My father and I have different views of Bozeman. Both of us are Montana born and grew up here. I love Bozeman. My Dad thinks it has changed for the worse. For a long time I didn't understand this. What is not to love about this town? The thriving downtown, the mountains, the city opportunities with a small town feel. One day he said something and it all made sense. We were driving down Main Street and my Dad, looking around, said "I understand why people would come here and think this is a great place to be, but I miss how it used to be." I got it then. He was nostalgic for the sleepy town Bozeman was. When it truly was a small Montana town. I have seen Bozeman change, so can only imagine the change he has seen. What he loved and misses…the smallness, I always disliked. I respect what my dad thinks of his town, however, I love what it has grown into. My Bozeman.
I also remember this as a small town. I remember a time when 19th ended at Durston. No Target or Costco…just farms and cows. I remember a time when if you wanted to camp up Hyalite you could pack up Friday afternoon and head up to have your pick of campsites…no reservations required. These were good times and a wonderful place for a childhood. I didn't realize it then. Back then I wanted bigger. I wanted city… I resented living in a tiny town. I wanted more. I ached to graduate so I could get out of here. I decided to stay for college and this is when things began to change. Suddenly I had friends who had CHOSEN to come live here. Friends who would point out the beauty of the mountains I had taken for granted every day. This is when I began looking at Bozeman in a different light, showed it more appreciation. However, I still needed to leave. After graduation, I was packed up and heading West. It only took a day for the homesickness to set in. I found myself yearning for the town I wanted to leave so badly. Within months I was back and before I was unpacked the desire to leave returned. I guess that is what your twenties are for…a time of turmoil and searching.
I left again, this time heading East. It didn’t take long for the homesickness to settle back on my heart. Here is where my realization of how great Bozeman was started to set in. I would find myself reading the Chronicle online to soak my town up, longing to go back. This time when I came back, the restlessness was gone…I was home. Back with a fresh appreciation I began to enjoy Bozeman in a new way. When you lose the desire to leave you get the opportunity to truly love where you are. Bozeman gets many stereotypes. I don't fit into these. What I am is a Bozeman girl through and through. I don't have the desire to hit the slopes or get crazy excited at the first snowfall. But, I understand the mountains calling to you. Mine just call to me in a different way. They call to me in the summer, when the snow begins melting and I have to get to them. In the way of grabbing my hiking boots, trekking up a mountain, standing at the top and overlooking Bozeman. Exhausted from the scramble but fulfilled and at peace with the quiet calmness you only find on the top of a mountain. They call to me in the way of packing up my kids, dog and tent and heading away from civilization for a weekend. A weekend where everything has been cooked over the fire and kids get a little darker because of the layer of dirt on them by Sunday. Unfortunately the winters here are 9 months, but I live for those three beautiful months to play in my mountains. Throw in some of our wonderful lakes and rivers and you have my version of heaven.
I love what more people has brought to our downtown. I don't need a city…we have it all here. We may not have the quantity of a city, but we have the quality. I love that big box stores and chain restaurants have to fight a little harder to get started here. And, if they are willing to fight for it, they have to look a certain way so we don't start resembling Suburbia America. I like even with these choices, most Bozemanites would rather go to local joints where our neighbors are putting their hearts and souls into their businesses. I love with all this change and growth I've seen over the years, it is still a safe and happy community. A place where people still smile and say Mornin’ when you are out for a run. A place where we can send our children to amazing schools. A place where we take care of parks and trails because we know how important they are. It's having the best of both worlds…city amenities with small town feel sprinkled over it. Bozeman offers enough, yet remains unique. We are lucky.
My father and I will always agree to disagree on the subject of Bozeman, and this is okay. I understand he longs for the day of a smaller Bozeman. He understands I have love for a new kind of Bozeman. The Bozeman where you can be standing at the top of Saddle Peak in the afternoon and dressed up downtown by evening. This is my Bozeman. One day I may get the desire to leave again. The calling of the mountains may quiet down and the call of the ocean may get louder. If this happens, I know one thing will may remain true. I will always be a Bozeman girl at heart.