An Old, Broke Montana Rancher's Thoughts on the show "Yellowstone"

Yellowstone film still - The Duttons
Source: Paramount Press

Howdy.  My name is Gary Shelton, and I'm a rancher. 

Flat Broke Ranch
The sign above the road to my ranch.

I grew up in Montana and have always enjoyed Westerns, even though it seems like they don't make as many good ones as they used to do. I like the vistas and the freedom they represent. As a true blue Montanan I also enjoy horses, cattle, and all creatures that make their home on the range. And I don't mind a little shootout or brawl now and then.  Also, I'm the editor's dad, so I in writing this piece I may be the beneficiary of nepotism.

So when Paramount came out with "Yellowstone," with frequent movie cowboy Kevin Costner, I was excited. And now, since "Yellowstone" is one of the most-watched shows on TV, I reckon it's not just me and mine who still like a good Western. 

In short, I am hooked. My DVR is set to never miss an episode. It's action-packed, well-directed, top-notch Montana (well, sometimes Utah) scenery, some of the best horsemanship and horse-flesh you'll ever see, and a dash of romance for the little lady. It's so good and full of action that you can miss something vital if you go to the fridge for a beer. So I have to either rewind the DVR, so I don't miss a second, or line up the beers I'll need next to me before it starts.  

Kevin Costner as John Dutton from the Yellowstone TV Series
Photo Courtesy of Paramount Network (

As we get to the end of season three, I am saddened to hear that they plan only one more year of filming. It's not like there are no more stories to tell… They could make another whole year on topics like low cattle prices, tight margins, droughts, grasshoppers, predators, and poachers. Are you listening producers and directors? If you're outta ideas I'm available to consult.

The Dutton family has already dealt with all sorts of big problems typical of a big ranch: cattle rustlers, brazen biker gangs trespassing on their land, and developers of all types, including a nearby Native-American Tribe trying to build a casino and buy the area they understandably claim as rightfully theirs since time immemorial. As season three nears the end the Dutton family faces the worst possible foe yet, a company with billions that wants 50,000 of their acres to build an airport and ski resort complete with million-dollar homes and commercial strips. Hmmm, that doesn't sound familiar, does it?

Cast of YellowstoneThis may be the only unrealistic thing about the series: if there is a part of Montana that has seen more than it's share of subdividing it is the Paradise Valley. Few large tracts are left. There might be some ranches nearly the size of the Dutton's in Montana, but they sure as hell aren't in Paradise Valley.   

Montana is a beautiful state, and the Dutton ranch, the "Yellowstone" is supposed to be located in the Paradise Valley, arguably one of Montana's most beautiful locales. However, I think the whole of Montana is just as beautiful and not only the Western portions. 

From Troy to Alzada, Westby to Monida, Lost Trail Pass to Ekalaka I have never seen any part of it that I didn't think was attractive. I have seen most of it by the way, in my motorcycle hippy days I rode every paved road in the state, and most of the gravel and dirt ones as well. From the Western forests to the Golden Triangle to the Missouri River Breaks. The whole state is gorgeous. I guess I'm like John Steinbeck, who said, "I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love, it's difficult to analyze love when you're in it." 

Promotional Photo from Yellowstone
Source: Paramount Press
The view from the author's ranch
The view from the highest point in Flat Broke Ranch

And so in the show, the company with the billions offer $10,000 per acre for the afore-mentioned 50,000 acres. And that sorta makes you think, "couldn't the Duttons take the $500,000,000 and in the tax-free exchange purchase a ranch that could make some money somewhere else in the state? After all, there are 147,040 square miles in Montana or 94,105,600 acres. I know I could. Having said that, I think about my own slice of paradise in Montana and after counting the cows and finding them all accounted for, I find myself and my trusty steed at the highest point on my ranch east of Havre and looking to the South at the Bears Paw Mountains. I only have to stand here but a moment to be convinced anew that Montana is easily the most beautiful state in the union.  

On a fine day with the high clouds rafting across the sky this ranch can hold its own for sheer visual beauty with any landscape on earth.  

So I can see why the Dutton's don't want to sell, It's only money $500 million, after all.

Source: Youtube

Leave a Comment Here

Queen Levine (not verified) , Sun, 08/30/2020 - 15:24
Nepotism FTW! Best article on Yellowstone I've read so far. Makes me want to visit Montana and stay for a while.
Jay (not verified) , Sun, 08/30/2020 - 16:57
Come and enjoy....dont stay
Cindy (not verified) , Wed, 09/02/2020 - 09:18
Robert Austin (not verified) , Sun, 08/01/2021 - 11:49
Every since I was 17 years old I've always wanted a small cabin in Montana Close enough to get what I need but far enough away from people But here I am 52And life got in the way So I'll be lucky to visit let alone liveIn such a beautiful state
Saltwater_Hillbilly (not verified) , Tue, 09/14/2021 - 06:00
I grew up just a bit east of the damn childhood a growing boy could have. Running around the mountains drinking beer and raisin hell. Swimming holes...drinking water while swimming lol watching hunting and camping. Making myself homesick. Mom's still there so I got a reason to come back. Great show and article was top notch. Love me some montana huckleberries...pie and in my ice cream.
Ida Steenburgh (not verified) , Tue, 09/08/2020 - 03:24
Love this like everyone else..Montana is beautiful..Had lunch in a real saloon in Butte with swinging doors..And a BLACK ANGUS STEAK
Wcp (not verified) , Sun, 08/30/2020 - 18:04
So very nice to read this article! My dad was from Livingston originally and I so want to go visit again! It was so very beautiful!!
Tam (not verified) , Fri, 10/30/2020 - 21:15
Hi. I grew up in Livingston. It was a beautiful place so was Pariside Valley. Just wondering who your dad was
Lunabear (not verified) , Sun, 08/30/2020 - 20:01
Go there it will change you forever. Everyone from a first time to souls that have packed up and moved there. To me it feels like home, beautiful, peaceful and full of interesting people doing all kinds of things!!
Bev (not verified) , Sun, 08/30/2020 - 22:25
To be immersed in the scenery. To live in a rural town, surrounded by sunsets, Moon Rises cattle ,horses, children growing up free to explore...worth the fight of weather, carpetbaggers, market prices that are not always up.. yes it is love
Sconnie Mom (not verified) , Mon, 08/31/2020 - 07:26
Very well written, and yes, I could send the producers a few more ideas to continue the show. How about Tate as an adult dealing with both sides of his family. Now that would be interesting!
Evelyn (not verified) , Mon, 08/31/2020 - 10:34
I was born in Montana and my Ancestors settle in Bannack back in 1863. Yellowstone shows just how furious a Rancher will fight for land that his forefathers build through all the trials that were thrown at them. There are things that money just can't buy.
Tam (not verified) , Fri, 10/30/2020 - 21:19
Thanks for putting that in. I grew up in Livingston Paradise Valley. IT saddens me that I once knew every rancher in PV. Now I might know 3. Bozeman sucks. MONTANA NEEDS SNOW FOR 6 MONTHS AND EVERYONE WILL LEAVE
Bryan Richardson (not verified) , Mon, 08/31/2020 - 21:58
Say it isn’t so. Only one more season ahead? 😢
Lindy (not verified) , Tue, 09/01/2020 - 12:10
Great article! Have lived in all of the western states and it still feels most like coming home when I can visit Montana. It just feels like I can breathe easier. Sad to hear Yellowstone is ending, I am also hooked, and have to record every episode so I can be selfish and watch by myself later. I envy you your piece of Montana, it looks beautiful!
Mike (not verified) , Wed, 09/02/2020 - 05:44
You would not know it was the last season by the amount of traffic being blocked for thier filming. Couldn't get to my house all day. Had to go the long way.
Tammi (not verified) , Wed, 09/02/2020 - 06:08
I grew up on a flat broke farm in Kansas and I can tell you that the view there is nothing like yours! So beautiful. Montana is on the top of my travel bucket list! Thank you for your well written article.
MG (not verified) , Wed, 09/02/2020 - 08:53
Not only one more season left. They do have an end game and has been said to take 2 or 3 more sessions to get there.
Jenna Chalfant (not verified) , Wed, 09/02/2020 - 09:35
Thanks for writing ! My husband has been pushing this for weeks! I was on the fence about watching , since we have to order it , and I’m a penny pincher - still not sure it will be a Lonesome Dove, but looks pretty good :)
Lara Mijatovich (not verified) , Wed, 09/02/2020 - 14:33
Buy all the seasons! It's worth it. We are almost finished with season 3, having started at the beginning a few weeks ago during our quarantine summer. Yellowstone is fantastic and this comes from a lifelong Lonesome Dove fan. Gus McCrae is on my short list of all time favorite fictional characters (only topped by Huck Finn and Owen Meany). The Dutton family and Rip Wheeler are great. Hell, they're all great. This is the role of a lifetime for Kevin Costner- he's PERFECT as John Dutton. You won't regret the purchase. Beats any movie I've seen a theater in the past 5 years.
GREENER (not verified) , Thu, 09/03/2020 - 08:44

Binge watched the entire series ... getting ready to go on my second round to see any of the small details I missed ... what a great series ... the trials and tribulations, the high and the lows, fun series to watch ...

I agree they could really write another 6 - 10 seasons involving other parts of what ranchers go through.

Thank you for writing this wonderful article, for those that haven't taken the time to watch this series ... in the immortal words of "Mickey Goldmill" (Rocky Balboa's trainer)


Get to it and enjoy !!!!
Terry Peterson (not verified) , Thu, 09/03/2020 - 14:45
Grew up in Livingston and love the Yellowstone Valley, the Bridgers, Galatin Valley and Helena!
Those are but a few beautiful Montana areas!!
Bonnie (not verified) , Thu, 09/03/2020 - 15:16
A former elementary student of mine is a stuntman for Cole so every time he's on I'm looking for a familiar face! That makes the show even more fun to watch.
Le KENOBBIE (not verified) , Sun, 11/15/2020 - 09:06
My first trip into Montana was to visit Custers Last Stand. I grew up on the west side on the Missouri River banks; Gladstone was the original town name, and the town Glass drug himself to after being mauled by the bear. It is now OACOMA, S.D.
East of the Missouri River is similar, fairly flat, and heavily laden with crops. West of Missouri, you begin to see the rolling hills with spots here and there of cattle and horses.
The farther west you go, you get into the Badlands and eventually the Black Hills beginning at the Lead and Deadwood areas, south to Custer SD/State park.
I drove north through the Belle Fouche, SD, into Montana, headed to the distant and desolate area of CLS. Driving to CLS was not much different than parts of SD, with the Buffalo grass swaying in the constant winds that rarely cease to blow.
I was the only one at the CLS site! Without ever leaving the truck, I got the eerie feeling I was not alone. I walked quietly to the area overlooking the battle sites, for, in my opinion, this is a sacred place. The sight of the crosses everywhere where the found men that had died was surreal. The wind howled and the scream of the men and horses dying, the shouting for more ammo, the yips, yelling of the Indians, and the unending sound of the guns shooting could be heard if you listened to the winds talking to you.
My first thought was to walk amongst the crosses and the swaying grasses, but I remembered this is a cemetery and a Historical war site.
I wonder what it is about the living feeling the need to go to war sites where man and animal died horribly. I pray it is to be reminded of what was and never to allow it to happen again.
I drove for what seemed like endless hours as there is not much between CLS and the beginning of GOING TO THE SUN ROAD. Like I have mentioned, in most parts of the Western USA, the beauty begins to shine. I am not saying the grasslands are not beautiful, for my Dad thought there wasn't anything like the AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN.
I had been to the TETONS and looked to them and wondered what it must have been like first to see them than to see where you had been from their view. Driving through Glaciers GTTSR, I imagined what it must have been like to see visions from the view of the stars. Critters so close you could almost touch them, tiny white spots on the mountainside above and below what turned out to be mountain goats literally standing where men could only imagine.
The ruggedness of the mountains looked impossible for a road to be built through. Men have always attempted the impossible only to find it wasn't impossible at all, just improbable. If it weren't for the Jim Bridgers, Dan Boone, Davy Crockett, and many more that just had to see what was on the 'other side,' we wouldn't have what we have today. So goes the road through Glacier.
I drove south from Glacier into the Yellowstone, but you are bored on this trip, so that I will stop.
Le KENOBBIE (not verified) , Sun, 11/15/2020 - 09:09
The ending of the last of the series showed an explosion and a shooting. I find it impossible to believe the main character and the most-watched female will be eliminated.
If that is so, I will find it difficult to continue to watch.
Tamara (not verified) , Sat, 08/21/2021 - 21:31
I was born and raised in a small town called Twin Bridges, in the SW part of Montana, where they have some of the best fishing and hunting in the state. In fact the house I grew up is now a hunting/fishing lodge called Kamploops. Every night when we sat at the dinner table we got to see deer running by in the field, as well as some of the best sunsets. I love my homestate. I currently line Spokane, WA and isn't really the same. I haven't seen the show Yellowstone yet but a couple episodes and need to catch up. It is now all being filmed in Montana and film studio in Missoula. I hope they do more seasons, especially now that they have 1886 when the Dutton family first moved to Montana. This show will bring more to Montana.
Mark (not verified) , Tue, 09/07/2021 - 17:40
Born in Great Falls and lived through out the state. Have worked and driven all over the state. There are no ugly parts just, as a friend from New York used to say "How are things in God's country?" When we talked on the phone.

Too many people t of day and getting worse. Need a month of -35 weather to clear out some of them.

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