A field guide.
Montana attracts eccentrics like Wall Street attracts crooks. We have a long and storied tradition of weirdos, wackos, and wankers: the Unabomber, the Church Universal Triumphant (still waiting on that Armageddon!), “Project 7,” and the Freemen, not to mention all the run-of-the-mill hermits, law-dodgers, and most of the Montana Tea Party. Here’s a guide to identifying our weirdos before they get you to join a cult or give up on society altogether.
Fitness Freaks: Look for shaved forearms, tight button-down shirts, and heart-rate monitors. Conversations will likely center on the latest ultra-contrived gym workout routine designed to approximate walking up a mountain. When you suggest walking up an actual mountain, expect a disdainful eye-roll.
Survivalist Nutjobs: Often observed picking up pallets of ammo and freeze-dried rations at Bob Ward’s, the Survivalist Nutjobs are a Montana original. Underground bunkers, automatic weapons, a personal prophet, and/or an unhealthy fear of all normal parts of human society are indicators that you’re chilling with a whacko.
East Coast Cowboys: An ECC has the best of everything. The best huge, white cowboy hat. The best “distressed” canvas vest. The best fitted cowboy boots, blue jeans, and roper shirt. But an ECC will also have baby-soft hands, an Audi SUV, and some kind of yippy lapdog. Needless to say, ECCs are not real cowboys—they’re just playing dress-up. See illustration.
Bikes-Are-Cars-Too Guys: You can’t miss these folks, since they insist on riding their bicycles on state highway lanes, in busy traffic, and at night with no lights. Despite seemingly obvious evidence to the contrary, these psychos believe they have unlimited traffic rights and visibility equal to a 5,000-pound truck. Time will tell if they're right or simply self-nominating for a Darwin award.
Wolf Nazis: Easily identified by their aggressively nonsensical bumper stickers (“Preserve Montana, Embalm a Wolf!”), Wolf Nazis are best known for persistent historical inaccuracy and blind hatred. Some are ranchers, outfitters, and hunters with a legitimate interest in wolf management, but many are city-living issue-whores taking a ride on the extremist bandwagon.
Eco-Yuppies: These are like normal yuppies, except more annoying. Their “lifestyle” consists of naked materialism disguised cleverly as “consciousness.” Organic chai-tea shampoo, hand-spun merino-wool reusable baby diapers, “reclaimed” blood diamonds—as long as it’s expensive and frivolous (and “sustainable”) they’re on it like fruit flies on a watermelon-infused glacier-water spritzer.