Cover photo for Sarah Jane Mcclure Johnson Shaw's Obituary
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1929 Sarah 2013

Sarah Jane Mcclure Johnson Shaw

September 12, 1929 — March 18, 2013

Sarah Jane McClure Johnson Shaw rode off into the Sunset March 18, 2013 She was 84. She had her horse waiting for her already saddled, raincoat and jacket tied over her saddle bags, bridle over one side of the horn, easy boots tied securely on the other. She had him ready, picketed at the trailhead so he could graze. A Swiss bell around his neck jingled a random alpine melody so she could hear him and would know that all was well with him while she finished up the last bit of her life suffering the unpleasantness of Alzheimer’s. Now she has swung up into the saddle and started up the trail. Beside her, her dog running with one ear cocked back to hear any confidential words she might speak. She turns slightly in the saddle, looks over her shoulder and smiles goodbye, releasing us. As she turns back around, she stands up a little in the stirrups and adjusts the saddle then urges her horse on, his ears forward, eager to finally be on their way. She goes up a little rise and around a bend easing into a good mile eating pace and out of our sight, releasing herself. She’ll go along the stream where the timothy grass grows tall and up into the canyon through the stillness of the pines. She’ll go past the little lake framed in the basin, her reflection diffusing into the ripples with the colors of the Indian Paintbrush, Bear Grass, and Mountain Lupine. Up the steep switchbacks where the last of winter sparkles in corn-snow drifts. Then past the outlaws of white bark pine clinging to the rocks for dear life. Above the tree-line she’ll follow the moss covered cairns through the wispy spindrift clouds racing each other up slope. Across the tundra covered saddle between the peaks. Her hat pulled down tight against the biting wind, she’ll meet the crest, and finally, cross over. Enjoy your ride Sarah Jane. Born in Winnetka, Illinois September 12, 1929. As a child she lived and received her education at the Putney School that was founded by her aunt in Vermont. As a teenager she lived in Colorado in a cabin at the foot of Storm Mountain with her older sister long before Steamboat was even a dream. Her father died before she could know him and her widowed mother travelled around the world. Early in college, Sarah rode a motorcycle across Western Europe, living in Denmark a short while. She was steeped in a heritage of adventure and wonder, and passes this on to her family and friends. At Colorado State she climbed mountains with a young medical student named Carlton. They married and came to Bozeman in the spring in a beat up old truck and trailer with a stallion, a mare, a mustang and Puppy Jo. They never left. When they could, they purchased a small ranch at the mouth of Bridge Canyon. She raised Arabians, Fox Trotters, and adopted wild mustangs for the next 45 some years. She trained her last Mustang, ‘Nevada’ when she was in her 70’s. Raising her children was very important to her, and while doing it, she put up hay, fixed fences, repaired tack, stayed up with the mares at foaling time, did dishes, drove tractors, trimmed hooves and cleared trails. She enjoyed the companionship of her dogs. She had a gentle way with her animals. She played the violin, the accordion, and the guitar. She sang old authentic folk and cowboy herding songs she had picked up in her youth. She was a child of the Great Depression and stretched everything as far as it would go, and then some. She danced with the International Folk Dancers at Save Our Barn and was an active 4-H Leader, mentoring many a Bridger Canyon horse project. She skied at Bridger Bowl when it was only a rope tow. She rode with the Gallatin Saddle Club and the Beewags gang, showed at the Winter and Summer Fairs, and rode in many parades. She was an artist whose favorite subjects were the horses. She held in her head a treasure trove of knowledge about mountain trails throughout Western Montana, Wyoming, and Yellowstone. She loved exploring the mountains with Carlton and her children looking for trails and rumours of trails on horseback or by snow machine. She always tried to make loops because she didn’t like coming back down the same trail she went rode in on. She loved to discover long forgotten blazes that hinted where really old trails might be. She was always looking for the special meadows somewhere ahead just out of sight. No matter the season, it was a rare evening she didn’t head off into the hills till well into the night on a horse that needed riding. Preceded in death by her mother: Helena Modjeska McClure Johnson Chase Drea; and her older brother: Harry McClure Johnson. She is survived by sisters Mansi, Elizebeth and Priscilla; Husband Carlton; Children Linda, Tim and Chris (and their family members). Their families and many friends will miss the gentle smiling Sarah. She will be cremated and buried in the Sunset Hills Cemetery with a view of the Story Hills and Bridger Mountains where she loved to ride. A Celebration of Life Memorial with music and dancing to be announced. Ride on, Sarah, Ride ON!!

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