A recent 24/7 Wall St. website article, "The most, and least, safe states in America," looks at statistics from the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace to compile lists of the top 10 least and most safe states.
Montana didn't make either list. The report, at http://economicsandpeace.org, says we're the 18th most peaceful state in the union. Not shabby, not awesome.
Montana hasn't made other top 10 state statistics lists either: The Center for Public Integrity's least or most corrupt lists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's least or most fertile lists, MoneyRates.com's best and worst for retirement lists, or LiveSciene's 10 most likely states in which a UFO will be spotted — a huge personal disappointment.
So what top 10 states lists do we make?
Well, thanks to a solid grade school education, I know we're the fourth largest state. And thanks to the Internet, I know the federal government lists Montana as No. 8 for total number of acres owned by the feds.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy says we're No. 2 for vehicles per person. The U.S. Census Bureau says we're No. 3 for lowest population density, and, depressingly, No. 9 for lowest personal income. And the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says we're No. 4 for most alcohol sales per capita.
But don't get drunk with your last, lean dollar and drive yourself off a cliff after reading those statistics.
Because despite the fact that we're spending money we don't really have on excess booze and extra vehicles (which don't really go together) to travel across a ginormous, unpopulated state which doesn't entirely belong to us, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranks Montana as No. 10 on the list of happy states.
Apparently, we're happy and we know it, so clap your hands, Montanans.
As for me, though, I won't say I'm happy, but I don't wish to complain of unhappiness.
This is in the same way that I would not say I'm a positive person, but rather what I like to think of as a closet optimist.
The Japanese say: The nail that sticks out the farthest gets hit first. They understand my internal conflict.
I don't want to say I'm happy, to tempt fate into noticing me, taking away my bright, shiny ray of happy sunshine.
Surely, it's something from my childhood that makes me want to keep happiness stashed in my pocket like a candy bar I don't want to share with my brothers. Probably, it's the first parable I memorized as child, the one about the sparrow.
The quick version of this "once upon a time" is that a sparrow decided not to fly south for the winter but eventually found he couldn't take the cold and headed south after all.
He soon got iced up and hypothermic and fell to Earth in a barnyard where a cow deposited a fresh cow pie on him. The bird was demoralized and near death, until he discovered he was still breathing and the fresh cow dropping had warmed him up. So he started to sing.
That's how the cat found him. Then dug him out and ate him.
What we take away from this is:
1. Everyone who, uh, cow pies on you is not necessarily your enemy.
2. Everyone who gets you out of the cow pie is not necessarily your friend.
3. And, if you're warm and happy in a pile of cow pie, keep your mouth shut.
So go ahead and clap your happy hands, Montanans, but don't mind me if I do it veeeery quietly.
(If you're happy and you know it, your face will really show it at http://viewnorth40.wordpress.com.)