Montanans apparently have been jaded by years and years of outlandish homegrown news stories.

A hermit who labors over an anti-technology manifesto and makes bombs in his tiny backwoods shack? Check.

A sword-wielding candidate for governor who campaigns on horseback? Check.

A Montenegrin "captain" who proposes to open a commando-training center in a vacant Hardin prison? Check.

A Legislature that considers bills to legalize spear hunting? Check.

If Montanans are not completely jaded, how do you explain the relative lack of interest in Neil Livingstone? He is the Republican candidate for governor who claims that he was chased around Argentina by Nazis, broke bread with Russian mafiosi and sailed on a pirate's yacht teeming with hookers.

The Associated Press revealed all those details and more in a story in early March, and the response from Montanans, as far as I could tell, was a mild yawn.

You might argue that Montanans are not apathetic, merely sensible. Since Livingstone is one of about 25 Republican candidates for governor and appears to have no chance of winning the nomination, who cares what he did for a living, or at any rate claims to have done?

A few skeletons

Well, let's put that theory to the test. I have done some deep research -- Livingstone's not the only guy around here with a black ops background, you know -- on the other Republican governor candidates, and I have found some astounding histories.

I dare the people of Montana to ignore these revelations.

Jim Lynch, the former director of the state Department of Transportation, was once the leader of a quasi-religious cult that lived in a polygamous commune 15 miles north of Libby.

These Celestial Arborealists, as they called themselves, lived on elaborate platforms high up in a stand of old-growth cedars, ate pine nuts exclusively, drank only rainwater and professed to understand the language of the chipmunks. Members of the cult all took a solemn vow not to spill the beans, so we don't know what the chipmunks had to say.

Oddly enough, another of the candidates, Bob Fanning, also belonged to a religious cult. Mysteriously referred to in newspaper articles as a "retired businessman," Fanning once was a member of the Lavina Lupercalians.

The Lupercalians would drink wine to excess and run naked through the streets of Lavina, striking maidens with a "shaggy thong" in hopes of encouraging fertility. Fanning is so embarrassed by his youthful involvement in the cult that on the campaign trail he talks of nothing but killing every wolf in Montana.

Chouteau County Commissioner Jim O'Hara put himself through college by working every other year as a trapeze artist for a Bulgarian circus troupe. Why he is ashamed to admit this I cannot say, though word has it he lives in terror of someone finding a photo of him in his old leopard-pattern tights.

Shiver me timbers

Former state Sen. Corey Stapleton, in still another bizarre coincidence, supposedly was at the helm of the yacht full of hookers mentioned by Livingstone. Informants tell us he left the Navy for a career as a ship's captain in the private sector.

During a recent debate, when he didn't realize the microphones were still hot, Stapleton was heard to say "Arghh, matey!" several times quite distinctly. That's what they call corroboration.

Another former state senator, Ken Miller, is, as his campaign literature states, without sin. He has not even been found to have cast the first stone.

However, his flaunting of the most severe comb-over in Montana political history would seem to indicate a potential recklessness suggestive of a certain former president from Arkansas.

That leaves Rick Hill, the former congressman widely considered the frontrunner in the Republican gubernatorial race.

Hill, it turns out, rivals Livingstone in the skulduggery department. Working in consort with Oliver North, Hill once stole into North Korea to obtain a special dish of bibim guksu for U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg.

They had very nearly completed their mission when they were ambushed by a gang of former Italian fascists and interrogated by a hirsute former pole dancer from Serbia named Hairy Kari. They were eventually released, but without the bibim guksu. Rep. Rehberg was not amused.

I'll report on the other 20-some candidates as information becomes available.

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