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A Reed Point bar flourishes during river cleanup

Waterhole Saloon cooking for cleanup crew
Orlinda Worthington
Waterhole Saloon cooking for cleanup crew

A bar in Reed Point, Montana, population 200, became the hub for cleanup crews after a train derailed into the Yellowstone River near there about two weeks ago.

Yellowstone Public Radio’s Orlinda Worthington talked with locals who are doing their part in the effort.

Dim light… a bar lined with high stools… and a pool table taking up the back room.

All pretty standard features for a small-town Montana bar. But a closer look at the walls inside the Waterhole Saloon and Steakhouse reveals a unique story.

Head cook, Phoenix LeBrec
Orlinda Worthington
Head cook, Phoenix LeBrec

That’s head cook Phoenix LeBrec. He’s fairly new to the bar, but is making sure a favorite tradition continues.

“We got quarters throughout the bar driven into the walls. It’s a thing that some of our customers like to do and basically leave their mark. So we hand you a hammer and you put your quarter in the wall,” LeBrec said.

“I figured because you work for the radio station and this stage is all about music and entertainment I figured you should have your quarter here on the stage. Hold your quarter like that so you don’t smash your fingers.” LeBrec added.

As instructed, I put a quarter between my index and second finger, turning my palm toward me.

The pounding is a welcome noise to regulars.
The Waterhole reopened in January, after being closed for a couple of years. Residents like Amia and Victor missed the place.

“You had to go to Columbus if you wanted something to eat. It's a gathering place for a lot of locals. A lot of ranchers come in here. A lot of people come in here now,” Victor said.

They come here now because they are either working on the train derailment cleanup, or want to get a glimpse of the damage when ten railcars plunged into the river a couple weeks ago.

The employees are working double shifts to keep the cleanup crew fed. This means they’ve had to shorten public hours. But the regulars don’t mind.

“Cause we help one another. Honestly, that's what it's about is community. And this community is like that come hell or high water, we take care of each other,” Amia said.

If you visit the Waterhole Saloon, look to the left of the bison skull, on the back wall of the stage to see YPR’s quarter pounded into history.