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News of the Wild: Montanans as Wildlife

On a recent trip to Helena, I was reminded just how much, and why, I love Montana.

I spent one of the strangest days of my life driving around the bumpy dirt roads of the North Helena Valley to question residents who were looking for bombs.

Yes, bombs.

Dameon Matule, Dillon Kato and I drove around scouring yards for rusty fragments of old military artillery. We peaked behind toilets used as landscaping decoration and made friends with ancient fat Labradors.

Then it hit me.

While Montana is phenomenal for all of the reasons I have already described in this blog (i.e. being involved in a battle of wits with turkeys or the ability to harass wolves in town), it is the wilderness of humans that makes our state truly unique.

We had trouble locating the unexploded ordinance we wanted to photograph. One of my sources, Roger Nummerdor, mentioned that there had been explosions the weekend before just west of his house. He recalled how the house windows had shook and smoke was billowing from an area in a field. He was pretty sure this was a part of the effort to clear the valley of military munitions and pointed us in the right direction. A resident of a nearby house informed us that the neighbors were simply shooting at explosive devices in their yard.

We were in a residential area, and they were shooting. This, of course, is illegal.

They were shooting at objects that could explode after being hit, which is also illegal. But no one in the area seemed to think it was a big deal. I thought it strange, but considering the entire neighborhood is being scoured for highly explosive projectiles left over by the military, maybe it’s really not such a huge deal.

We spent an entire day dealing with skittish residents (thanks to Dameon’s camera) and false tips on which resident was collecting UXOs. We decided to give up and go home.

I finished a project on campus that day and returned to what I had perceived to be my “normal” neighborhood at around 4 a.m. I found my very intoxicated neighbor had crashed into the ditch and his car was smoking. Of course I stopped to make sure he was alright, and my neighbor then attempted to coerce me into going to get his truck at home to pull the car out of the ditch.

I then told him that I could give him a ride home. I suggested that he deal with the car in the ditch in the morning, but when he refused, I informed him I would not give him a ride if he intended to drive again tonight. He proceeded to cuss me out, and I drove off. Cop lights shortly emerged in the distance behind me.

His car was gone in the morning.

While it was a rather stressful and bizarre day, it reminded me that it is the people who make Montana so unique. Also, the rest of the country’s stereotypes considering Montana folks are probably not quite that far off.