Photo credit: Terry Shuck, CC

A good man who will stand up against the crowd for what he believes in is rare; one who can do it with grace and humility, even rarer.

A few years back Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks started pushing the boundaries on private property rights in Central Montana, and one such man came forward.  His name was Don Proue, and he was instrumental in founding United Property Owners of Montana, Inc.; the leading advocacy group working solely for property rights in Montana today.  Don’s wisdom and calm demeanor were good compliments to the youth and fire of Toby Dahl, and a examples to aspire to for Mark and Deanna Robbins.  Together, these ranchers took the reins of forming an organization dedicated only to preserving property rights; as they understood that the very essence of our freedom to use and enjoy our land depends upon those rights and those rights alone.   Don’s unquestionable integrity was always the barometer for making sure that what we were doing was not only just, but right.  He has never failed us.

Just as UPOM was taking off, Don and his family were dealt a tough blow.  A well-known and respected team roper; Don suffered a freak accident while roping that resulted in a severe head injury. Through the love and support of a strong family, great friends, top notch medical care, and lots of trials and tribulations, Don is at home on the ranch these days, back to riding and taking part in daily activities.  The victories have been hard fought and sometimes very small, but this is not a man to quit.  Unfortunately for UPOM, we had to take a back seat as Don and his family battled to get his life back.  But at the same time Don was providing the rest of us the inspiration to keep going.

Things will never be quite the same for Don as they were before that tragic accident.  And though we’ll never let him resign, but he hasn’t felt like returning as a full-time director of UPOM.  But the accident did not change the man he is; which was never clearer than when we picked up our mail today.

Don has been able to return to his hobby of silversmithing, and he creates beautiful keepsakes for his family and friends.  A few years ago ours came with a note painstakingly written by Don, remembering that “we did good work together.”

Today in the mail we received two silver lapel pins in the shape of our beautiful state, with the cutout letters UPOM soldered in place.  Don made one of these pins for each officer of UPOM, at his own expense.  We will wear these proudly when we go to Helena this session to testify to get bills passed that will preserve and protect our property rights.  They will be a symbol of triumph over adversity.  Don included an offer to create one of these beautiful pins for anyone who makes a significant donation to UPOM, and said that we should tell them “that it was made by an old director of UPOM.”  It’s great to have our old friend back working for the organization!   We’ll be ironing out the details for our members on how to qualify for one of these treasured items.  But for now I just wanted to tell the story of a man who, even when faced with great challenges, still stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Deanna Robbins, UPOM Co-founder