Best All Time Montana Moments

The best of Montana Moments: our top six attractions of life in Montana. 
Best All Time Montana Moments
By: George Noga – July 21, 2019

         We reviewed all our Montana Moments blogs, selected the twelve best and ranked them in ascending order. Last week we presented numbers twelve to seven (on our website:; this week we conclude with numbers six to one.

6. Wild West: Echos of the frontier reverberate at Packer’s Roost, an outre biker bar in Hungry Horse, near Whitefish. It is named after convicted cannibal, Alfred Packer, and was Ted (Unabomber) Kaczynski’s haunt while hiding out from the FBI. Vestiges of the old west survive at the Blue Moon Nite Club, just outside Whitefish. A long bar populated two deep by working cowboys, many of whom are wasted, greets those undaunted enough to enter. There is a casino with jangling slots, pool tables, the de rigueur live poker game and rest rooms festooned with avant garde art, if you get my drift. Of course, there is a live country band with dancers attired in full western regalia. The gestalt of all this unfolding at once is an authentic Montana moment.

5. Great Outdoors: It’s hard to imagine a place on our planet better endowed by nature.  There are mountains, rivers and six-mile long Whitefish Lake. Every conceivable outdoor activity for all four seasons is present in spades. The Whitefish ski area is ranked eleventh best in the world (yes – in the world) by Ski Magazine. Each year there are magical days when you can ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon.

4. Rodeo: Every Thursday in summer there is a rodeo featuring locals; it begins with a moving, not-to-be-missed ceremony honoring US, Canadian and Montana flags. One event is youth bull riding for kids as young as eight. There are precautions: the bulls are young, their horns trimmed and the kids wear helmets. Nonetheless, a 50-pound eight-year old is riding a cantankerous wild 500-pound bull. Teenagers with serious hunting knives strapped to their waists freely mingle with the 2,000 spectators. If that happened at a big city high school football game, there would be panic, SWAT teams would fast rope in, the stadium would be evacuated and all knives confiscated.

3. Derby: I belong to a club with a 60-year tradition called Derby. Every Thursday at noon up to 30 golfers (in 3-man scramble teams) play simultaneously and finish in regulation time. Derby participants are ages 15 to 85, low wage to millionaires, scratch to high handicap, uneducated to Ph.Ds and Americans, Canadians, Native Americans and summer residents like me. Some openly smoke dope while others, who are deputy sheriffs, pretend not to notice. Some players have derby nicknames too ribald to print. The repartee is incessant and priceless. Derby is a bona fide Montana moment.

2. Whitefish: For a town of 6,500, Whitefish offers more than many cities 50 times its size. It is picturesque; many commercials you see are filmed there. It sits at 3,000 feet altitude in a valley, resulting in perfect summer weather and mild winters given its 48 degree latitude. It has a year-round full symphony orchestra, fine dining, live entertainment, non-stop festivals and several top-notch golf courses. It is the western gateway to Glacier National Park and only seven miles from world class skiing.

1. Glacier National Park: GNP is the crown jewel of NW Montana. It is (by far) the best national park of the many we have visited. It is so remote and with so little lodging, it remains relatively uncrowded – although that is changing. Its major artery, Going-to-the-Sun Road, is as spectacular as it is iconic. The only tricontinental divide in the USA, where water flows to 3 oceans (Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic), is in GNP.

More Liberty Less Government  –  –

Twelve Best Montana Moments – Part I

The best of Montana Moments: our top twelve stories about life in Montana. 
Twelve Best Montana Moments – Part I
By: George Noga – July 14, 2019

         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:

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.
More Liberty Less Government  –  –

Montana Moments – Vestiges of the Wild West

Vestiges of the wild west – Packer’s Roost, Blue Moon and the Bulldog Saloon
Montana Moments – Vestiges of the Wild West
By: George Noga – September 13, 2017
       Vestiges of the frontier and the wild west persist in Montana. Hungry Horse (pop 826) 15 miles east of Whitefish is one. In the severe winter of 1900 two draft horses, Tex and Jerry, got lost. They were found a month later in chest high snow and survived; hence, the town’s name. John Steinbeck stayed there while writing his highly acclaimed book: Travels with Charley: In search of America. Steinbeck wrote, “For other states I have admiration and even some affection; but with Montana it is love.
       Packer’s Roost is an outre biker bar in Hungry Horse, rumored to be named after convicted cannibal Alfred Packer. It is notable mainly for its former patron Ted Kaczynski a/k/a/ the Unibomber. This was his haunt while evading the FBI. It is unchanged from Kaczynski’s days and remains intimidating given the swarm of bikers milling around. It is no place for snowflakes, cupcakes or mollycoddles.
       Just a few miles east of Whitefish is the Blue Moon Nite Club, a local fixture since 1940. We drove past it for years but were too apprehensive to venture inside. Finally, one Saturday night we took the plunge. I found a safe, well lit parking place and asked my wife to remain locked in the car while I made a foray inside. What I found was hard to imagine outside of Montana. We now are Blue Moon habitues and make it a point to take all our house guests there for an authentic Montana experience.
      Saturday night at the Blue Moon is well outside most peoples’ experiential grasp. It has a live country and western band and spacious dance floor. People of all ages and backgrounds dance and enjoy the music. Nearly everyone is local and most are decked out in full western regalia. There are many accomplished dancers; however, everyone is comfortable participating – even a few old folks visiting from Florida.
      Adjoining the dance floor is a long bar populated by working cowboys straight from the ranch quaffing Kokanee, the local brew. Although some appear wasted, they are unerringly polite. There is a casino with numerous jangling slot machines, the de rigueur live poker game and, of course, pool tables. The rest rooms contain avant-garde art, if you follow my drift. Prices are ridiculously low; beer is $1.50 and good scotch $7.00.  The gestalt of all this unfolding simultaneously is something to behold.
       On Central Avenue, Whitefish’s main street, sits the Bulldog Saloon. Bulldog’s is a bar cum restaurant cum poker room. It is packed with locals and also with visiting Canadians because it accepts Canadian dollars at par for alcohol. In the back is a poker area straight out of a western movie set – and a place I frequent. Montana has no-limit Texas hold’em poker, with the games usually in saloons. Families patronize Bulldog’s despite restrooms plastered with “art” that would make a porn star blush. Only last year did they post warnings for kids. Bulldog’s website is
     Something inenarrable unfolds on summer weekends precisely at 2:00 AM when bars and poker games close. Hundreds of well lubricated young people flood unto Central Avenue and the ensuing 15 minutes is a truly unforgettable Montana moment!