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Articles of faith

A decade-long look back at montana, missoula, and the independent

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1991

“The Forest Service leadership routinely ignored the recommendations of its own biologists and mutely followed orders to increase the timber output each year. It didn’t matter that clear-cutting, a method developed to remove stands of diseased trees, was biologically unjustified in most cases. It didn’t matter that extensive cutting had disastrous effects on water quality, wildlife populations, and scenic values. Nor did it matter that tree farming was an inappropriate management strategy for the high, thin soils of the Northern Rockies. Charged with maintaining the values of public lands into perpetuity, the Forest Service was obviously gearing up to turn the Bitterroot Valley into a logged-out desert. Local citizens were outraged.” —from “The Battle of the Bitterroot” by Jack Thorndike

1992

“The first, and perhaps most formidable obstacle Redford faced in bringing A River Runs Through It to the screen was Norman Maclean. “While the writer wanted to see the book turned into a movie, he did not want it to see it go the way of The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises—two works of American literature turned into Hollywood fiascoes. “’It took him forty years to write it—it was obviously something very deeply personal,’ Redford said. ‘He had a lot of ambivalence about letting it go.’” —from “Maclean, Redford and the River That Connects Them” by Michael Regan
1993

“In Montana, the most visible and powerful of these groups is by far the Christian Coalition. Headquartered in Helena, with a membership its leaders say is “a well-kept secret,” the Christian Coalition fought gay rights legislation during the last congressional session; it regularly attacks progressive organizations such as the Montana Human Rights Network, and also is highly critical of what it calls “liberal ministers” in the Montana Association of Churches.

Critics say the Coalition also supports stealth candidates for school boards.

While leaders of the Montana Christian Coalition are quick to deny their involvement in organized politics, evidence gathered by the Montana Human Rights Network, as well as the experience of gay rights activists and school boards across the state, indicates that the group is part of a nationwide movement with an ambitious goal: the establishment of an evangelical Christian nation.” —from “God’s Country: The Religious Right Forges a Christian Nation” by Andrea Barnett
1994

“Over the course of the busy season, there was but a single tourist attacked by a grizzly. Park rangers determined that the August 28 mauling of Gordon Chandler, a British Columbian hiker, was a defensive action taken by a startled sow defending her two cubs—not an aggressive attack—and no action was taken against the bear.

“After all, Whatzhisname was on a solo hike, quietly walking at twilight down the Ptarmigan Tunnel trail, which is one of the most traveled bear corridors in the Park. Then, upon confronting the bear, he immediately dove into the brush. Chandler wasn’t so much an accident waiting to happen as he was textbook definition of what not to do. Sometimes, we blithely shrug off serious bear-caused injuries to out-of-staters as accidents of their own creation. Often, we even relish them as fodder for a good barroom yarn.

“But as hard as we can be on the tourists, we’re harder still on the bears.” —from “Natural Born Killers” by Erik Cushman
1995

“On April 12, Benjamin Schneider was at his post in the Bitterroot Mountains on a military mission. Packing a semi-automatic Glock pistol with cop-killer bullets in his shoulder-holster, and carrying and M-1 carbine across his lap, he rode in the number-two car in a caravan that wound over Lost Trail Pass in the middle of the night. The goal of the mission that night was the transport of two federal fugitives into Idaho.

“Schneider had been active in the militia movement since he was a child. He had received training in nine different militia camps, where he learned survival skills, paramilitary procedures, and, according to court documents, ‘how to kill efficiently.’” —from “The Patriot Syndicate: The Common Criminal Practices Under the Militias’ Political Rhetoric” by Eric Johnson
1996

“ … a tourist from Illinois tapped him on the shoulder. Seems the family wanted a snapshot taken. Dan must have looked like the friendliest stranger at hand, so they asked him. He begged off, claiming no photographic expertise. My Colorado friend volunteered to snap the photo while Dan and I chatted. I don’t think the tourists ever knew they’d just asked the mayor to take their picture.

“That’s Dan. When I recall Kemmis’s time as mayor, my recollection will be of Dan’s easy, casual visibility throughout Missoula. Dan walks everywhere, and rides the Mountain Line. Anyone who lives or has business downtown or around the university sees him regularly. And if you just come down for Farmers Market or Out to Lunch, you know you’ll see him there.” —from “The Mayor Walks,” by Bill Chaloupka
1997

“In the heat, dust and blaring tejano music outside the Flathead Cherry Growers Association’s processing and packing plant last week, shirtless workers scrambled to unload the apparent benchmark crop off trucks, and into the plant’s system of conveyor belts, cooling tanks, and automated and human sorting systems.

“Most are not migrants, but local seasonal employees. As fast as they work, though, the truckloads come in faster.” —from “Pie in the Sky: Migrant Workers Chase the American Dream Through Flathead’s Cherry Orchards” by Dan Oko
1998

“The pretext for our trek to his country spread just outside the don’t-blink Bitterroot Valley hamlet of Victor is Axton’s contribution to a benefit CD packed with Montana blues and jazz types, raising cash for Missoula’s new Boys and Girls Club.

“The real draw is Axton himself, 60 years old, an emissary from musical days past. He moved to western Montana eight years back and, since then, has piqued all kinds of prying wonderment. The recording artist with 24 albums to his credit, the songwriter behind ‘Joy to the World’—the unavoidable, athemic version by Three Dog Night is practically the lodestone of classic rock—Axton has forged a name for himself in the Bitterroot by his absence as much as his presence.” —from “Joy to the World: The Life and Times of Hoyt Axton” by Zach Dundas
1999

“Diana faces tremendous obstacles to finding work at all, in part because of her educational level and where she lives, but also because Matt requires constant supervision when he is not in school. Few employers are willing to work around Diana’s necessarily erratic schedule. The average teenage baby sitter is not appropriate for a boy his age, and a home nurse is far beyond Diana’s means.

“‘I was told by my FAIM case worker that I should consider putting my son in a group home, that I should sell my house. Hey, it’s not much, but it’s all I got,’ says Diana. ‘Is that the only way for me to get off welfare, by giving my child away?’” —from “Hard Times: Looking Back on Welfare Reform in Montana” by Ken Picard
2000

“As a pickup truck slowly crawled through the crowd, revelers drew themselves to it, clinging to the sides, jumping in the back, riding on the sideboards. Then, as the truck crossed Higgins and onto East Front, a young woman fell off and tumbled limp onto the asphalt. There was a beat of hesitation, as if no one quite understood what had happened, and then suddenly there was a flurry. People administered aid, grabbed cell phones to call an ambulance, and a few even sought out cop cars parked discreetly in the alleys in the hopes of getting help. But for just under 12 minutes, no one arrived. When the paramedics did pull up, close behind them were some 50 police officers, this time covered in riot gear.” —from “Hell to Pay: Who Will Pay the Price for the Missoula Police Riots?”

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