Last Thursday several members of the Wood Creek Academy therapeutic boarding school for boys showed up to lend a hand at the Bartholomew’s Ranch.
The ranch, owned by Ruth Bartholomew, is a legacy to her late husband, Max, who died of cancer in Jan. 2017 at the age of 53. The Bartholomew family then moved from the Miles City area less than a year ago.
Ruth’s goal was to pass the ranch to her 24-year-old son, Matthew.
But July 31, while working as a logger, he was severely injured. A coworker found him unconscious with a collapsed lung and several injuries to his head and skull, as well as to his neck. He was rushed to the hospital immediately.
There he was nursed back from close to the brink of death. When he was in the hospital his family visited him, including his wife and young daughter, Canynn Leigh, and his sister Randii. He was non-responsive, and his heart rate was very low, so his sister, in an attempt order to elicit a response, told him that she would sell all of his guns. His heart rate skyrocketed and from then on, he has began to slowly recover.
However the hospital bills have made life quite a bit harder at the ranch.
Ruth said she has very little prior experience with ranching and has relied much on the assistance of strangers, and her daughter. After the accident, Matthew’s sister, Randii, gave up putting time into her career as a horse trainer to live with her mother and to help out at the ranch, until her brother could take back the mantle.
The boys from Wood Creek came out in the morning along with Sean Thorne, the owner of the program, and they chopped wood along with moving several large logs into piles. They helped fix some of the water lines on the ranch and did it without complaint.
Ruth and her daughter are on their own trying to run the ranch, while Randii works a day job with another rancher, so much of the ranch work falls onto Ruth. To make ends meet Ruth also provides part-time childcare for local people.
Wood Creek is located outside Thompson Falls. They are a Christian-based organization which was started in 2004 by Sean Thorne and his wife. Wood Creek accepts boys between the ages of 13 and 18 years old from all over the world. The boys generally stay anywhere from 11 to 12 months, and some have stayed for up to a couple of years.
Wood Creek Academy is a fully accredited high school with a professional staff of two certified teachers, two firefighters, one EMT and a nurse. Much of the staff have been with the school for many years. Sean was a steel worker who traveled extensively and finally decided to settle down somewhere. He wanted to do something good for the community and to give youth experiences that they may not be able to get anywhere else, especially taking them into the great outdoors. One of the things Sean is most proud of is the fact that nearly 35% of the boys they take on are referred from other parents, and the school has an incredible success rate. Many of them even come back to visit.
The Bartholomews have started a benefit account with the Stockman Bank in order to receive help and donations from the community. Anyone can donate and check donations can be mailed to the account, which is called the Ruth Hof Bartholomew Benefit Account for Matthew. Dale Carter, their neighbor, is also trying to organize a talent show to raise money for the family.
Throughout all of the hard times the Bartholomew family has had to endure over the last year they keep pushing to fulfill the American dream, and with the kindness of the Sanders county locals, they have a lot of hope of doing so.
“We just put our boots back on and press on. You can’t let those things stop you,” Ruth said.