‘Ranch magic’ and a message in a bottle

Gray Hughes

We live in uncertain times right now. Sometimes it takes a little “ranch magic” reassurance that everything is going to be OK.


Such reassurance appeared at Newton Fork Ranch last week when a “message in a bottle” was discovered.


Linda Flounders, operator of Newton Fork Ranch and the granddaughter of Arleen Lippman, found something that caught her eye last week — a bottle sticking out of the ground.


“I started pulling, and it came out easily,” Flounders said. “It had  no label, but the bottle said ‘Clorox.’ ”


In the bottle was bleach, an item that has been in short supply due to the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the nation and the world.


The odd thing for Flounders was that she had cleaned that area of the ranch many, many times and never saw the bottle sticking of there before.


This has to be a message from her grandmother, Flounders thought.


“I thought ‘wow,’ ” Flounders said. “I was just shocked. We all look at it to mean it’s my grandmother reaching out.”


Lippman was 14 at the time of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. This, Flounders said, is a good reminder from her grandmother that everything will be OK — and to make sure everyone is staying sanitary and not spreading the disease.


She owned and help operate the A and H Grocery store on Main Street for about 40 years and help establish the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce, Flounders said.


But what Lippman might be best known for was her extensive collection of hats, and she was seldom seen without a hat on her head, Flounders added.


Lippman, too, worked hard to ensure that the 1880 Train came to Hill City.


Overall, though, Lippman was a large supporter of the greater Hill City community.


“She was really involved in clubs and societies,” Flounders said. “Hill City was very important to her.”


Newton Fork Ranch is open 365 days a year because of the work ethic that Lipmann passed down, Flounders said.


Flounders said the odds of her finding that bottle of Clorox bleach in an area that has been cleaned so any times were low, so it had to be a message from her grandmother.


“Finding the bottle at a time like this, when we’re all concerned and worried, it has to be my grandmother saying everything is going to be OK,” Flounders said. “It’s uncanny. Absolutely uncanny. If it happened to me six months ago, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but finding it now? After it has been buried for 75 to 80 years? That’s a message in a bottle for sure.”

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