A roaring fire is ablaze near Hamilton, Montana which is approximately 170 miles south of Kalispell. Roughly 1,000 people have been evacuated from their homes due to the looming flames of the Sawtooth Fire. It’s definitely got to be uncertain times and also scary for the people of the Bitterroot wondering if they will have homes to return to, not to mention the threat to their livestock.
My family and I are now Montanans that live in wildfire-country as opposed to when we were Louisianans living in hurricane-town, and I’m thanking my lucky stars that the only inconvenience we’ve experienced from forest fires is smoke hovering over the valley making the air feel thick and nasty. Honestly, the thought of fire sweeping across the mountains is a trifle more nerve-wracking than the thought of a Category 2 hurricane taking aim at my door.
I knew about the fires before I moved here, and I accepted it as part of the package of moving to this glorious place.
This is where I get to the point.
A couple of weeks ago, Hurricane Isaac was barreling down on Southeast Louisiana. Hurricane mania is still in our blood and David and I tuned in to a New Orleans news stations to keep track of what was happening with the situation down there, as we have family living in the metro area. Regular postings from my facebook friends also kept us up to date.
As I watched and peeped on facebook into the goings-on about Hurricane Isaac I thought of a sidewalk chat about Hurricane Katrina that I had had with a neighbor when I first moved to Montana. That memory prompted me to post the following status.
“Once I was asked by a native Montanan,” WHY would anyone live in a place that is below sea-level that floods and has hurricanes?” I responded by asking, “Why would anyone live in a place with wildfires and grizzly bears?”
Those simple words struck a chord with my southern friends. It was not the first time they had heard insults and negativity about where they live. I have no conclusive explanation as to why the south gets criticized as it does, other than to guess that the misunderstanding dates back to the Civil War.
Whether from the north or south, or someplace in between, people always seem to feel free to give advice and chastise things and cultures they know nothing about. And I dare say, some of my southern friends who have never traveled above the Mason Dixon Line have asked why I would move to Montana, a place so unbearably cold.
These types of questions and comments don’t really bother me, unless they’re said in a snooty way. I like that people are interested, (most often they are not) and am happy to oblige and answer as best I can. With that said, I prefer to think that human beings are simply curious creatures and not insensitive dolts.
Isaac turned out to be a slow-mover which is not a good thing when it comes to being in the path of a storm. Parts of coastal Louisiana flooded, there was wind damage, and also the usual power outages. But for the most part, there seems to have been little suffering.
I wouldn’t dream of asking the people of the Bitterroot Valley why they live in a place where wildfires could destroy everything they’ve ever owned. I think I know why…it is for the love of Montana.
Be gentle the next time you are overcome with curiosity about a person’s choice of where they live. For them, it’s probably God’s country.