A Montana Welcome

Here’s a picture of a license plate caught in the parking lot of a restaurant in Big Timber, Montana.  It was taken by a California pilot who found it funny.  (Me not so much). When he asked about who should “go home”, the reply most often was “Californians”.

In Montana, I’ve discovered, the word “Californians” is the generic term for meddling outsiders mostly of the “environmental”  kind.  Since then I’ve found that most of the California imports are the opposite of the stereotypical bunny and tree huggers.  They are suburbanites who sold their homes during the housing boom and moved here “to get away from those g.d. regulations”.  They tend to be ornery and conservative. On the other hand,  the tree huggers come from all over the U.S. to find a place to hike and bike in Big Sky country where there are more cows than humans.  Lots of them, like me, come from the cities. Some are ornery too, but in a different way.

City folk, IMHO, know how to live in close proximity with each other.  They jostle for a good place on a subway or bus, but will give up their seat for someone who seems to need it more and take a lot of time to give directions and advice.  They know how to share because they have to share space every day all day long.  They love the diversity of a neighborhood that still has a bakery and a butcher and not some “super” market.  And they love the diversity of people.  It yields lots of great ethnic food and the lovely sound of many accents and many different kinds of music.

I was told when I came here that I would never be a Montanan.  Well, I sure don’t want to be the kind of Montanan that goes to the trouble to order this kind of license plate.  So this Iowa Illinois Michigan New York  California gal will try to be a bit more hospitable if you’re thinking of moving to this beautiful but cranky kind of country.

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3 responses to “A Montana Welcome

  1. Have you read any of Wendell Berry’s books? If you haven’t , I’d recommend Conversations With Wendell Berry as a starting point. It is a collection of interviews of Wendell Berry and provides quite a bit of insight into his philosophy of life, if I can be so bold. The issue of “farmers vs. hippies” is taking place in many places all over the country as people, displaced by changes beyond their control, seek a home. As a “city person”, I tend not to share your conclusions about the generosity of those denizens. I’ve never seen a young kid offer to give up his/her seat on a commuter train to an elderly person, for example.

  2. You may indeed be right. I was feeling particularly generous last night. But then again, I haven’t lived in the city for 20 years. I actually thought that the old people in my Upper West Side neighborhood were pretty rude, pushing me aside to get on the bus and shoving me in the grocery store to get to the cash register first. As a young person, I would just laugh at those tough New Yorkers. But I always gave up my seat to them. Have times changed?
    I just finished “Eat the City” by Robin Shulman about the beekeepers, winemakers, butchers, poultry raisers, beer makers, sugar refiners and urban farmers of New York City present and past. The city has always teemed with people trying to grow and make their own food. And in the process created a community. That’s another wrong perception that country people have of New York. I highly recommend it. I have read snippets of Wendell Berry. So I will take your recommendation and get “Conversations…” I have “Dancing in the Streets” by Barbara Ehrenreich on the Kindle. I started “The Problem with Work”, but it’s pretty heavy going. So Ehrenreich might be next.

  3. I read the Amazon reviews of Eat the City and thought that the book sounds interesting. I’m sure Jane Jacobs would approve! It takes lots of tools to build a community and those who grow food are one of them. The ties that bind – that’s what we need. We are a too-autonomous and -atomized society. It is a mistake to think that community can only happen in rural intentional communities. Urban communities are just as important as rural ones. Ehrenreich is an easy read – it might lead you in an unexpected direction, though!

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