In Lewistown, Mont., A Creek Runs Under Main Street Main Street in Lewistown looks like a postcard with its barber shop, soda fountain and old movie theater. But below the street runs Spring Creek — the scene of a rite of passage for many of the town's residents.
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A Thrill Ride Lies Under A Montana Main Street

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A Thrill Ride Lies Under A Montana Main Street

A Thrill Ride Lies Under A Montana Main Street

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Main Street, Lewistown, Montana, population 6,000, lined by an old-fashioned soda shop, a pharmacy, a barber shop, a movie house, and lots of jewelry stores - it's an American small town. But there is one unexpected feature in Lewistown: a creek that runs right under Main Street.

As part of our series Mapping Main Street, independent producers Ann Heppermann and Kara Oehler traveled around the country documenting some of the nation's 10,000 Main Streets. In Lewistown, they met Felicia Alaers, a recent high school graduate who gave them a tour of her town.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FELICIA ALAERS: Main Street's the only place where there is people in this town. If you drive on the other streets it's like dead. Where is everyone? Main Street, it's the only street that there is to do anything on.

Dalton, find something to do.

Hello, my name is Felicia Alaers. I'm 18 years old and I grew up in Lewistown, Montana.

(Soundbite of car horn)

Ms. ALAERS: Jacob! I know people in this town, so I just yell at them...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ALAERS: These buildings are old. The one right on the corner down there's been here since like 1914. And there's 1904 on that one.

Hi, Pete.

PETE: Hey, how's it going?

Ms. ALAERS: It's going. How are you? That's Pete. See ya.

If you're sitting on a bench in Lewistown, like you'll just have - end up meeting some kind of people to have a conversation with. That's just what happen. You can just sit on the bench and someone will come along.

Are you guys playing pong tonight?

DEVON: Yeah.

Ms. ALAERS: I spent all my money on a 30 last night. But do you want to play?

DEVON: (unintelligible)

Ms. ALAERS: I want to come over.

DEVON: I don't know.

Ms. ALAERS: Devon, you love me. Devon.

DEVON: All right.

Ms. ALAERS: Yeah? I can come over? Yes.

DEVON: Absolutely.

Ms. ALAERS: I pretty much just play beer pong every night though. That's what I do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ALAERS: And I always win. Well, no. I lied. I don't. But I did last night.

Main Street has actually really good businesses, though. There's a few little shops that are pretty neat, I guess for a small town.

(Soundbite of door bell)

Ms. JOANN BRISTOL (Moccasin Mountain Art Gallery): I'm JoAnn Bristol and we're in Moccasin Mountain Art Gallery, Lewistown, Montana. We sell Yogo sapphires here. They are mined about 45 miles west of Lewistown.

Ms. ALAERS: Everything's about Yogo here. Apparently you can't find them anywhere else but here.

Ms. BRISTOL: Princess Diana, you know, her ring was a Yogo.

Ms. ALAERS: I know old ladies love them.

Ms. BRISTOL: I think every woman in Lewistown probably has one. At least she should.

(Soundbite of doorbell)

Ms. BRISTOL: Hi, Renee(ph).

Unidentified Man #1: Get the Yogo?

Ms. BRISTOL: Got a Yogo?

RENEE: I do but I'm not wearing it.

Ms. BRISTOL: See there.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. ALAERS: I never understood the importance of it. Because I don't care about sapphires really. Like, I make my necklaces out of hemp, so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ALAERS: Long time no see, buddie.

Unidentified Man #2: Hey.

Ms. ALAERS: Have a good day.

The Moose Lodge and then the Elk's Club are like the two places where like I think older middle-aged people go and drink. And they do it for more of a social thing than to get drunk, I think.

(Soundbite of door opening)

Mr. KURT THAUSMAN(ph): Howdy.

(Soundbite of laughter and country music)

Mr. THAUSMAN: After 10:00 this place be just bumping. Kurt - Kurt Thausman.

(Soundbite of laughter and country music)

Mr. THAUSMAN: The Moose Lodge is actually - it started out as a men's club. And over the years, of course, it progressed and now we've got the women of the Moose, and they're probably more powerful than the men, sometimes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. THAUSMAN: Let me introduce you to some people.

Ms. JOANN MACOMBER: My name is Joann Macomber.

Mr. TOMMY MACOMBER: Tommy Macomber.

Ms. MACOMBER: Tom got hit on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street.

Mr. MACOMBER: Coming to the Moose.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MACOMBER: And he'd been playing pool.

Mr. MACOMBER: I was drunker than a billy goat. I was coming over here to make her take me home.

Ms. MACOMBER: I was barmaiding here.

Mr. MACOMBER: Walked all the way down here to the - on crutches.

Ms. MACOMBER: He was on crutches 'cause he's only got one leg.

Mr. MACOMBER: Oh, I have an artificial leg.

Ms. MACOMBER: And the lady went around the corner without stopping at the stop street and ran right over him. Backed over him to see who hit...

Mr. MACOMBER: Backed up to see who the heck she hit, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MACOMBER: Run over and backed over by the school bus driver.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MACOMBER: Small town Montana. Did you see the creek?

Mr. THAUSMAN: The creek actually runs underneath the Brooks Building and the Montana Tavern. You can go into the Montana Tavern and as you walk in the front door, take a left-hand turn and the creek's right there. You can look down and see it. Jim cut the - cut a hole in there so people can look in there...

Ms. MACOMBER: He'd fish through the floor while he wasn't busy.

Ms. TANYA HANCOCK(ph): Tanya Hancock, and we're on Main Street at the Montana Tavern.

Mr. DAVID COLLISON: I'm David Collison.

Ms. CASEY BOGALT(ph): My name is Casey Bogalt and I am so not ready to tell you where I'm at.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COLLISON: People used to come in here and after the bar closed, and float down the river and come up here and steal booze.

Ms. BOGALT: They went through and crawled up into it, and got into the bar and stole all the liquor.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MACOMBER: I've never been under it.

Ms. BOGALT: I haven't either. I'm scared.

Ms. ALAERS: It's not that bad. Like, there's just like, there's rats in there, so if you're like a get freaked out by rabid animals kind of person - I survived and I've done it like five times, so I think it'll be fine.

(Soundbite of water)

Ms. ALAERS: We are standing at the entrance to Spring Creek (unintelligible) under town.

(Soundbite of water)

Ms. ALAERS: Well, there is water snakes, so beware, like just don't freak out, like, and tip your innertube over and drown or something. Because there are snakes in the creek.

(Soundbite of scream)

Ms. ALAERS: Okay, you're okay there?

(Soundbite of water)

Unidentified Woman #1: I don't like bugs. Wow...

Ms. ALAERS: There's the tavern. Wait.

Unidentified Woman #2: Look at 'em, honey. Hello!

(Soundbite of noise)

(Soundbite of water)

Unidentified Woman #1: They're down there, can you see them?

Unidentified Woman #2: It doesn't look deep enough down there for you people to be...

Ms. ALAERS: Oh, it is. It's really gross, though.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of water)

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. ALAERS: Mikey. That's the Pizza Hut delivery boy.

(Soundbite of car)

Ms. ALAERS: I work with him. I really have this plan which is kind of far-fetched, but I want to get rid of all my possessions that I don't need or that don't mean anything to me and kind of just like hitchhike. I don't know, I got my backpack, I got my sneakers and I got my smokes and that's really all I need to go anywhere.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: Well, Felicia Alaers did end up leaving town. Right now she's hitchhiking across Montana and Idaho. Mapping Main Street is produced by Kara Oehler and Ann Heppermann, Jesse Shapins, James Burns and Ian Gray. Mapping Main Street is an initiative of AIR, the Association of Independence in Radio Incorporated with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. To contribute your own photos and stories of Main Streets, you can visit www.mappingmainstreet - all one word - dot-org.

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