HBM113: The Last Ones

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Bethany Denton’s been thinking about grief a lot lately. In 2017, two of her friends, a mother and a daughter, died unexpectedly just two months apart. Since then, Bethany’s started seeing grief in just about everything, including a caribou at Woodland Park Zoo that dropped her antlers after a miscarriage.

Bethany’s good friend, Jesse Brenneman has also been thinking a lot about grief. It was his mother and sister who died in 2017. And shortly after that, his grandfather and father died too. So over the span of a year and two months, Jesse lost his entire immediate family.

When Bethany told Jesse about the grieving caribou mother who’d dropped her antlers after miscarriage, Jesse suggested contacting his next door neighbor Ben Long. Ben is a writer and conservationist with an affinity for caribou.

On a snowy January morning, the three of them drove out to the Flathead National Forest outside of Kalispell, Montana for a walk in the woods. They hoped to find caribou tracks in the snow. Caribou used to be plentiful in northwestern Montana and throughout the continental United States. These days, due to deforestation and destruction of their habitat, the caribou population in the lower 48 could be as low as three animals.

You may recognize Jesse’s voice from his time as a producer for WNYC’s On The Media. Today he is a freelancer of many disciplines living and working in Missoula, Montana.

Bethany Denton and Ben Long walking along a ridge near Finger Lake in the
Flathead National Forest in Montana.  Photo by Jesse Brenneman.

Stillwater Creek frozen over.  Photo by Bethany Denton.
Ben Long and Bethany Denton on the trail to Finger Lake in the Flathead National Forest.

Photo by Jesse Brenneman. 

Jesse’s dad Joe eating a Jolly Rancher with his dog Sam.
Joe died a few weeks later. Photo by Jesse Brenneman.

Jesse’s mom Cathy and sister Erin at Flathead Lake.  Photo by Jesse Brenneman.

Music: Jesse Brenneman | | | The Black Spot

Face the Racist Nation, a piece produced by Jesse Brenneman for WNYC’s On The Media.

HBM064: A Shinking Shadow, in which Bethany talks to Jesse’s sister Erin about her eating disorder.


Jeff Emtman, Bethany Denton

Jesse Brenneman