Four generations of Howard and Vadis Stratton's family have lived a simple life on Highland Mountain in Montana—"much like TV's 'The Waltons'"—since arriving as homesteaders in 1878. Now the U.S. Forest Service is ordering them to leave on the grounds that a homestead application was never officially filed, and that past government authorizations to inhabit the 140-acre spread have expired. According to their daughter Alice Lester, the family had relied on a "gentlemen's agreement."
When Howard Stratton told rangers about submitting payment for another homestead application, "the Forest Service said, `Save your money, Howard. Nobody is going to ask you to leave here. Everybody knows the Strattons,'" Lester said.
"It was a gentlemen's handshake, and all that went by the wayside when these young people (with the Forest Service) came in, and some hot-doggers and young guns said, `We're gonna straighten things out and change the way things are.' And the gentlemen's handshake no longer existed," Lester said. [Link]