It is no secret that the majority of the University of Montana student body is made up of Montana born and raised students (we’re talking 74% in-state). It is also no secret that there are “Keep California Out!” signs on everyone’s lawn (not really).
“Oh where are you from?” – Seemingly interested older Montanan
“Sacramento, California!” – Me
“…I’m sorry…” – Now uninterested and bitter older Montanan
“I’m not 🙂 Thanks for having me!” – Smiling me
Take a minute to listen up. I may not speak on behalf of the rest of the Californians in Montana, but I have a perspective I’d love to share. The second I stepped on University of Montana’s campus I knew that it could be my home away from home. The city of Missoula, hell the state of Montana, felt like hugging someone that you haven’t seen in years. I’ve been here for 4 very short years and no, I don’t plan on staying, but yes I will be back to visit. The reason being that it offered the experience of a lifetime for this particular time in my life.
For anyone who’s interested, University of Montana allowed me to step away from most everything I knew in Sacramento (yes I had seen snow, every year in Tahoe minus the recent winters). I was able to clearly establish my values as a young adult, assess the type of future I wanted, and walk away with some of the best friendships I will have for a lifetime.
You see, us Northern Californians appreciate tall trees, snowcapped mountains, cleaning our campsites and wandering to find that adventure just doesn’t end. I can single-handedly agree that California has some extreme undesirables. But so does Montana (hello Meth Capital), so does Colorado, so does New York, and Wyoming and every other state you can name. How do you think Arizona feels hosting all the frail Montana old-timers looking for warm retirement? Probably a mix of “stay in your own state” and “please contribute to our economy; look we have handicap approved EVERYTHING!”
I’ll leave on this note. The amount of times that people think that I’m a Montanan prior to asking is remarkable. Let’s just say I’ve had to convince just about everyone I meet with a valid California drivers license. My experience with those who are excited to have me is what makes Montana “the last best place”. The nay-sayers couldn’t keep me out if they tried.
By: Lia Sbisa, proud Sacramento Native and Montana Visitor
With all the “fads” that have happened over the last 5 years its hard to keep track of them all. From Man Buns to Flash Mobs, and the Harlem Shake to Tebowing, there have been a lot of fads, and like all fads, they peaked, and then faded out (thank god). However, the Dad Bod was arguably one of the most interesting fads we have ever experienced. Anyone that knows me at all knows that I jumped all over the Dad Bod.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First we need to talk about what the Dad Bod is. The Dad Bod really hit its stride when a sorority girl from Clemson wrote an article for a class (literally exactly what I am doing now) about how this new phase of male physical appearance. The “official” definition of a Dad Bod is “a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time. It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either”.
When I first saw the article I was thrilled. First of all, I saw that the trend was taking the nation by storm, so naturally that made me feel comfortable. Secondly, girls liked it? Apparently girls no longer wanted wash board abs and ripped biceps, they wanted someone fun, someone who didn’t take them self too seriously, and someone who would go to Taco Tuesday or $4 pitcher Wednesday (Missoula, we could really use a bar that does this).
During the peak of the Dad Bod phase many celebrities also joined in, including:
Robert downy Jr.
Obviously with all these A list celebrities embracing the Dad Bod, I figured I needed to as well. When I came to college I was relatively fit. I played competitive soccer 4 nights a week, ran track and cross country. I generally respected my body and my physical appearance. My first year of college I did a good job of working out and trying to eat right. I gained a little weight, which was to be expected. The next two years however, that’s a different story. My Liam Hemsworth esque physique quickly turned to an Owen Wilson esque physique. I traded in my 24 pound dumbbell curls at the gym for 24 ounce IPA curls downtown (that a type of beer for those of you that don’t know). Just like the definition says, I started working out less and enjoying adult beverages and pizza more. By the second semester of my Junior year the trend was in full swing and when people thought of the dad bod, they thought of me……… the following are all from my personal Facebook page
I was so into the Dad Bod that I even bought a shirt, and people posted pictures of me in that shirt on my birthday
But like every other fad, the Dad Bod inevitably died. However, I did try to ride it out as long as I could. I even wrote a speech for my Public Speaking class titled, An Ode to the Dad Bod. I would wear my Dad Bod shirt and embrace the Dad Bod mentality for an entire semester in the Fall. I did finally give up on the Dad Bod and decided to get my life back in order. I cut down on my beverage intake, watched my diet, and lost 25 pounds (shout out to Pneumonia). Unfortunately for now the Dad Bod seems to be dead, and that truly is a shame. I am fully prepared for its return, and hopefully this blog post can jump start that. I know that I will gladly lead the comeback tour of the Dad Bod.
Far in the distance, the Mission Mountains snow peaked caps shine brightly in the sunshine and provide a stark contrast for the grisly scene that lays before us. Only a few yards away, lie the remains of a cow that has only recently perished. Not sensing anything out of the ordinary, I urge my horse to approach the scene to further investigate. We take two steps and my horse balks, as well as the other man and horse next to me. The other man however, doesn’t balk from fear as the horses did, but because he knows that something isn’t right. He has seen this exact same scene before, not a half mile away, and to the exact day one year ago. He knows that this death isn’t a natural one that is to be expected while tending to hundreds of cattle. This was something else entirely.
The first cow ‘mutilation’ that Lonnie experienced was on this same ranch and less than a mile away. On June 24th, 2012, he approached a cow that was healthy only days ago, but lay stiff and still and decomposing today. Time of death, June 20th, the summer solstice. Not sure what he was seeing at the time or why he felt uneasy, Lonnie took several pictures of the body and left the scene to continue with the days work. The next day, he returned with a Lake County Sheriffs Deputy to further examine the scene. Upon investigation, both men concluded that this cow had not died or been further harmed by what most would deem ‘natural causes’. Experts were called in to assess the situation and all walked away in disbelief or with shrugged shoulders. All said the same thing,
“I don’t know”
All they could say for certain was that they had never seen anything of the sort and that they believed there was a human culprit to be found.
The cow laid in a lush bed of grass that had been grazed short until within a few feet of her. Within this invisible boundary, it seemed as if no animal had dared to tread. The Lake County Sheriffs Department called its search and rescue trackers to determine how the culprits approached, operated, and left. The trackers spread out and scoured the property. They could not find any vehicle sign, footprints, point of entry, or any predator tracks on the surrounding property. They looked again. And again. Still nothing. Finally, they looked at each other and shrugged,
“I don’t know”
The cow laid on her right side with a large portion of hide missing from the left side of her ribs, several slits were cut in between each rib, and her reproductive organs had been removed. All of this would be attributable to the work of predators and scavengers had there been any blood on the ground around, but the ground was bone dry. The skin and organs had all been removed with a surgical precision and had been done without spilling a single drop of blood. To verify the findings, an autopsy was performed. A local vet confirmed what they believed and revealed further information.
The arcing cut that exposed the ribs was made with a knife. The heart was also missing and had been removed with staggering precision. She believed that someone had to have done that. The only opening large enough was at the base of the neck. No predator could have removed the heart through such a small opening without damaging the lungs and surrounding tissue. When asked who she believed did this or why, she shrugged,
“I don’t know”
The second cow that was found on this same ranch, was eerily similar to the first. Both bloodless, removed of organs, and untouched by anything around it. This cow had died the night before, the same night as the last. June 20th, the summer solstice. I had heard the story of the first cow several times and was always hesitant to believe. Not that I doubted the multiple sources who credited the story, just that things like this are too wild to really believe. I didn’t know what to think until I personally rode upon that animal scorching in the sun. Having lived my entire life in a ranching community, dead animals and the circumstances surrounding it are no stranger, it is merely a fact of life. After close inspection of this particular animal, I fully believed everything was not as it seemed in the Mission Valley.
Not a single person who viewed the scene could determine who had done this, how they had gotten there, or why. The cow seemed to have been dropped out of thin air after all of the work had been done without a single shred of evidence to be found. If you were to google this topic, thousands of reports can be found from locations all over the world. Many are easily attributable to predators or natural occurrences. Many are not so easily dismissed. There are a great many people that believe this is a great government conspiracy or that extra-terrestrial life is involved. Some believe that it is a combination of the two. What I saw that day didn’t suggest either of those explanations but that doesn’t mean I have a good answer for you. Ask me who or what is responsible for this and I’ll shrug and say,
“I don’t know”
The Smith River has always been a special place in my family’s heart. In August of 1969, my grandparents purchased a 100 x 150 foot lot in the Smith River Canyon for $1200. About 5 years earlier, my grandfather helped others build cabins in the same area and took advantage of the awesome fly fishing. He says “That’s what really solidified that it was the right place…for a family.” My grandmother jokes that it was only the right place for his fly fishing. A few other folks also purchased land around the same time as my grandparents and over time the area has grown into a community of 24 property owners. A large amount of them hail from Great Falls and Helena, with the exception of a few others from around the state. Now a majority of the second generation property owners also have their own children. Their ages range from toddlers to college aged kids. In recent years, the area’s popularity has driven others to purchase land and build cabins of their own.
Fast forward to 2016. My family is now having a hard time relaxing with the thought of a proposed copper mine threatening the Smith. By now, most have heard about the Canadian mining company Tintina Resources, which plans to build its “Black Butte Copper Mine” on private land near the headwaters of the Smith on Sheep Creek. This poses a few different risks. What is known as acid mine drainage can occur. This is when the mining process exposes sulfide minerals to water and air. A chemical reaction then occurs and forms sulfuric acid. Sheep Creek is vital to the Smith’s water flow and spawns half the trout that populate it. Given that fact, the mine drainage could ultimately ruin the world class angling the Smith is known for. On the other hand, acid mine drainage is harmful to people. Local ranchers and property owners rely on the Smith for drinking water and irrigation.
Exposure to high levels of copper can also increase the risk of lung cancer and coronary heart disease. Acid mine drainage can occur long after mining ends, so there would be no immediate way to tell if humans are exposed to it. Another risk of mining is the pumping of groundwater. In most years, the Smith’s water levels become very low. When mines pump groundwater it can lower water levels even more, creating a particularly stressful environment on trout. This would greatly affect the fishing potential. Lastly, mining activities have the potential to expose nasty chemicals like arsenic and lead. These chemicals could drain into the groundwater and pollute the Smith, and no one wants to see that happen.
Tintina Resources, which is essentially a penny stock company, says the mine will produce around 200 jobs. The locals in the nearby town of White Sulphur Springs are particularly excited for a chance to boost their suffering economy. The town has experienced tough times since the local lumber mill shut down around 30 years ago. According to Tintina, the mine is projected to have an active life of only 14 years.
There are a few different reasons we have a right to be nervous about the proposal of this mine. Firstly, Montana has quite a history of failed mines. Mines near Anaconda, Lewistown, and Malta have proven to be disastrous in the past. Secondly, Sandfire Resources, an Australian mining company, has 53% stake in the project. Do we really believe that foreign investors 8,000 away carry the best interests of Montanans in mind?
Thirdly, many mining companies have tried to ease locals by stating they have the latest, most environmentally friendly technology, but we should be weary of these promises. In the past there have been a handful of times that mining operators underestimated the effects their mines had on water quality. Also, mines have what is known as a tailing pond, which has also been referred to as a mine dump. This is basically a pond that stores the chemical waste from the mining activities. Tailing ponds are described as some of the largest environmental liabilities in the mining industry. Tintina says that the mine would be the first to use cement in their barriers to hold the waste in. Speaking about the potential pollution, CEO Bruce Hooper said that “We don’t see any potential — especially with the cemented tailings — we can have any detrimental effects on the environment.” This is a large claim. How can we be 100% sure that nothing will happen to the Smith? The Smith is no place to test out a new science experiment.
The first time I saw the Smith I was still in diapers, and for the last 21 years of my life I have been able to call it my second home. The sight of it is quite breathtaking. There is nothing quite like watching the sunset beat down on the limestone walls or the light of a full moon reflecting off its surface. One of my favorite sounds in the world is the sound of the Smith’s peaceful flowing water. It is a place we go to relax, and reflect on the nature God has given us. When someone experiences the Smith for the first time, there is always a look of astonishment in their eyes. They take in the scenery and are immediately excited to explore what the river has to offer. Whether that is fishing, rafting, inner-tubing or cliff jumping. Whether you are old or young, the Smith has no age limit, but something to offer for everyone.
For the last 47 years, my grandparents have seen the Smith River thrive. My family has been very fortunate to have spent as much time on the Smith as we have. If you have experienced the five-star fishing or the gorgeous multi-day float, you know how important it is. The Smith is Montana’s only permitted river, and the level of demand has increased over the years. From 2006 to 2014 the amount of floaters on the Smith has increased from 3,941 to 5,375. In addition, the total spending by Montana residents and non-residents for fishing was $7,826,683 last year. Total, the Smith brings in around $10,000,000 in revenue for the state of Montana. If anything were to happen to the Smith, these economic benefits would come to an abrupt end.
At 22 years old, it’s a very strange thought that there’s a possibility that I might, in a sense, live longer than the Smith. Growing up around the river, I want my children and my grandchildren to be able to do the same. Learning how to fish from my grandfather on the Smith is something I appreciate to this day. As a lifelong fisherman, he would be heartbroken if anything were to happen to the river and I’m sure many others would feel the same. If the Smith was heavily polluted, nearly 50 years of family history would be reduced to nothing more than a memory. The same goes for the other 24 property owners in the area. Future generations shouldn’t have to hear stories about the Smith and what it once was. A copper mine might create jobs in the short-run but is it worth it? One mistake by Tintina Resources could kill the Smith, and that’s why preserving it is absolutely necessary. Taking a gamble on the Smith River is not in Montanans best interest, so I urge you to take action and say no to the Black Butte Copper Mine. Contact Governor Steve Bullock by signing this petition to save our Smith River for future generations.
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