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
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!!
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.
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.
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