Judith Mountain Players perform at 31st gathering

The Judith Mountain Players will perform at the 31st Cowboy Poetry Gathering in two theatrical offerings: Saturday, Aug. 13 at 1 p.m. on Main Street (in front of True Value Hardware) for the second annual re-enactment of the “Shooting of Rattlesnake Jake” and Saturday, Aug. 13, at 2:15 p.m. at Fergus High School in the Performing Arts Theater for a 15-minute production of “Wanted: One Wife,” by local writer Mary Jean Golden.
The “Shooting of Rattlesnake Jake” is a documented event that occurred on July 4, 1884, when notorious local horse thieves, Rattlesnake Jake and Longhair Owen – portrayed by Henry Gottardi and Austin Mistretta – rode into Lewistown, over-imbibed at Crowley’s Bar on Main Street, stumbled out into the sunlight, bullied and beat Uncle Sam in the Fourth of July Day parade and were gunned down by townspeople, namely John Doney and others.
Singer/songwriter, Steven Ray Hughes collaborated with Montana Poetry Gathering founder Gwen Petersen of Big Timber in the original composition of his “The Ballad of Rattlesnake Jake,” immortalizing the infamous event. Petersen’s original poem describing the shooting from the viewpoint of Charity Brown (a fictional character), was a source of reference for Hughes.
The following is an excerpt from “The Ballad of Rattlesnake Jake” by Steven Ray Hughes.
“From out of the breaks, came two nasty rakes, Rattlesnake Jake and Long Hair Owen. They’d lost their money on the pony races, they lost the money they’d stolen. So they started drinkin’ and their mood got to stinkin’ when Jake spotted Uncle Sam. He walked up to Sam with an evil grin, then they made a fool of the man.”
The following is an excerpt from the poem, “The Ballad of Rattlesnake Jake” by Gwen Petersen:
“Then gunfire roared, and bullets tore and Rattlesnake Jake toppled down, but he rose to his feet and meant to retreat when Longhair Owen hit ground. And out on the street, two bodies neat, lay still in their filth and gore, the townsfolk counted, the grim tally mounted as someone chalked up the score. Eleven deadly rounds put Longhair down, eleven lead-filled holes, he lay in the dust, spilling his guts and the Devil took his soul. And Jake acquired nine, one in the spine, but the bullet that sealed his fate was the one that Charity sent so squarely through the skull of Rattlesnake Jake.”
There you have it. For macabre history buffs, the alleged skull of Rattlesnake Jake is exhibited to this day at the Central Montana Museum in Lewistown on East Main Street. The re-enactment involves a host of players, blank bullets and horses.


Where is your favorite place to go camping in Central Montana?