The Real Montana

Don’t Believe Everything You See in the Movies

I’m sure I’m not the only Montanan that was slightly distressed when I started watching the series Yellowstone. No offense to the writers and producers but talk about a creative depiction of what it’s like to live in Big Sky Country

Yes, we have incredibly beautiful vistas, tough ranchers, sexy farmers, and probably even some buckle bunnies – although I’ve never met one personally. We also have more than our fair share of mega-millionaires. What we don’t have is the vigilante-style mafia – at least as far as I know. Let’s just say that you won’t find a lot of dead bodies dumped at our train stations and human beings bearing the brand of their employer. We ended up loving the series once we got passed the sensationalism but I felt compelled to set a couple of things straight.

The real Montana is full of hard-working ranchers and farmers along with a lot of people who just love the lifestyle. The winters are cold, harsh, and long. The summers are hot, short, and (lately) smokey. There’s something different in the DNA of a native Montanan. Probably because of the harsh conditions and deep survival instinct. Native Montanans wave at passing cars, smile and make eye contact with strangers, and help each other out in times of need.

Mr. Fixit and I are native Montanans. Both of us left for a while, met in the city, and made a quick decision to return to our home state. When we did, our friends thought we were crazy. They asked if Montana had functioning plumbing and electricity. Then an incredible movie called A River Runs Through It came out. Suddenly Montana was on the map. For the last thirty years we’ve watched as cinematography has impacted the Last Best Place. I’m not saying the impacts are bad, but there are impacts. 

The most perplexing impact is the folks who move here, sometimes sight unseen, with completely unrealistic perceptions of what it is really like to live here. Anecdotally, many of these newcomers wash out after a year or two and return to more hospitable climates, glutting our housing market with high-priced homes and perpetuating the distinction between new residents and natives.

If you haven’t been to Montana, you should absolutely visit, but relocating is a completely different kind of rodeo. You truly need to experience 30 below zero wind chills and the potential for snow any given month before you purchase property. My advice is to commit to living here for one year – including January through April – and then decide if you want to put down roots and join the Montana way of life, including eye contact, neighborly attitudes, and an affinity for sharing and caring for our great outdoors. 

As Mr. Fixit says, wealth can buy you a ranch in a rugged place, but it cannot buy you ruggedness.

The opportunities for your next Montana adventure are unlimited and Cherry Creek Guest House is ready to serve as your home away.

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