Pillory: Dirt Devils

Pillory dirt road drivers

Calling out the depraved dusters of Montana’s back roads.

Montana is a big state with loads of nooks & crannies, and a small, spread-out population. Which means a lot of dirt roads—in fact, from one border to another, there are probably way more miles of gravel track than asphalt. Naturally, the code of conduct differs on the two surfaces. There’s the friendly finger-wave, for example, on pretty much all dirt roads, but not on most paved roads. To be sure, much of this driving etiquette is subjective and varies from town to town—e.g., safe speed, acceptable number of road sodas, spot-and-stalk hunting—but one thing isn’t, and that’s dusting out others.

You see, ’round these parts, when a dirt-road driver comes upon a runner, biker, or dog-walker, he or she is s’posed to slow down to limit the dust kicked up, and not resume normal speed until well past. Because enveloping someone in a cloud of cough-inducing road detritus is just a mean, inconsiderate thing to do, especially to a person out enjoying a beautiful summer day. Could there be a worse way to have a pleasant walk, run, or bike ruined than finding the fresh, clean Montana air suddenly supplanted with a lung-full of odious effluvia?

And yet it happens. Oblivious—or worse, indifferent—a-holes barrel down dirt roads like moonshiners runnin’ from the law, spewing dust clouds over adjacent houses, pets, livestock, and other people. These rednecked ruffians have all the manners of a rabid badger, so eager they are to get where they’re going, everyone else be damned. So eager to have a great day of their own in Montana’s outdoors, yet so willing to crap on someone else’s. Or maybe they’re so engulfed in their own cloud of vape or ganja smoke that they don’t even notice the hapless hikers and bikers trucking along the shoulder. Either way, they need their tires slashed, their engines disabled, and their asses kicked. They need a day in the stocks.

Alas, we live in a super-civilized world, so a scolding will have to suffice. (We’re not saying don’t kick their asses—it’s a free country, do what you will—just that we can’t officially endorse such behavior in print.) That and maybe a very pointed note on the windshield, should you run into the offending vehicle later on.

Now, we have to be fair—we’ve all accidently dusted someone. You’re cruising along, gazing at the mountains, and all the sudden, you’ve rounded a corner and blown past a nice old lady out for her morning stroll. No problem—just turn around and apologize, maybe with an offering of cold water and some Visine. Who knows, she might even invite you over for a slice of fresh pie. Montanans are a gracious, forgiving lot.

And for all the responsible, decent, well-intentioned drivers, a pro tip: watch the wind. If it’s blowing hard away from the runner or biker, you can keep some speed. If it’s blowing toward them, slow down even more. Same thing for passing vehicles, especially when someone has the window down, elbow out, clearly enjoying the fresh air. Mind the wind and don’t trigger a desperate fumble for the window switch.

Now, to all the real dirt-road rapscallions, who either obliviously or—God forbid—deliberately smother their fellow summertime travelers in swirling dust-clouds: to the pillory!