They made a big part of the adventure film happen.

Dan Ryan was the last engineer to work on Old #7 before his retirement. Dan was Orville Spooner's father-in-law, and Orville, together with his wife, supplied this information. They invited my wife Sharon and I into their home at Beaver Tail Hill while they described Dan and Highholt.

Dan's interests in Shay type logging locomotives began at an early age when he worked as a fireman with an engineer named Baldy Crane. When Baldy Crane retired, Dan was well prepared to take the Engineer's position. Dan was a family man who preferred working in the woods rather than being cooped up in a saw mill. He traveled from the logging camps in the Blackfoot Valley, to his home in Missoula at every opportunity in order to spend the week ends with his family. Dan was "Old School" in his beliefs that all men should give an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, so when he received his pay check, he liked to celebrate with a little snort of whiskey. Some times he over-celebrated, so when he returned to work, the train crew would hook up an extra log car. Normally Dan hauled16 log cars back to camp, where he positioned them on the landing by simply looking out the cab of old #7 and aligning the locomotive up on a familiar object. Sporting a huge hang over as well as the additional 17th car as a prank meant Dan would position the cars as he always did, which would shove the extra car past the barricades and onto the ground. This caused the crews on the landing to roll in gales of laughter as they accused Dan of being a "Company Man" for trying to increase production.

When Dan reached his retirement, he walked into the office of Don Mackenzie, laid his double bitted ax on Don's desk and stated, "That's it. I'm going to retire."

Dan's fireman "Highholt'' also walked into Don's office and also stated that he was ready to retire. Highholt was born in Sweden and only had one name. This and the fact that he didn't know his birthday complicated his plans for retirement. The Anaconda Company sent to Sweden for this information and discovered that Highholt did in fact have only one name. They were rather amused to discover that Highholt was 10 years older than he thought. He was 75 years old at his time of retirement When Republic Pictures asked Highholt and Dan to come out of retirement. Dan was ecstatic, and enjoyed every minute of his acting career. Highholt also agreed, but wanted one favor for his involvement He insisted on a picture of himself so that if he ever saw himself he would know who he was. After the movie was finished, Highholt returned to his home at Sperry Grade, by the Blackfoot River where he spent his final days

Dan Ryan loved everything about his movie career except for one detail. His acting character was required to wear a mustache and Dan refused. His favorite movie memories were about the limousine rides from his home to the various filming sights. Whenever the limousine arrived to pick him up, he made sure that all his neighbors were on hand to witness the fact that he was an important celebrity, as he swaggered out of his house, and climbed into his awaiting limousine.

This Hollywood adventure film will always be among my favorite memories, especially the parts involving Dan Ryan and Highholt.

 

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