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What’s a Montana?

People have asked me--upon learning that I live in Montana--if I ride a horse to school, if I go to the bathroom in an outhouse, if we have running water, and if I’ve seen a bear attack. It’s always funny to see the confusion on their face when I tell them I’ve never owned a horse and that in fact, my favorite way to go to the bathroom is not in an outhouse, but against a tree, under the stars. I usually disregard the water question, and play up the bear sightings, going on about their massive teeth, and fearsome roars. And how they prefer to eat berries and ants and usually run at the first sign of human presence. And then I reassure them that our wifi signal is world class.

Montana is still an unknown place to many people. I’ve heard “part of the great plains,” “near Kansas?” and even “Is that a Canadian province?” And who am I to correct these assumptions? What’s a border, anyway? If someone slips up and drives their Uhaul to Colorado or Alberta, I’m okay with it. If they’re meant to be here, they’ll find their way. The fact is, Montanan’s enjoy the anonymity of being “one of those empty states in the middle”.

And, the coolest part is that it’s not even that empty. Just empty enough. From where I’m sitting in Bozeman’s Cold Smoke Coffeehouse, it’s a fifteen minute drive to the mountains where I could disappear for an hour or a week. And then I could come back with a satchel full of wild huckleberries and watch American Idol in HD if I really wanted. Montana is the perfect balance of open space and culture, and it keeps getting better.

So why am I writing a blog inviting people to come? Because it’s good here, and it’s nice to share. People are friendly. We wave at strangers in the street. My mom still makes walnut cakes for new neighbors. I can look up at a clear night sky and lose count of the stars. And if I wanted to, I could ride my horse to school.

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