We have all heard tales of strange people living in Montana; the Unabomber, the freedom militias, the poor sods stuck in the Federal Witness Protection Program.
I assure you the majority of people living in Montana are friendly, polite, are reasonably sane, and will go out of their way to lend a hand to strangers.
Now, I am a cynical Californian transplanted in Montana. I cannot help but feel suspicious of helpful strangers.
Oh, the clerk wants to volunteer the use of his truck to haul a new desk to my home, does he? Back off! I know how to use this pepper spray!
This actually happened, sans threats and pepper spray.
I bought a desk at the local Staples, and then realized I had no way to get it to my apartment. The clerk offered to haul it to my place, free of charge and after work hours.
No, he was not hitting on me! The guy was at least sixty years old. He volunteered because I needed help. His no-strings-attached offer blew me away.
Desperate, I agreed. He delivered the desk as promised, said, Glad I could help, and left.
Weird, I breathed. What is wrong with these people?
The clerks admirable attitude is commonly found throughout Montana. Even the children are reasonably polite and helpful.
After three years of living here, though, I remain wary. You can take the girl out of California, but you cannot take the pepper spray out of the girl.
The communities in this state are heavily family-oriented. Community barbecues are held in a park near my home during the summer. Fourth of July picnics, duck races (dont ask), actual church socialsif the event is wholesome family fun it happens here.
I do not attend these functions.
I have more born-again Christian relatives in this state than should be legally allowed. A relative is usually connected to whatever community event is being held.
If I attend a single one of these events, I will be expected to attend every single event following. If I fail to do so, all of my relatives will knock on my door at the same time to find out why.
The above is an example of how closely knit the communities are. Most people here are hardworking, conservative, bible-thumpers. The main topics of conversation are: huntin and fishin, church, children, family in general, and ranching.
For those of us more liberal minded, not married, without children, not ranchers, and disapprove of huntin and fishin any chance at conversation is limited.
Nice people, but a trifle dull.
The crazies Montana is famous for, though, do exist.
A large muscular man lumbered into the local humane society while I was recently there. Dried mud caked his boots. Black hair draped his shoulders. He wore a leather and wool coat over his flannel shirt and jeans. The coat smelled as if he just peeled it off the back of a buffalo.
He asked for his dog in a growling voice, a scary gleam in his eyes. His hunting dog was brought in from the back cages.
The woman behind the desk told the man he needed to buy a license for his dog. He asked why. Every dog needed to be licensed. It is the law.
The man burst into a passionate speech about how licensing dogs was another trick by the evil government to squash our freedom. He mentioned something about mind-control. His muscles seemed to grow along with the scary light in his eyes.
I edged away from the man while I filled out a form for a new license for my dog. Each woman behind the desk kept a polite smile fixed on her face. The older woman kept her hand on the phone.
The man finally grabbed a license form and stalked out of the office, poor victimized devil, and took his stench with him.
What can you say after an exit like that? I hope the big guy is happy pawing the ground with his fellow buffalo men.
Montanas weirdoes come in all shapes, sizes, smells, and personalities, but then people do all over the world.
God bless the weirdoes for making life colorful.