Obama does Montana … and vice versa


Preparing to be in a Montana town hall with the president of the United States on August 14, 2009: First think about what to wear. Faded jeans? That would be Montana-ish. But notice a hole worn right though the old denim. So not the faded jeans. Maybe the dark blue jeans that haven't faded yet -- that would be dressier and kind of Montana-ish. But technically the blue doesn't go with my best blazer, which is somewhat the color of a spruce tree. So the black jeans, faded to a unique dark gray that goes either with everything or nothing.

Then walk around the house grabbing what I need to bring. Pads for taking notes, and three or four pens, and the snapshot camera because a snapshot is better than nothing. Get on the road, feeling hurried, checking my watch for how I'm doing on the time. Spend minutes in Bozeman city traffic, get on the frontage road beside the interstate, get up to 60 m.p.h. -- hoping the tinny old Nissan pickup will hold together, same thought any time I drive it anywhere.

Raindrops begin tapping the windshield. A surprise. Riding my get-to-town-hall rails, I hadn't noticed the various clouds swirling overhead -- and that magical scene of some clouds strung low along the mountain fronts, clouds sneaking into canyons below the peaks. A smile -- nothing I ordered up -- comes over my face. Even at my age (59) it's possible to feel a touch of enthusiasm without reservation.

President Barack Obama! Here in my town!

Two sheriff's cars zoom past, like mechanical wolves with flashing light bars ...

About Ray

Ray has been a Western journalist since 1979. He's now High Country News senior editor, based in Bozeman, Montana. He's earned national recognition including a George Polk Award for political reporting, a Sidney Hillman Foundation Journalism Award for investigating oil-field accidents, and an Investigative Reporters & Editors scroll for going undercover as a prison inmate. He's had three novels published.