Honestly, I don’t know what you are expecting.
Oh, sure, you’ve no doubt read about the wide-open spaces, the beautiful Big Sky, the purple mountains majesty, fruited plains, yadda-yadda. And now you want to move here just because of a little flu epidemic over the last year, when you realized you could work from almost anywhere (except maybe Tehran). You’re thinking, of course, of that healthy, satisfying, rural-chic lifestyle, and how you can sell your big-city mega-mansion, buy a nice ranch spread here, and settle in for everlasting peace and a gentle tranquility, with the edifying comfort of your laptop keeping you in selective touch with the madding crowd outside our borders.
Not so fast. Do you really know what you are in for if you move here? Let me help you rethink what could be a hasty, unfortunate decision on your part.
1) Let’s start with the purple mountains’ majesty and all that bucolic jazz. OK, yes, it is beautiful a great deal of the time, except for our new season, which we in Montana call fire season, running from early August until late September, engulfing your marvelous views in smoky haze and coating your lungs with Pompeiian-style ash. No worries, the haze dies out when the first snows start…in September.
2) OK, it is true that we don’t have a lot of traffic, but when we do it is usually because a herd of cattle, ponderous farm equipment, or a thunderous posse of elk is jamming-up the roadway. But, remember, no one honks here. Ever. And that includes the occasional use of your middle finger. Also, you should know that winter driving (October to May) can be treacherous, with an unpleasant mix of blizzard, black ice or massive drifts impeding your travel. BTW the only thing we salt here are our margaritas, and snow tires don’t always cut it. If you own a two-wheel drive, sell it.
3) When we moved to my hometown in the late ‘90s, planes were guided in via windsocks. Eventually someone thought that a flight tower might be a good idea, as it was the start of a new century and all; and we now have dozens of flights daily, with about 2 million passengers expected in 2021. OK, I lied. We do have traffic.
4) Got nice clothes? Haha…forget it. I’ve been to weddings where guests arrive in tarpy Carhart duds, cowboy hats, raggedy shorts, string ties and cow-pie crusted boots complete with spurs, regardless of gender. And, trust me, I don’t even know a woman who wears makeup, though I did see lipstick on a pig once; but that’s another story.
5) Oh, yeah, that reminds me of the dating scene. Ladies, plan on sifting through countless photos of guys with sad eyes, springy beards and trucker caps. Guys, Montana women are beautiful, but you might want to review their pastimes, which often include “unusual” activities like ice climbing, hatchet-throwing and hunting and skinning elk. Their walks are on the wild side.
6) Sports are big here even though we don’t have any professional teams. Our barns aren’t big enough. Ice Dogs hockey is about as close as we’ve ever come. You can, however, participate in a number of lively, even enervating activities, which include skeet shooting (no, a skeet is not an animal), fly-fishing--as frustrating as it sounds--hiking and camping in bear country, and the deep-freeze enjoyment of winter sports like skiing and snowmobiling across faulty avalanche fields, with dependable rescues only hours away.
7) Guns, guns, guns. Montanans LOVE their guns; and have the most firearms per capita in the USA. I know, Google has us far down on that list, but it is referencing registered guns, which is not really a “thing” here. I personally know people who have enough firepower to take on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda at the same time. It makes me a bit queasy to admit that I don’t own even one gun. Maybe I should be rethinking that. You should too.
8) Grrr! Yes, we do have wild animals, and they do mean business. I’m not talking about Dobermans or racoons. Montana has big-boy critters like grizzly bears, mountain lions, bobcats, wolves, elk and moose, each and every one noticeably irritated by your very presence. Trust me and plan to carry bear-spray at all times. Without bear spray or one of those sidearms mentioned above you are a walking meal. And do watch your small pets. Our eagles have an appetite for them.
9) We take great pride in our national parks. Glacier and Yellowstone if you can’t name them. Yeah, I know, Yellowstone is mostly in Wyoming. But Wyoming? Anyway, if you think that by living here you will get to enjoy the parks you can forget that. Both are closed for a good part of the year, and when they are open from mid-May to October they are engulfed in a metallic crush of campers, glitzy RVs, enormous buses from foreign travel agencies, and thousands of cars, motorcycles and trucks, stopping countless times at the sign of any wandering beast, blocking roadways until the gift shops open. Seriously, don’t you people have zoos? And remember, the only time someone from Montana visits the parks Is in early May or October. Even the wildlife leaves for the summer.
10) Finally, remember that you are considering a move to the Kill Zone. That’s right. Kill Zone. Most of Montana, and everyone living here, would be (literally) toast if the 50 mile-wide crater of Yellowstone erupts. On the other hand, it would be quick. The rest of America would take months to expire due to that Pompeian-style ash which would choke all of humanity, wipe out most every crop and, as an added plus, send the entire planet into a nuclear winter…like Montana in January, except all the time.
So, sure, Welcome to Montana! Just be sure to show up in a massive 4-wheel drive, with an uber-casual wardrobe, a trunkful of outdoor gear and a “ready bag” for a quick escape should that become necessary. And, seriously, don’t forget your guns.