I could easily be the grumpy grandpa and lament about losing the “good’ol days.” I could also be another jaded local who wants to blame everything on all the new imports. I’m not going to play that game. It’s regional bigotry. I don’t care where you happened to be born. All that matters to me is that you are a decent human. There’s plenty of my fellow native-born Montanans who think they are special simply for the luck of their parents copulating here, and most of them don’t even recognize that their ancestors were unintentional tourists less than 200 years ago. So, they feel justified in complaining about the Californians who moved in next door. It’s a bunch of crap – imagine how the Native Americans feel. So how do we keep these “Montana” ways from fading into memory? We remind people about them, and why they are important.
I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend. It’s a small thing, but very much a part of our culture here in the 406. If you are driving down a dirt road in Montana, it is required of you to acknowledge traffic coming the other way. You don’t need to make a big production out of it. Two fingers off the steering wheel will suffice. It says “howdy, we live in the most beautiful place on Earth, enjoy...” This is an unwritten but understood rule. Your political affiliation doesn’t matter. Nor your gender or race. It just happens. You will always see an acknowledgment through the glare of my dusty and bug-spattered windshield. I really hope that I get one back.
During our long winters here, everyone keeps a shovel and a good tow strap in their rig. If we see someone stuck, we immediately pull over to help. It’s pretty much a Montana pastime. The biggest truck to join in will be the one to pull, while the rest of us pile out and push. It’s a team/community effort that ends in a round of cheesy high fives. Join us. It’s fun.
Montanans are known for being rather friendly. Some of you who came from the city might find it odd that we smile at strangers walking down the street. We make eye contact and sometimes say “Hello”. We aren’t weirdos. There’s nothing threatening about it. We really are just genuinely kind people. So, smile back, grant a little head nod – just acknowledge the kindness and pass it on.