Old Glory: Moiese family installs Montana's tallest flagpole
Mineral Independent | January 12, 2022 12:00 AM
Across from the entrance to the Moiese Bison Range on Highway 212, is the south entrance to the Moiese Valley known for cattle and dairy operations, wheat, alfalfa, and corn fields — and now the tallest flagpole in Montana.
You need to drive in a mile or so before it becomes visible, but when you see it, you see it! On the north end of the valley, the American flag becomes visible at the junction of the Crow Dam Road and Round Butte Road that goes into Ronan.
“Gosh, I’m not sure, but about 6 miles, I bet”, said Joe Geldrich of the distance it can be seen from that direction.
Geldrich is the owner of Double J Concrete at 4592 Locust Lane which is close to being in the center of the valley. He has lived his life in the Mission Valley area and moved into the Moiese Valley in 2016 where he headquartered his concrete business and has a small cattle operation, to boot.
His wife, Menzie, was an intern at the Moiese Bison Range where they met. She became smitten with Geldrich, along with Montana, and she never returned to The Lone Star State.
Their little boy, ‘J’, is a blond-haired blur as they stand in their driveway, which is a couple hundred yards from a 130-foot white flagpole flying a 30x60 American flag that weighs 100 pounds. What makes this flag look larger is that the pole is at least 20-30 feet taller.
“We just started calling around and asking about the big flags we’ve see. Like Bretz RV in Missoula is a 100-foot pole. We called over in Spokane to get their heights and we found the tallest ones to be 100 feet, so we honestly believe this is the tallest in Montana,” he noted.
Happy’s Inn north of Kalispell has a flag that is 40x80 but the pole is 80 feet tall.
The pole is in three sections and weighs 10,000 pounds. It's brand-new oil field pipe that Geldrich found in Baker, Montana and drove over to bring back and then started sanding and welding. It took 15 gallons of automotive paint to cover it and the bottom portion is 24 inches in diameter then tapers to 16 inches and the last section is 10 inches.
It’s mounted on a 5x5x4 pedestal, plum full of rebar anchored with eight 1.5-inch bolts and buried 6 feet into the earth.
“We do a lot of cell tower construction, so we knew what had to be done and probably over way engineered it,” he smiles. “We hauled up two pieces with the crane and I welded the third piece up there as we couldn’t get it all up at once. That was pretty stressful,” he confesses.
“There was an awful lot going on right then.”
Gary Cote with Cross Diamond Boom Service out of Ronan brought his biggest crane to tackle this behemoth flagpole and the day it went up, the field was thick with onlookers. The neighbors saw that something was taking place toward the end of September on the south end of his pasture, but it wasn’t until the crane arrived and the pole production process began that they started stopping and asking what was being constructed.
Geldrich, 45, can’t pinpoint where his patriotism comes from, but his dad was in the military.
“I don’t know. I guess I’ve just always been this way”, he grins.
But you connect the dots and feelings like Geldrich’s dovetail into the strong character and work values which is the stronghold of rural Montana. The original idea was never asking anyone for any financial assistance as this was Geldrich’s project from the get-go. However, all the neighbors pitched in to buy the flag and the VFW came down and gave him $500.
“But it was never about that. I wasn’t asking for donations, but it turned into a huge deal after everyone was head scratching wondering what in hell I was building.”
The valley all turned out for a big party the night it was put up Oct. 23, 2021, with briskets cooking and beverages and socializing. His friends put the party together with special thanks to Dan Hartung and Bill Hafliger who pulled more than their own weight.
From start to finish, Menzie recorded everything even using a drone that you can watch on the YouTube channel: Montana’s Tallest Flag.