“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”
― John Steinbeck,
This new dream began it’s inception at a gentleman’s club in Yankton, South Dakota named the Cockatoo. I was freshly exhausted and inspired from 30 days of Nebraska horse racing. An apparition appeared somewhere between the gleaming red stage and the sultry lyrics of Chip Taylor’s “Wild Thing”. The only direction to possibly head was west. When we left the Cockatoo the only places still open were fast food joints and bars. We started down the highway in our little blazer with nothing but a little cash and a bag of borrowed clothes. I slept in state parks and gas station lots. We traveled almost a thousand miles before we hit the ranch in Three Forks, Montana.
I was welcomed by hounds, horses, coyotes and horsemen of all types. During the visit the apparition to go west changed into a dream to stay west. I could feel my dream that lived in Dodge, Nebraska taking it’s final breath. It was with great sadness I laid that life to rest. I had to let go of livestock and land I had worked endlessly and wholeheartedly to obtain.
What was supposed to be dinner in Yankton, South Dakota ended up being a move to Montana.
Montana! Oro Y Plata, gold and silver, the treasure state, big sky country. Montana, the last best place. Eagles, Bison, Grizzlies, Wolves, Big Horns, Mountain Lions, Coyotes, Mule deer, Whitetails, Bobcats, Elk, Moose, Owls.
I gave up all my possessions for a chance to live in Montana. I went west into the hands of a welcoming and eclectic community of fellow horsemen and dreamers. Thanks to a generous couple of entrepreneurs I am residing in a little trailer house at 6155 Neverfindme Lane. Over a hundred head of horses can be seen from my back door.
All of my life’s struggles prepared me for the trials and tribulations of the tough country here. Make no mistake in thinking living in Montana comes easy. To make a living here and sustain yourself is a constant challenge. Land prices are outrageous. A cheeseburger in town will cost you $10.00 or more. Butter is almost $6.00 a package. In every direction there are plenty of places to spend money and few places to earn it. I spend the day muttering “No Fear!” to myself. If there is a will, there is a way!
Clarkston was once called poverty flats. It’s a rugged mishmash of dirt roads and sagebrush with homes carved out of land that looks inhabitable. It’s a place for outlaws. Radio signal ends on the way in. For better or worse, no one other than fellow clarksonites are coming to help you in or help you out. Earthships, tire homes, and sheds turned into tiny homes tatter the landscape. Street signs are taken down to deter newcomers. This place can set any city dweller accustomed to square blocks and tidy lawns into a total panic. The roads are wash-outs, ridges, holes and dirt. To explore Clarkston is an adventure in itself. It once took me half a day to find my friend’s place in this lost land.
My little blazer with Nebraska plates makes the locals stop and ask me if I am lost. All I can reply is “Not all who wander are lost!”. It is completely possible to live in Clarkston off-grid, independent and surrounded by untamed country. One local claimed she spent 160 days on the mountain without going to town. The folks here clearly understand the price of paradise.
You’ll find the mailboxes in large groups on the flats. If you make it to the mailboxes there is a good chance you’ll get back to civilization. Clarkston stands alone in it’s unique character and the more I visit, the more I appreciate it’s nature. In Clarkston one can see that Montana exists for those who enjoy a little chaos and lots of adventure. The place clearly states Chessonism #364 “Go Hard or Go Home!”
“Giving freaks a pass is the oldest tradition in Montana.”
― Thomas McGuane
“There is just one hope of repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every niche on the whole earth. That hope is the spirited people who will fight for the freedom of the wilderness.
In a civilization which requires most lives to be passed amid inordinate dissonance, pressure and intrusion, the chance of retiring now and then to the quietude and privacy of sylvan haunts becomes for some people a psychic necessity.
Just a few more years of hesitation and the only trace of that wilderness which has exerted such a fundamental influence in molding American character will lie in the musty pages of pioneer books … “
– Robert Marshall