Originally featured in Points West in Summer 2013
Art Hansen’s violin
Born in Norway, Arndt (Art) Hansen (1890 – 1963) longed to be a professional violinist until a hand injury ended his dream. Believing his life would be better in America, his parents put the 12-year-old on a ship, along with some money, his violin, a New Testament, and their good wishes. Hansen landed at Ellis Island and made his way to Wisconsin, where he worked on an uncle’s dairy farm. He also attended school, becoming a barber after graduating. Around 1910, he joined up with a cousin who was homesteading near Miles City, Montana, and became a cowboy, herding cattle and breaking broncs.
In 1917, Hansen married Helen Evans, daughter of another homesteader. As their family grew (two sons and two daughters), Hansen supported them through butchering, fiddle-playing at dances, fur-trapping, giving skiing lessons, and training hunting dogs. When times turned tough in the Great Depression, the Hansens moved to Cody. In summers, they worked at the 7D Ranch in Sunlight Basin—Helen as cook and Art as handyman. During winters, Helen ran a bakery, and Art was a butcher at the Cody Trading Company. “Even more important than the help they gave us, was who Art and Helen were,” recalled Dewitt Dominick, owner of the 7D Ranch. “[T]heir lives were stories of settling the West.”