National Geographic : 1977 Jul
many lakes in Glacier National Park that feed the Flathead'sNorth Fork. there. Among my North Fork neigh bors, many from other parts of the country, the openness and individuality of the frontier thrive. If you were to drive the long, wind ing North Fork road along the narrow banks high over the river, the first peo ple you might meet are John and Karen Gray, proprietors of the Polebridge Mercantile. Virtually unchanged since early homesteaders came to purchase flour and salt, the mercantile is store, saloon, gas station, post office, chain saw repair shop, motel, social center, and goose farm all in one. Unlike most merchants, however, John and Karen have little desire to expand and increase profits. "We make Our Wild and Scenic Rivers: The Flathead enough to live the way we like," John said, petting the sleepy orange cat that sprawled across the counter. "Sure, we could put more commercial develop ments on our land here to keep up with the demand from summer park tourists. But then we'd be busy day and night managing the place." Karen shares this casual approach to business. "Oh, don't buy that, for Pete's sake," she admonished as I reached for a can of preserves. "You can get that for two-thirds the price in town. We have to keep the prices high on a few things because we sell so few." From talking to the Grays and other North Forkers, I heard about Tom Rey nolds and the early days of the valley.