Our first Montana Moments posting was in 2013. We were taken aback by its sudden popularity and we reprised it each summer. After 6 years, we are running out of new material about our summer home in Whitefish, in the Flathead Valley of NW Montana. This post champions Montana as America’s last best place. The next two posts, perhaps the final ones in this series, rank our top twelve Montana Moments.
Americans have become disconnected from the natural world and the human world and poisoned by political correctness, environmental wackiness and obsessed with safety at all cost. Montana reconnects such people to the real world and to a vanishing civilization where everyone has a different attitude about life and risk. Montana, like a time capsule, whisks visitors back into this mostly forgotten world. In that magical land, where giants once roamed, people live at a pace driven by the beating of their hearts rather then by the pulsation of personal electronic devices.
In the Treasure State, the cycles of nature are omnipresent. June ushers in a cornucopia of vegetables; in July the Flathead cherries are ripe, followed in August by huckleberries and melons and by peaches in September. The outdoor activities are without equal. In summer there is hiking, fly fishing, golf, rafting, floating, kayaking, mountain biking and every possible water activity. In fall and winter there is hunting, skiing, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing and even the Aurora Borealis.
“Like a time capsule, Montana whisks you back to a half-lost world.”
The human world also is magical. There is a weekly summer rodeo, which includes youth bull riding – beginning at age eight. Guns are a normal part of everyday life; the local PTA once auctioned off an AK-47 for its fundraiser. Youth deer hunting season (starts at age 11) is so popular that all Montana schools close for its two days. Whitefish, with a population of 6,500, has a full time symphony orchestra, live theater, fine dining, cabaret and nonstop festivals. Vestiges of the wild west persist and still continue to exert a powerful influence on Montanans’ culture and attitudes.
Montana is 750 miles across from North Dakota to Idaho and larger than Japan. There are fewer than 7 people per square mile, making its population density 48th in the US; only Alaska and Wyoming are less dense; it is the same density as America in 1790 and only 8 percent as dense as the USA is today. Montanans are so accustomed to its vastness that anything not on a grand scale seems trivial to them. Even today, most residents think nothing of driving 100 miles to attend a dinner or a dance.
There are few developed places in our fourth largest state; Billings, its largest city, has but 110,000 people. Everywhere in Montana, within a few minutes drive, one can find a peaceful prairie, quiet meadow, majestic mountaintop or a rippling stream flush with trout, where you can be alone with nature and replenish your soul.
This is the simple majesty and grandeur – both natural and human – of Montana and what makes it the last best place in America. And even for those who have shuffled off this mortal coil, Montana is the best last place in America.
Next week: MLLG’s top twelve Montana Moments – numbers 12 to 7.