I straddled the fence at the Mile City Bucking Horse Sale last spring and through my camera’s viewfinder I watched a big soggy horse named Yellowhair buck off one of Montana’s strongest bronc riders. Once done, with head high the cayuse bolted by, knotted mane riding the wind, tail outstretched banner-like.
When the dust cleared, I wondered why we Montanans never tire of the wild side of things? Why we pit ourselves against wild mustangs, face icy prairie’s winds or quest the rage of white water cataracts. There is something special in our spirit out here. Something that drives us, nudges us through the next adventure or conveys us across the next ridge where miraculously another valley opens below.
The answer is all around us. It’s the western way of life we’ve chosen. It radiates in the eyes of new neighbors, the stubborn grit of friends gathering cattle on a rain-soaked morn, on the face of a college girl behind a coffee shop counter, and it is ingrained on the headstones of our ancestors.
It never admits hardness, regardless of how hard things get or how many bulls pile us up. It is a place in time where nothing comes cheap and the most important things in life simply never wear out. It’s the rank of a wild horse, the cheer of a cowboy crowd, the bugle of a late autumn elk, and the choirs of husky voices singing before a baseball game. It is a way special to Montana.