All the Brown offspring were becoming more independent and heading off in their own directions. Shortly after graduating from Montana State College, Barbara married (Harlan Bixby) and had a daughter with her engineer husband. They now lived a few hours away in Townsend, Montana. After graduation from the University of Vermont, Keith attended law school in Michigan. Neal had just finished military school in Minnesota and young Rockwood was entering his teens.
And then, Pearl Harbor changed the world’s focus. It was a time for commitment.
War Brings Change
Brown’s tenure on Montana’s Water Commission had just ended, but his intense promotional abilities were still recognized. As a result, he was quickly snagged for the board of Billings’ Midland Empire Fair. Within a few days of his appointment came the frightful attack. But how would this national event affect the fair?
After two months, Brown was elected the fair’s president to lead it through the war years. He immediately put Billings’ high-profile fair on a war footing. Not unexpectedly, the war took temporary precedence over such gatherings. Although moving ahead with the 1942 exposition, the board reluctantly decided to cancel the 1943 fair. The next year, it was resumed, dedicating much of its space to educating the public about their obligations to support the war’s efforts.
As with most American families, World War II had impacted the Brown family with unexpected adjustments. Other unrelated events added apprehension to their everyday life. An epidemic of Polio hung over the country for years. An unexpected freeze in the region brought a huge loss of livestock.
But especially for young Rocky, Mr. and Mrs. Brown wanted to preserve the normality of growing up in Montana. And they did.
Rockwood’s perpetual interest in the sheep business found him hiring a substantial crew of Basque sheepherders who lived in wagons dotted across the Montana prairie near the small town of Ingomar. (Ingomar was 110 miles northeast of Billings and was not known for anything but sheep grazing, grassland and a noted saloon.)
As related by son Neal in family genealogy, “He apparently gave some of them the authority to buy their own goods in the store while he was not present.” Neal continued, “I remember one herder that bought a year’s supply of caviar and other expensive goods. When Dad got the bill, he was very angry, and you can be sure, got rid of the sheepherder immediately.”