Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Lee Friedlander, Montana, 2008

I grew up in a state bordering Montana and am always surprised at how few times I have visited and how little I know about it. My first memory of Montana was crossing into the border from Northern Idaho and stopping at a small convenience store to buy ingredients for S'mores when I was 12. That night while camping, the graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars made an appearance. After biting into a delectable looking dessert, we realized it tasted funny. After a few minutes, someone thought to look at the expiration date on the box of crackers and noticed they had expired six months before my birth, 12 years earlier. For many years, my experience with Montana was associated with (very) stale graham crackers.

In the summer of 1995, I traversed slightly further into the state by visiting Glacier National Park with a friend from undergrad. I remember high snow along the road in the middle of July, a hike above the treeline, and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation to the East. I was also impressed with the scale of Flathead Lake.

Perhaps I had also visited Montana with numerous trips to Yellowstone but it is hard to know what states overlap the park when there are no "Welcome to Idaho" or "Welcome to Montana" signs in the middle of nature when the park is predominantly located in Wyoming.

When I moved to Indiana, my father and I traversed the southern portion of the state in an effort to avoid driving through Nebraska from Oregon. We drove up through Idaho Falls into Dillon, Butte, Bozeman, and Billings before heading south to Sheridan, Wyoming. The most meaningful trip and incidentally, my last visit, was driving from Indiana to Vancouver, BC on a 71 day road trip in 2008. I don't remember much of I-94 arriving from North Dakota but I distinctively remember seeing mountains for the first time in 10 months and their white capped peaks on the horizon brought tears to my eyes.

Chris Toalson, Madison Valley, Montana, 2009

Evelyn Cameron,
Buttes in the Badlands of Eastern Montana, c. 1900

Ian Van Coller, From Growing Up Montana: Lake Louise

Ian van Coller, From Growing Up Montana: Iceboats

Montana is Big Sky Country. It's a land with limited cellphone reception, taxidermy, skiing resorts, fly fishing ("A River Runs Through It") and that's all I can think of right off hand. That will change as of today. My trip occurs during a season I've never experienced in Montana. Somehow boots, a puffy coat, hat, long underwear and a big scarf all crammed in my carry-on in addition to clothes. Bozeman and my Visiting Artist gig at MSU - here I come.

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