Dale Sheldon

Dale Sheldon

Dale Sheldon
512 2nd Ave SE
Conrad, MT 59425
(406) 271-5330

Dale Sheldon had his own mechanic shop for thirty years One day his friend, Ron Denney walked in the shop to see how Dale was coming on the Ford pickup he was overhauling. The place was quite dark and as Ron tripped over a tire rim he yelled, “Hey, Dale, why don’t you have any lights on in this place?” Dale scootedout from under the truck and yelled back, “Can’t see a damn thing-what do I need lights for?”

Dale lost his eyesight one month before his fourth birthday, which according to Dale was a “heck of a long time ago. His parents didn’t think it would benefit him to be coddled and protected, so they let him play and rough-house just like any other nomnal little boy. From 1952-54, he learned to be an auto mechanic at Rocky Mountain College. After working in his own shop in Conrad for a few years, he took time out to work for the ClA in Washington D.C. as a Russian interpreter. Through a special language program which was the brain child of President John F Kennedy, he attended Georgetown University for two years. Kennedy thought that there was untapped talent in using blind people as translators, since they wouldn’t be distracted by things going on around them. While working for the government, Dale collaborated on a fifty-word Russian/English dictionary in Braille. There are only three copies-he has one of them.

In 1965, he came back to Conrad and worked again in his mechanic shop until 1989. In 1986, he ran for Justice of the Peace but was defeated. That was his initiation into politics. In 1989, he was elected as a county commissioner of Pondera County. He served for twelve years. He thinks he was probably the first blind person to become a county commissioner in the United States. One other unsighted person was elected the same year; but it is unclear who was sworn in first. He is proud of his work as a commissioner. During that time major improvements were made in the road department, especially in upgrading the equipment and shops. The commissioners were also instrumental in collecting many back taxes fairly and efficiently.

A man of many interests and talents, Dale has helped with neighbors’ brandings )notching ears and running the gate), shearing sheep, stomping wool into the sacks and having the ticks crawl down the neck of his shirt, and cleaning out wells. One time he and Ron were working in the shop and decided they needed to make a run for more “giggle juice.” Ron suggested that they take Dale’s truck this time. “That’ll work: said Dale, “If I hit anything, I’ll just say I didn’t see it'”

Dale and his wife (Aggie) of fifty-four years, were great art lovers. In 2001, Dale started sculpting. His first bronze, Lord Crooked Horn, a Rocky Mountain ram, was cast by Big Sky Bronze in Choteau. Since that time, several other bronzes have been created and entered in shows and auctions. Aggie, who died in an accident on Christmas Eve, 2004, was his toughest critic and strongest supporter. When Aggie died, Dale credited his grandson, Ron Dale (who has always lived with Dale and Aggie), with helping him keep his sanity. To keep busy after Aggie’s deaih, Dale increased production of the beautiful urns he makes for several mortuaries throughout Montana. This also somewhat helped to the void in his life.

The actor Michael J. Fox is credited with saying, “Optimists find alternatives in the face of adversity.” Dale Sheldon, a man of many talents and great vision, is definitely a fine example of that philosophy.