Victor Charlo started writing poetry in high school and, at age 81, he still has stories and poems yet to write. One such story he has in his head is about a stick game at Dixon.
Charlo will share poems from his first published work, “Put Sey” (Good Enough), at Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6.
While growing up in Evaro, where he was born, Charlo never dreamed that he’d see any of his poems published. Many of his early pieces he shared with friends and ended up giving the only copy of his poems away to them. He is Bitterroot Salish and an elder of the Confed-erated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. His father worked on the railroad while his mother tended to 12 other siblings, only seven of whom survived to adulthood.
Following graduation from high school at Loyola in Missoula, Charlo entered the Jesuit Seminary, where he studied for six years before realizing the priesthood was not his path. His first thought was to pursue a law career, but set his mind to becoming an English teacher. As the time neared for his graduation from the University of Montana with an English major, he discovered he had enough credits from his Latin and Greek studies at Gonzaga in Spokane to obtain a double major in both English and Latin.
Charlo next spent nearly six years teaching at Two Eagle School in Pablo before returning to Gonzaga for his masters in administration and curriculum, and was on track to become a principal. Then he returned to Montana and spent nearly 10 years working at the Kicking Horse Job Corps. Once a week he would take his students out for a drive, and ask for them to spend time writing either a story or a poem.
Charlo was living at Dirty Corners at this time, and dreamed of making a living from his writing. He palled around with Montana author Richard Hugo and traveled to Oregon with Hugo for a reading. Charlo wrote about this trip in a poem published in his second book of poetry, “Dirty Corner Poems and Other Stories.” It had been Charlo’s intention that the poems and stories from his Job Corps students would be incorporated into this book, but he suffered a stroke, which ended his teaching career, and the work the students had done was regretfully lost to him.
Dixon has been home to Charlo for the past 20 years.
Call the museum at 644-3435 if you have questions or would like to schedule a group tour.