The Arts and Culture
If there is a Western culture, a lack of snobbery lies at its heart. Even in the literature it shows: A rancher’s memoirs share a bookshelf with poems that don’t rhyme. Both writers are from Montana, and natives brag on them both. Rural cafés often sell local arts and crafts, whether it’s homemade pottery or country scenes painted on old saws—and locals will buy both. Montanans respect people who are creative; rare is the rural community that doesn’t have a resident poet, painter, or musician. L’art naïf or kitsch? In Montana, as often as not, it’s the urge to express that’s admired; it’s not polite to question the quality of the expression.
From pioneers who kept journals and sent letters back east, to fifth-generation ranchers, to established novelists who have found a home in the state, Montana’s literary tradition is a source of pride to Montanans, who generally read a lot and who positively devour the work of regional writers. It’s not surprising that Montana should harbor such a dynamic writing community. It’s a small step to go from respecting the work of a local rhymester to welcoming a nationally known author to the farm next door.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition