Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Welcome to Montana

Montana views from a transplant


Don’t ask me why I left Washington state to settle in northwest Montana.  There were reasons that still are not logical.  Mostly because it’s so damned beautiful.  The sky is bluer and the moon is whiter; no pollution.  The spring water that comes out of the ground tests so pure that bureaucrats tell people “Don’t mess with it.”  At night there are more stars than anyone can count and constellations I have never seen before.  It’s dazzling.  I drink perfectly pure milk and cream right from the cow.  No one has “fixed” it.  I get fresh eggs right from the chickens.  They haven’t been in storage for months.  People build simple raised garden beds in which they can grow corn, and beans; you name it and send for the seeds, and you’ve got it.  There are bakeries that will sell you fresh bread, no preservatives, several varieties, sliced free.  The other day, a small Mennonite grocery was giving away watermelons. 

Then there are the people.  They take the word “Neighbor” seriously.  If you are sick and can’t milk your cows, a neighbor will come and do it for nothing.  If your truck breaks down, the mechanic neighbor down the road will come to your cabin and pick you up.  No charge. When you get his bill for repair, it is not inflated due to taxes and overhead.  If someone gets free food, they share.  Just about everyone I have met is volunteering on some level to help someone.

I really have to talk about Montana men.  Oh, yes indeed I do.  You see guys on TV with muscle definition that comes from personal trainers and expensive gyms.  We are led to believe that this is the essence of masculine strength.  When you see a genuine Montana man, one descended from generations of pioneer stock, from families who farmed, ranched cattle, knew about true stewardship of Montana’s forests, built the houses and barns and log cabins to last…. You see quiet, modest power.  The muscles are there, not defined, but obvious. They are big, and you know they could pick up one adult under each arm and not even breathe heavy.  There are eyes in lined, tanned faces that have seen different crises than one ever sees in the city.  Life threatening danger from cattle and timber falling to the ground.  They seem to be more calm, peaceful, and self confident than any city man I have ever met.  They are simply gorgeous and make John Wayne or Brad Pitt look like wimps.  Hollywood has no one who could play these men in a movie.  They need to come to the source.  But it’s doubtful that any of these real men would have any truck with Hollywood types.

All that self confidence that shines out of those faces full of character, tends to give them a bit of an attitude.  They seem to think that women are nice critters to have around for various reasons, but don’t take us too seriously.  This attitude from a man in “civilization” would be intolerable.  Somehow from a real Montana man, it’s almost charming. 

It isn’t that Montana women are any less impressive.  Especially those who live here in the mountains.  They, too come from generations of people who settled, built, and lived off the land.  I know one attractive woman who is a real estate broker.  She hunts every year, does her own butchering, and fills her freezer with the meat and lives off it all year.  She is so self sufficient, it must drive the men crazy.  She is the essence of an Alpha Woman, but she is not the exception.  There are women who run cattle ranches on their own.  Remember that this is dealing with animals in every season, including in freezing temperatures and deep snow.  That’s the time when civilized people are sitting inside watching TV. 

I live in a log cabin on a cattle ranch.  Part of the cabin is over 100 years old.  The husband and wife who own the ranch are the kindest, most giving human beings I will ever know in this life.  The number of kids and adults they reach out and help can’t be counted. 

 The landowner milks his cows twice a day, summer and winter, every 12 hours.  He adopts cows that come in looking unloved and scruffy.  In a few months of eating vitamin reinforced grain and free range grass, they become absolutely beautiful.  There is a jersey bull who loves being petted by people.  He dances around in circles, kicks up his heels and just exudes pure joy at just being alive. When he came here, he was the equivalent of a pimply teenager.  Now he is truly magnificent.  The milk you buy in the store comes from factories where the cows live on cement, can’t lie down, and are not treated with any love.  Every animal on this ranch is happy, has beautiful fur, and lives the perfect life. 

Does it seem impossible that this really exists?  It isn’t.  It’s real.  You can bet my whining will be heard clear to Texas because I am about to experience my first Montana winter.  Today the air is icy and wet in the low ‘40’s. There is snow on high peaks, but these tougher- than- life people insist this is only FALL!  Stay tuned.