Rhonda and Paul “Cap” Caprioglio know the history of every corner of the cabin that is their summer home. Cap’s parents breathed life into it. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Friends across time

Late local legend Don Jeffery’s friendship led a family to Montana

Local lore has it that a dispute between brothers caused them to get a saw and cut their cabin in half. One brother took his half and settled by the Gallatin River, what is now called “Cap’s Rockin’ C River Ranch”, Rhonda Caprioglio explained.

The cabin was built onto and altered as the years went by. Three generations of the Caprioglio family owe many memories on the banks of the river to the guy who slid a beer down the bar to Brad Pitt in “A River Runs Through It” – the late local legend Don Jeffery.

Jeffery was famous for dispensing numerous One-Day Marriage Licenses to attractive ladies.

According to Rhonda he’d say, “Here honey, just sign it. It’s just a one day thing we can have. We can be married for one day.”

“Don had a crush on my wife, as everybody does,” Paul “Cap” Caprioglio said.

Rhonda remembered a few mornings when she would see their neighbor – Jeffery – bloodied from a squabble in a pub the night before, but Paul reminisced about his strategy for getting a free drink: “He’d go up to the biggest guy in the bar and say, ‘Look, here’s the deal, I can kick your ass, but if I don’t – you kicked an old man’s ass. If I do kick your ass, you’ve been beat by an old man, so just buy me a drink and we’ll call it even.’ The guy would buy him a drink because it was easier that way.”

Cap, a defense attorney and city councilman and Rhonda, a court reporter in Fresno, Cali. have brought their two children to Montana every summer to escape the desert heat. The cabin becomes bustling and everything has a story – from the table to the chairs, to the chandelier. The full family history with the home began in 1985.

“My dad liked to hunt and had horse skills and however it happened, he met Don Jeffery. So, that is the connection,” Cap said.

Cap’s parents would make their way to Big Sky with their motorhome in the early 80s and would park it in Jeffery’s driveway. The rest is kind of history. Yearly vacations to visit their friend and then the cabin beside him was foreclosed upon. He encouraged them to make an offer. They did. They paid cash. The cabin was a wreck – and they breathed life into it. Cap’s dad, Carlo, also known as Jim, fixed the foundation and even added some rooms. The matriarch, Helen, tirelessly and beautifully chinked between the logs. Jim made staircases of hand hewn wood he worked on himself and cut windows into the walls so Helen could better see the river. That played-out when one she told him she wanted a view one afternoon.

“Next thing she knows, she hears the chainsaw. He cut the walls and punched them out,” he said.

Every corner and even a support beam is steeped in family history.

“This timber here was bowed, so my dad went out into the woods and found what he thought was the perfect tree, brought it in and skinned it,” Cap said.

A prominent owl planter stands vigil over a small square of land almost like a totem in front of the neighboring Bar Nothin’ Ranch – Jeffery’s old home. The Gallatin River rushes past that little patch of earth, where ashes of those who were friends and family in life mingle with the soil.

“That little square has Don’s ashes, his sister’s ashes, my dad’s ashes, my brother’s ashes,” said Cap, noting that someday his ashes will be scattered there, too.

Years ago, Cap’s parents sold the cabin. When it was up for sale again, Cap and Rhonda bought it. Its value goes well beyond monetary. The cabin is about repose and friendship, neighbors sporadically stopping-by, friends flying into Bozeman or driving their RVs so they can visit, laughter, and sleep induced by the river. One night of perfect calm, nearing the end of their summer stay, they stood quietly on the deck overlooking the Gallatin with the moon reflecting silver on the water. Life, they say, feels uncomplicated here.

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