My thanks to all y’all out in the world for not bringing any issues to my attention more upsetting than the previous entry’s subject in the last week; obviously you wanted to hear all about Montana, which is why I have remained relatively unscathed by the news in the last few days.
So. Why am I in Montana, of all places, you wonder? Well, let me take you back about a hundred years.
Over a hundred, in fact. The Stratford 100th Anniversary of Homesteading happened a few summers ago, to commemorate the founding of the Stratford Farm, on Stratford Hill, on Stratford Road, out beyond Billings, Montana.
My dad grew up in Billings. His father ran the farm, and his summers took place there. In a very real way, I’m first-generation post-farm. That is, if you count my dad, who worked on the farm in his summers and the first year out of college, as a farmer. Which, pretty much, I do.
My paternal grandparents were in the Billings area when I grew up. Every other year, we’d spend summer and Christmas-time out in Montana. We racked up our share of national parks and historical landmarks in that time, as well as horseback rides and scenic drives.
When my dad’s folks passed, em and dee (M&D, figure it out) decided to hold on to the ol’ Montana roots by buying a condo in the Big Sky Country. Bozeman was the best choice. It’s surrounded by mountains, within driving distance of Yellowstone, but also a university town, with art walks, free music, breweries, and lots of outdoor sports to be found. In fact, it’s a pretty sweet place to hang out.
Lots of memories, of course. I found a pretty heinous picture of myself and my somehow-always-adorable brother in…Glacier? Some national park when I was probably around ten. Montana was an interesting place for a bookish girl to hang out. Hikes were not so much my thing, growing up. Rock-climbing was closer, because it was way more exciting, way closer to adventure than walking up a mountain. History stuff was pretty cool, too, and my grandparents were great except for my grandpa’s little dogs who tried to gnaw my ankles off every time I visited, and there was a lot of driving time to a) look out the window and daydream, and b) read.
Fast forward about a million years (tops, like…ten) and suddenly I’m a Nature-appreciating, semi-athletic adult eager to get in some quality time with the ‘rents and to sample every brewery that Bozeman has to offer.
Of course, I’m like…a million times more sensitive to the effed-up history of the West at this point, which does not always bode well for my enjoyment of all that this area has to offer.
Like, my mom and I went for a lovely kayak ride on Lake Hyalite, one of the main sources of water for the town of Bozeman, and we came across a pontoon boat flying a Confederate flag, and if there had been anyone on that moored boat I actually was going to ask them what possible non-racist reason they had to festoon their pontoon with that–
And we went to a rodeo in Three Forks and I got all pissed off that the women weren’t allowed to compete in the same events as the men, and the women’s events were on the books as being watered-down versions of the men’s events, and that they called the men “men” in the program but they called the ladies “girls”–
And uh let’s not forget that the premise of the rodeo is basically to make animals uncomfortable or to put them into pain so that a bunch of bored humans can show off skills that used to be way more practical and hopefully make some money off of it–
And then we went to the local, really nice inn, a place that used to be a stagecoach/train stop, now called the Sacajawea Inn and decorated with a bunch of pictures of American Indians, and as nice as it was I had to point out that it was hella racist–
Anyway. I am apparently not the person to actually, you know, live in Montana these days. I mean, I can deal with Obama jokes and libertarianism (if not straight-out conservatism, not just fiscal but social) but the pretty obvious racism and sexism and nostalgia for an era that was definitely less glamorous than people seem to believe it was kinda kicks it over the edge.
Just to be clear, Montana is also and has always been beautiful. There’s great music, gorgeous art, awesome beers, friendly people, good food, and interesting if sometimes problematic history. There are THOUSANDS OF DINOSAUR BONES. THOUSANDS. IT IS REALLY COOL. My family has homesteaded here for 100 years! I get to canter on horses…sometimes! Yellowstone has ridiculous geological features that seem like they don’t even operate under the rules of physics! Mountains are the best!
I’ll tell some actually entertaining stories that aren’t all “I’ve become too liberal for my roots” on Thursday. I have one about a miniature ram that smacks of absolutely no -isms, and a corresponding story about Fuddrucker’s. Someday this blog will be funny again! SOMEDAY! ALL CAPS WILL HELP!
…Does it show that I’m writing this while trying also to watch “21 Jump Street?” Caliber may or may not be up on Thursday. I make no promises on a day I have to fly in a tiny airplane that makes no allowances for freakishly-proportioned people with legs six inches longer than legs have a right to be.