Area couple's move to Montana to be featured on HGTV
January 23, 2014
Correction: The print version of this article incorrectly named the ranch where Steele and her fiance live. It also incorrectly name the TV show they will be in.
HGTV filmed an episode of "New Home, New Life" last week with Shirley Steele, who moved to the Missouri Breaks from urban Florida in 2010.
Steele said she and her fiance, Jeff Simmons, contacted HGTV after seeing an ad calling for people who have given up their 9 to 5 job to move to the middle of nowhere.
Steele said at first she did not like the idea of being on television but wanted to get her story out there to help others who may be wanting to drop everything and go.
"This is my life," Steele said. "I felt such an urge to share my story with other people who may not have the guts to move or are stuck in a rut - to say you can do this."
After she and her fiance sent them a letter, HGTV contacted them to do a Skype interview and decided they wanted to use their story for an episode of "New House, New Life."
For the show, the camera crews had Steele and her husband recreate their life in Florida and their move.
Steele and Simmons were living along a beach in Florida in a condo, "with dolphins at play" in her backyard.
"(Jeff) comes home one day and says 'what do you think of Montana?'" Steele said. "Next thing I know, we're packing up everything and moving."
She and Simmons packed their three cats, two dogs and anything else that would fit into their four-door Jeep and made the journey from Florida to Montana.
Steele said she was surprised when they arrived at the Missouri Breaks and discovered what gumbo was.
"It's weird. We have one of the best vehicles ever for the area," Steele said. "But we came down the east hill slipping and sliding."
Steele said it was amusing watching camera crews navigate the hills in their rental cars. The crew stayed at the Chinook Motor Inn and drove out every day they needed to shoot footage at the ranch where Steele and Simmons now live.
"We did filming along the route between Chinook and the Breaks," Steele said. "And they brought in a remote-control helicopter to do some aerial shots."
The crews filmed the new Montanans working cattle and highlighted Steele giving up her career in Florida as a police officer and beginning her career as a photographer.
Steele said she has always had an interest in photography and, after leaving the police force, has dedicated her time to it.
"I'm out here in this gorgeous area ... and I've found so many things to shoot that I want to make it into my career," Steele said.
She said she and Simmons left their lives in Florida for many reasons, including the traffic, people, crime and her fiance working 100 hours a week. Her fiance worked in the produce industry and was always gone at work, Steele said.
"Originally, this was his idea," Steele said. "He's always done agriculture, and he wanted to go back to working with cattle - to do something different with life."
Steele said she was quick to jump on the idea of moving to Montana.
"Initially, this wasn't my dream," Steele said. "But, being here, I've turned it into making my dream also - to work with my husband and his desires and making it on my own with my photography."
Though the idea of moving to Montana was somewhat sudden, Steele said she has always wanted to visit.
"Montana was somewhere I always wanted to go since I was younger," Steele said. "The wild horses, the scenic vistas; they have always called to me since I was a little girl."
Steele and Simmons work on the Liddle Ranch and she said she is very grateful to Caroline Liddle for allowing them to tell their story to the film crews.
Steele said that though some of what HGTV filmed was a recreation, their story is real.
"People can give up their 9 to 5 job - give up their comfort zones. They can make a whole new life for themselves ... ," Steele said. "We wanted to do (the show) for others and all the right reasons - to say you can take a risk in life and grab life by the horns. Sometimes you have to take the risk and find out you're actually happier for it."