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Gazette opinion: In Montana, crisis brings out the best in us

Gazette opinion: In Montana, crisis brings out the best in us

Roundup fire

Lynn Lipps feeds alpacas on neighbor Ed Raastad's ranch after a fire burned homes at Painted Horse Trail and Porcupine Trail near Roundup in January.

When someone asks, “What’s special about Montana?” the answer is usually something about mountains or rivers or “quality of life.”

Here’s the answer we prefer: Montana is special because people help each other.

It’s as much in the DNA of the state as self-sufficiency.

It’s not hard to understand that in the early days, from tribal life to homesteads, ranches and mining camps, both virtues were necessary to cope with Montana’s challenging physical environment. And across rural Montana (and much of urban Montana too!), that has not changed.

Blizzards, drought, fire, personal issues like disease or injury: Whatever the circumstance, when help is needed, help is given. Without hesitation or reservation — even if the act of helping imposes its own hardship on the helper.

All across Montana in this fire season, examples abound. Ranchers have sent crews — including themselves — to fight fire on neighboring ranches. When stackyards full of hay burned — as well as grazing lands themselves — neighbors did all they could in recent weeks to see that afflicted ranchers’ livestock had enough hay and water to see them through.

Just as COVID-19 brought examples of selfless hard work and sacrifice across the state, so have the fires.

It’s not surprising — anyone who has seen bake sales and GoFundMes and the like for Montana families battling medical crises, or neighbors helping out with branding or cattle gathering, knows that mutual aid is ingrained in the Montana way of life.

When you know you can count on your neighbor when things get tough — and he or she can count on you — that’s when the real Montana “quality of life” comes shining through.

It’s just one more reason this is the best place in the world to live. And the rivers and mountains aren't bad either.

The Billings Gazette Editorial Board includes President and Publisher Dave Worstell, Regional Editor David McCumber, and Chief Photographer Larry Mayer.


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