoed the unsuspecting trout right out of the water and yanked him onto the side of the bank. When Jack realized he roped his first-ever-fish, he hooted and hollered, talked trash, and yelled at his horse, “who’s your daddy?!” He jumped down, ran twenty feet upstream waving his arms and accidentally lost grip of the rope. Well the fish wasn’t done fighting yet, and he flip-flopped back into the rushing water and headed downstream fast, with eighteen feet of rope still attached. It looked like a long snake goin’ for a longer swim.
After Jack finally quit the end-zone celebrating, he turned and realized the rainbow had fled with rope in tow, and was already half way to Red Lodge. Rapelje was dejected. He lost both fish dinner, and more importantly his best rope. He rode home slowly after eating pinecones, tree bark beetles and mostly crow.
As he was ridin’ into the small town of Bear Creek, He was heard saying to his horse, “I’ll tell the boyz in the saloon that I catched a fish and released him back to nature. He was to pretty and slimy to eat . Next time I’m bringing my special nine foot tapered rope.”
Legend has it, a few years later, Jack chopped down a small nine-foot quaking aspen tree and tied his cowboy tapered rope to the end of it.
Jack didn’t know it, but this was the birth of fly rods…legend has it.