A friend in Glasgow tells us somebody he knows has a son “moved away.” He went to Williston, North Dakota. Not that far away actually.
His daughter, though, “stayed at home.” She moved to Missoula. Farther away, but, most important, still in Montana.
There is something that binds Montanans, from Culbertson to Butte, from Whitefish to Ekalaka. There is a sense of community. A feeling of rigid independence, friendship, willingness to help and more than a touch of eccentricity.
They say Montana is one community with very long streets. There is something that unites us. We are different than our neighbors just over the state borders.
We can tell that here at the Havre Daily News in that folks are generally interested in news from the far-flung parts of our state.
That comes as a shock for me, a native New Yorker. Up where I hail from, the boonies of upstate New York, people could care less about news happening in The Bronx or Brooklyn. It was of no interest to us except that for sure it would someday mean higher taxes for us and more services for them.
Montana is not at all like that.
That said, there are some bumps on those massive roads that stretch across Montana.
That’s where the group One Montana comes into the picture.
Parts of the state are generally more rural, generally the eastern part, with more of an agriculture based economy, more likely to vote Republican, more often enjoy a quiet lifestyle.
Then there are parts of the state more urbane, larger cities, more entertainment opportunities, and more likely to vote Democratic. One Montana points specifically to the seven largest cities in the state.
Then, of course, there is Havre. Our economy is based on agriculture, but we are also a railroad town, a college town and a regional commerce center. And, we’re the eighth largest city in the state. We often, but not always, vote Democratic. And we’re exactly halfway across the state.
Dave Henry, administrator at Northern Montana Hospital, calls his facility “a ’tweener,” meaning it’s smaller than the large medical complexes of the bigger cities but way larger than the small community hospitals that dot the state. That pretty much sums up the status of our community as a whole.
Being in the middle, Havre might be in a better position to see the main argument that One Montana is making — the things that unite Montanans are stronger than the things that divide us.
In a guest column in the Havre Daily News earlier this month, One Montana made the argument that the two factions in the state have got to lower the decibel level of the factionalized debate.
The group — consisting of such varied politicians as Democratic former State Rep. Dorothy Bradley and former Republican State Senate President Jim Peterson — argue that as a slightly populated state, Montana residents have to work together if either rural or urban Montana is going to prosper.
For instance, it would like to see food processing centers opened in cities to serve rural areas.
Instead of that, the group decries the increase in bitter incrimination between the two factions.
Rural and urban Montana are not interconnected, they argue, they are interdependent, One Montana argues.
Rural Montana wants what urban Montana can provide — health services, higher education and professional services.
Urban Montana wants the clean air, food, wildlife and recreational opportunities rural Montana wants.
We in Havre, probably more than in any other part of the state, realize the importance of people from all parts of our great state working together. It’s too great a state to be driven apart by partisan interests or sectionalism.
One Montana argues that despite our differences, Montana holds a singular place in the American mythos.
“For many of us, whether we are here by virtue of birth or immigration, once we experience it, we can never leave.”
(John Kelleher is managing editor of the Havre Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 406-265-6795, ext. 17, 406-390-0798.)