Sunday, March 16, 2008

Time To Mend Those Fences

Boy, the Democratic hopefuls are in for a dose of culture shock! It looks like the June primaries, of which Montana is one, will play a role in the nomination process. Probably for the first time ever. So both are slated to make a swing through Montana for the Mansfield-Metcalf dinner, the annual Democratic party fundraiser, in April.

Can you imagine either Hillary or Obama resonating in Montana?

The dinner will be held in Butte, of all places. We were just there Friday night and had a superb dinner at the Uptown Cafe. We had read about it in the current Montana Magazine and had to give it a try. It's run by a couple of folks from Pittsburgh, PA, my old home town. Who'd have "thunk" it??

Gourmet dining in Butte is the antithesis of the what the city is all about. It had been dying for decades as the largest open pit copper mine in the world literally ate the city. It's most famous son is probably Eval Kneival. Yet it has clung to life with a tenacity that is indicative of the state. It will be interesting to see how both Clinton and Obama are received. Generally speaking Montana men are not chauvinistic. The women are strong. It is a predominantly white state except for the Indians.

There is some time for the candidates to get over this "she said something racist about me" and "she called me a monster" rhetoric and zero in on some specifics before they get there. And get over what acquaintances, current and prior, have said. Who among us hasn't had a friend say something that has made us cringe?? Whining isn't a part of a Montanans make up.

The state is a mixed bag. Though small in population, their issues run the gamut. You've got the environmentalists, wheat and cattle ranching and huge economic issues in the cities. It will be interesting to see how these candidates play.

Following is a little of what it's like there. We had gone over for the Charlie Russell Art Show and Auction in Great Falls. Being Montana, you drive a lot to get anywhere. We poked through snow showers to Missoula Thursday; had dinner at our favorite steakhouse that has a Wine Spectator rated wine list. Cowboy boots and fine wine.

Next morning it was on to Great Falls via Lincoln where the deer were converging on the town for breakfast and the snow was still up to the door handles of the van. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, hid away there for years.

Across Rogers Pass and the snow disappeared. It was shirt sleeve weather in Great Falls. On our way earlier than expected we detoured to Bozeman, through more snow squalls, to visit a friend who has a gallery and listened to tales about the politics of the Russell. Yep. Even fundraisers for the museum are full of politics. You can't escape it. Politics.

Then on to Butte and the unexpected pleasure of the Uptown.  About halfway through dinner we looked out the window to see a full fledged blizzard had descended.  Spring time in the Rockies.

Fog and ice and 19 degree temperature greeted us in the morning but we were out of it and back to shirt sleeve weather by the time we were back to Missoula.

Such is the nature of Montana.  Mercurial, to say the least.  To say that the folks we chatted with about the upcoming visits were enthralled would be an overstatement. What they are concerned with are the issues that concern them.  Just like a lot of us.  And like a lot of us, they have little time for the petty bickering.  They want to know what the candidates want to do and how they intend to do it.

They care a lot about broken fences.  Many of their livelihoods depend on it. If the candidates want their votes they need to mend some fences. Lead, follow or get out of the way. Got work to do.


Phil said...

The Uptown Cafe in Butte? I think that was the place that was closed on a Saturday in August at 1pm as we stumbled around downtown Butte looking for someplace to eat that didn't have the word "tavern" on its sign.

Dogwalkmusings said...


Could be but they say lunch is what makes their business so I can't imagine they were closed. This is really uptown, also. Wyoming and Broadway - and it's not a Cafe in the general sense of the word!

Regardless, too bad you missed it!

david said...

Nice summary of what makes Montana so amazing. Hope you enjoyed your visit to Great Falls!

Dogwalkmusings said...

David, thanks for stopping by. I'm married to a Montanan, fell in love with the state on my first visit and the love affair continues to this day.