Sparks celebrates 95th year

Goldie Collie Sparks was surrounded by numerous family and friends as she blew out the candles on the birthday cake commemorating her 95th year.

By Sherry Vogel

Goldie Collie Sparks was surrounded by numerous family and friends as she blew out the candles on the birthday cake commemorating her 95th year.

Ninety-five year old Goldie Sparks displays a very soft deer hide leather dress trimmed in mink fur, that she created. The pair of warm leather mittens (to the left) are lined in sheep’s wool.

Goldie was born on April 27, 1922, on the family homestead on Fallon Creek out of McKenzie, Mont.

She came into the world the common way, but yet nothing else has ever been common again for this remarkable woman. She is one of Montana’s last real cattle women. Goldie could ride with the best of them and did until she was 85 years old. She knew how to live off the land and was an avid hunter, raised a garden and sewed her family’s clothing.  She came from hearty stock following in her mother’s footstep. Her mother, Edna L. (Marshall) Collie, a native of Wisconsin, came out to Montana alone, at 22 years of age, in 1910 to stake claim on a homestead 26 miles south of Ismay, Mont.

From an early age Goldie began working around her parent’s homestead. She was milking cows at six years old and says she was “born on a horse.”

The night that Goldie was born, her mother had lifted a #100 bag of flour from the attic above the two-room shanty. Although their neighbor, Mrs. Deniger, was already on her way over to assist Goldie’s mom during the birthing, Goldie couldn’t wait and was born before the neighbor lady arrived.

Goldie was raised with five siblings, three sisters and two brothers. When she came of school age she attended four various grade schools and graduated from Baker High School in 1942.

All of Goldie’s young life was spent on the ranch where she helped with the chores and even helped the family make extra money by hunting coyotes. Her mother taught her how to garden, can foods and to sew, which proved to be very helpful later on in her life.

Among Goldie’s early memories of living in the country, she told of how she and her brother Alex, would travel 4 miles to and from school, sitting double on horseback to go to the McKenzie one-room school house each day.

During the long, cold and blustery Montana winters the six young Collie children would need to spend much of their time indoors in their two room home. They enjoyed playing hide and seek and other games.

She has fond memories of a dugout bedroom that her brothers had built for themselves a short distance from the house. She remembers how, she and sisters enjoyed moving in it, after her brother went to war. The room under the ground was very warm and cozy during the cold winter months.

She was a member of 4-H and enjoyed the social aspects of the organization. Growing up they attended dances at the country schoolhouses. They loved going to the dances and once traveled 10 miles to attend one. The dances of the day were square dance, round dance and waltzes.

After graduation, Goldie attended college at Billings Normal School to earn a degree in education. Due to WWII there became a shortage of rural schoolteachers. She was given the opportunity to earn a teaching certificate and offered a job to teach in a rural schoolhouse in Fallon County.

At 21 years old, she accepted the position of teacher at the one-room Clark School out of Plevna. The practice of the day was to rotate the teaching staff every year, so within a seven-year period Goldie had taught at 5 area rural schools.

On September 8, 1948, Goldie married James “Frank” Sparks. Frank was a boy she had became acquainted with at 4-H events and country dances. The young couple made their home in the Lame Jones area. Goldie continued to teach school. She rode a bicycle on dirt roads, 7 miles to and from school, each day.

One day she spied a 1928 Model A Coupe that had been abandoned in a creek bed. It was pulled out and restored and she used the old car for transportation for many years.

As technology progressed throughout Goldie’s lifetime so did the lifestyle of ranchers living in rural areas.

Electricity was brought over to the Sparks ranch in 1953, indoor plumbing in 1961. Goldie stoked a coal/wood stove every morning until 1999 when they converted over to a gas stove.

Of all the technological advancements in Sparks’ lifetime she shared that she felt electricity was the best. She stated,  “It made life so much easier, especially the refrigerator.”

Later in life Goldie had the distinguished honor of being invited to travel to Washington D.C. to teach leather handling processes at the Smithsonian Institute. She had been making leather clothing at home for a number of years. When two employees of the Smithsonian were on business in her country neighborhood they discovered this

Montana woman who is very skilled in making leather clothing. Goldie has made very elaborate dresses totally lined with satin lining and trimmed out in mink fur, gloves, mittens and even pants. All animals were harvested from their own ranch. Goldie passed up the opportunity to teach at the Smithsonian because they were in the middle of haying.

Goldie lived out on her ranch until 2016 at which time she moved into Baker to reside in the Superior Villa. Now into her 95th year she attributes her long healthy life to hard work.

Goldie is the proud mother of three boys: James, Tom and Donald. She is the grandmother of 10 and the great-grandmother of 12.

Happy Birthday Goldie! May you have many more happy years to come.