We have posted many Montana Moments over the years. Now, we have identified the twelve best, ranking them in ascending order. Herein we present Montana Moments numbers twelve to seven; we conclude next week with numbers six to one.
12. USA Today: During our first summer in Montana 15 years ago, we were unable to find national newspapers like The Wall Street Journal or USA Today. One day we drove by a large general store and my wife went in to see if they carried any of those papers. She asked the perky 16-year old girl who waited on her if they carried USA Today. The teenage girl pondered the question for a few moments and replied: “We don’t consider ourselves part of the USA.” It is easier to find national newspapers in Whitefish these days, but the attitude of the sprightly, high-spirited girl persists.
11. Bulldog Saloon: On Whitefish’s main street sits Bulldog’s, a retro bar, restaurant and poker room. It is packed with locals and Canadians because it accepts Canadian dollars at par for booze – a 30% discount. In the back is a poker table straight from a western movie set where a nightly game of Texas Hold’em takes place. Families with young children patronize Bulldog’s, despite restrooms festooned with “art” that would make a porn star blush. Last year I saw a 12-year old boy taking photos in the restroom with his cell phone. Check out Bulldog’s website: www.fart-slobber.com.
10. No crying in Montana: I was about to play golf with 3 Montana friends when the starter permitted a group of women to go ahead of us. When challenged by one of our group, the starter replied that one of the women had cried and he felt sorry for her. One of my Montana friends immediately said, “There is no crying in golf.” A split second later, the other two Montanans exclaimed in unison, “There is no crying in Montana.“
9. Central Avenue at 2:00 AM: Whitefish’s main street is lined with saloons, many with live music and live poker. In summer, especially on weekends, they are packed. By law, they must close at 2:00 AM. At precisely that time something inenarrable unfolds. Hundreds of well-lubricated young people (along with a certain septuagenarian poker player) simultaneously flood onto Central Avenue. The ensuing fifteen minutes is reminiscent of the Star Wars cafe scene and is an unforgettable Montana Moment.
8. Bear Bell: The club where I golf has a “blind” approach to the 18th green. To signal the group behind that it is safe to hit, upon completing the hole departing players ring a loud bell. When the bell inevitably rings, I act surprised and concerned and tell my out-of-town guests that was the “bear bell”, warning that a grizzly bear is nearby. It works every time and the reactions from my unsuspecting guests are priceless.
7. Gun Culture: When police pull over cars, they expect to find firearms; it is normal. When alarms go off in stores, the explanation is always the same, i.e. the customers are packing and simply forgot to leave their guns in the car. Preteen kids own real guns and get hunting licenses at age eleven. Youth deer hunting season is so popular all Montana schools close. Until a few years ago, it was okay for kids to bring their guns to school. A local PTA raffled an AK-47 “assault” rifle to raise funds. The local community college offers a course in gunsmithing. Despite the ubiquity of guns, the Flathead Valley gun homicide rate is incredibly low – one homicide every four years.
Next week, we present our top six all time Montana Moments.