WHO: Scott Taylor, 34, of Cambridge
WHEN: Ten weeks in June, July, and August
WHY: Taylor, a graduate student in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, stayed at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site as part of a National Park Service program called the Business Plan Initiative, where graduate students help interested parks develop business plans.
A GOOD START: During a training week at Yosemite National Park before going on assignment, Taylor was paired with Geoff Kish from Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. ''We worked together and shared a place. Luckily, we got along extremely well," Taylor said. They were to inventory how the park spends its staff time and money and to suggest improvement.
WELCOME TO MONTANA: The two men flew into Butte and were met by a superintendent of the historic ranch, once the home of one of Montana's largest cattle barons until it was turned over to the park service. ''The ranch is adjacent to the town, Deer Lodge," Taylor said. ''We were put up in a little house six miles out, on the outskirts, right off I-90. So about 20 yards from where I lay my head every night was basically the Mass. Pike. We had mini-donkeys and horses running around. You'd hear the 'hee-haw' in the morning. We were given this late '80s Chevy pickup, government issued."
HONORARY JUDGES: ''The first week we're there there's a town parade, for Territorial Days. Somehow the park superintendent had discretion over who judged the parade and he made Geoff and me the judges," Taylor said. ''Deer Lodge has two traffic lights and we hung out on Main Street as the parade went by. Categories were like best animal float, best kids' float. It turns out there's pretty much only one float for each category. It was super fun. Then there was a freak accident at the head of the parade: A woman drives backward through a yard and into our truck. So our first weekend there we lost the truck. It was crazy."
RANCH HANDS: During the week they mostly were in the office or on the grounds talking to the park staff, about 20 full-time and seasonal workers. ''The ranch has a self-guided walking tour and interpretive staff," Taylor said. ''The showcase is the historic house, filled with period furniture. The ranch still has 45 or 50 pairs of cattle, mother and calves, with a couple of bulls."
NO STRAW MEN: ''They have these days at the ranch, hay days, where people familiar with working the horses bring teams to cut the hay and put it up in these big contraptions called beaverslides," Taylor said. ''One of my favorite days near the end of the summer was working in the beaverslide. Hay got dumped around us and we used pitchforks to spread it around. We ended up about 30 or 40 feet in the air on a pile of hay."
COUNTRY ROADS: ''We were fortunate because we got to travel a lot on weekends and went to a lot of parks, like Yellowstone and Glacier, and we went to a historic ranch in Canada," Taylor said. ''We did lots of hiking and then we'd have our Moose Drool beers [a brown ale brewed in Montana]. We bought cowboy hats, and went horseback riding."
EAST COAST COWBOY: ''The takeaway for me was it was a beautiful place, a different lifestyle, and the people were great. You get off the coast and you meet a different type of American," Taylor said. ''There is just this different sensibility, different culture. In some ways it was quite liberating to be in it and embrace it. And the whole pretend cowboy thing was pretty sweet."