On a recent warm Missoula evening, on my way to a Rattlesnake trailhead, I approach two young boys, both with shocks of shaggy red hair, standing at the corner of Siesta Drive, one holding a violin, the other a trombone, with a Sharpied cardboard sign between them that reads "Cheap music."
As I pull over, the violinist begins playing furiously and stares at me to see if I'm impressed. The other puts the trombone's mouthpiece to his lips to join in, but they both stop when they realize I'm curious what they're up to.
Their names are Danny and Billy Janczewski, 11-year-old twins adopted from Russia years ago, who live up the street. They're serenading passersby in hopes of making a few bucks, they say.
They've been here about an hour. "So far it's been great," Billy, the trombonist, says proudly. "Every person who has passed by this way, this way, and this way"—motioning up and down the road and behind them—"has stopped to hear our wonderful music."
I ask what they've been playing, and they point to a pile of sheet music on the pavement. Danny's favorite tune, which he began when I drove up, is the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song. Billy's is "We Will Rock You." They say they started playing their instruments over a year ago.
This isn't the boys' first summertime moneymaking endeavor. They say they played music to passing cars during a recent visit to their grandfather's home in Texas, though that yielded only a few dollars and a handful of golf tees.
I ask what their goal is for this evening. $30, Billy says. Danny says $10 is more realistic. I give them four quarters, all I can scrounge up in my car.
As I wish them luck, they spot a car heading up Rattlesnake Drive. "Here comes a customer," Danny hollers, and they face the oncoming car and begin playing.
About two hours later, I run into Billy and Danny again at the Good Food Store. They introduce me to their father, D.J. He says Danny and Billy failed to mention their most successful on-street enterprise: Last summer, he says, they made $500 selling lemonade near the main Rattlesnake trailhead. "Industrious boys."
Tonight they made $12, topping Danny's goal, at least.