Leaving home for the first time, you learn a lot of things. I, for instance, learned that other people’s mothers don’t use words like “drek” and “schlock” or tell stories about smoking weed in college, and most kids my age don’t have fathers who enjoy listening to showtunes and consider a beer and a chunk of cheddar cheese to be a well-rounded meal. However, most of the things that shocked me were related to Montana. For instance, every child who spent their formative years in my home state knows certain songs. Like this one:
My home’s in Montana,
I wear a bandana.
My spurs are of silver,
My pony is gray.
While riding the ranges,
My luck never changes.
With foot in the stirrup,
I gallup away.
(There are more verses, but I’ll stop there.)
I was flabbergasted to find out nobody else knew that song. I thought it was one of those tunes like “You’re a Grand Ol’ Flag” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” that all Americans knew somehow. You don’t remember learning the words ever, but you could probably sing most of the song right now. Well, it turns out it’s more like the Montana state song or the U of M fight song that only folks who run in (ahem) certain circles would know.
The reason I thought of this is because a close friend of my friend Jen recently moved to Missoula to go to graduate school, having never really spent time there. This girl, who we’ll call Andrea, sent Jen an email after she’d been in Missoula a week, saying she was pretty sure she moved into the middle of nowhere, citing the following arguments:
1. There is no Sprint store in Missoula. Andrea has a Sprint cell phone.
2. There is no Bank of America in Missoula. Andrea uses Bank of America.
3. DHL doesn’t deliver to Missoula. Apparently this is a problem for some people.
4. She couldn’t find anywhere to get a beer after 8 PM.
Now, when Jen told me these things, I responded with, “Oh yeah,” “Uh huh,” “Nope,” and “What the hell? She’s clearly going to all the wrong places.” But it never even occurred to me that any of the first three statements would be issues for someone moving to my hometown. Why not just get Verizon, use Wells Fargo, and ship FedEx like everyone else? (Oh, and I definitely got Andrea’s email address from Jen and sent her a list of no fewer than ten bars in her neighborhood that most definitely serve beer until 2 AM when they only close because it’s required by law.) Jen was pretty sure Missoula was in the third-world by this point.
Now I’m wondering what other things are totally normal to me but would seem crazy to all of my friends. Indian reservations that actually have Indians living on them and don’t exist purely to house casinos? Getting your drivers license when you’re fifteen and using it to cruise the drag with your friends on Friday and Saturday nights until curfew? Living a Nordstrom- and Ikea-free existence? Going to the rodeo every August and eating fry bread topped with butter and honey?
I can’t even imagine.