When I proudly tell people I am from Butte, Montana, I find the typical response is a look of disgust with a quick and sarcastic apology. I have even had people tell me I should refrain from mentioning that. Butte is a unique town to say the least.
Butte has an awful reputation that is commonly known across the Big Sky country. There are a lot of common misconceptions about my hometown and I am here to convince you otherwise. Butte is a city full of fascinating history and has a one of a kind story. These are my top 7 reasons Butte is the best town in Montana.
1.) Butte is full of firsts
Butte is the most historical city in Montana, by far. It was even one of the first cities west of the Mississippi River to get power! It was also one of the first mines to strike for a safe workplace and a union. Butte is one of the very few cities in the US with an open container laws, meaning you can walk around town with an open beer in your hand.
2.) The “Big M” mountain
The “Big M ” mountain is an extinct volcano located at the top of the city. In 1910, the engineering students of the Montana School of Mines built a 67 feet tall and 75 feet wide letter M on the southeast slope of Big Butte. This ‘M’ is lit up by 150 lightbulbs at night. And on a night any sports team from Tech wins, the ‘M’ flashes in a “V’ for victory all night.
3.) St. Partick’s Day
Butte has the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the United States per capita. From a 57 float entry parade to drinking green beer, Butte knows how to celebrate. It is so huge and widely known that you can watch a 24 hour live stream online of the festivities!
4.) Oldest Chinese-American Restaurant in the US
Butte has the oldest Chinese-American restaurant in America. Yes, you read that right, in Butte, Montana The Pekin Noodle Parlor is the oldest Chinese-American restaurant in the US currently running. This restaurant made its debut in 1911 and had been a tight family run business since.
5.) Butte is the Richest Hill on Earth
Butte gained its nickname “The Richest Hill on Earth” thanks to its mining of gold, silver, and copper. Mining has always been huge for this town. During WWI, the bullets used were composed of copper, meaning that Butte supplied the copper for ⅓ of the bullets used as well ⅓ of the copper supplied in the United States.
6.) Evel Knievel
Butte is home to the famous Evel Knievel. Evel Knievel is a professional daredevil and stunt man. During his career, it is estimated that Knievel had suffered more than 433 bone fractures, earning an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the survivor of “most bones broken in a lifetime”. He has since been buried in Butte.
7.) The Lady of the Rockies
Now this is a tear jerking story. The statue was the brainchild of Bob O’Bill who promised the Virgin Mary he would build a statue if his wife recovered from the cancer from which she was suffering. His wife recovered and O’Bill, with the help of many in the city of Butte, began building Our Lady of the Rockies in 1979. With the help of 70 volunteers, the third largest statue in America was erected. This statue can be seen from anywhere in Butte and it is lit all night!
I told myself I would stop crying after I got the call. I told myself I would stop crying as the words crashed like waves into my ears over the line. I told myself I would stop crying when I heard my dad’s voice crack as he told me you were gone.
I told myself I would stop crying as my feet stumbled across the weathered bricks and the rain sizzled as it kissed the hot tears that rolled down my face. I told myself I would stop crying while my fingers shook as they hovered over each number to call anyone to get me out of there. I told myself I would stop crying as I sat on the bone-cold bench waiting for a bus that felt like it was never coming. I told myself I would stop crying as I sat on the bus not giving a single care about the stares that danced on and off of my red and puffy face.
I told myself I would stop crying as my feet drug me home through the puddles and I fell into the arms of a friend. I told myself I would stop crying as I stood in the center of my room bargaining with God to bring you back. I told myself I would stop crying when my sister’s voice came across the line asking if I was okay. I told myself I would stop crying when my answer was “no”. I told myself I would stop crying when the thought that you wanted this kept screaming from the peaks of the mountains in my head.
I told myself I would stop crying as I dressed myself to sing the National Anthem at the basketball game with the choir, because that is what you would’ve wanted. I told myself I would stop crying as I held myself together, feeling completely alone in the middle of a stadium filled with 5,000 people. I told myself I would stop crying when I thought about how I will never be able to sit at the piano and beg you to play every song that came to my mind. I told myself I would stop crying when I thought about all the music we didn’t get to share and the songs that we will never sing together.
I told myself I would stop crying when the shower became my sanctuary because the hot water and the tears looked the same. I told myself I would stop crying when I found myself on the bathroom floor crippled with realization and grief. I told myself I would stop crying as I opened the door only to fall into my roommate’s arms. I told myself I would stop crying as the nights became suffocating and, just like you, sleep said goodbye.
I told myself I would stop crying as my parents frantically made plans to get my sister and I home. I told myself I would stop crying at 40,000 feet as I imagined reaching into the frozen clouds for you. I told myself I would stop crying as my lungs inhaled the wet pacific air. I told myself I would stop crying when, for the first time, I wasn’t happy to be home. I told myself I would stop crying as the dark and surreal ride home drug on, as if to physically delay what was already the inevitable.
I told myself I would stop crying as I walked into the house you grew up in. I told myself I would stop crying as I walked past the couch, where so many times before, everyone gathered to catch a good laugh from your contagious humor. I told myself I would stop crying when it hit me that I only cried when I thought about you now. I told myself I would stop crying as your sister fell into my arms violently sobbing as I blurrily looked up to meet the heartbreak that filled your mother’s eyes.
I told myself I would stop crying when your three-year-old nephew went up to your sister to feel for her heartbeat just to make sure hers hadn’t stopped like yours did. I told myself I would stop crying when I cut the stems of the dozen yellow roses that would grace the top of your casket the very next day. I told myself I would stop crying when they asked me if I wanted to see you one last time. I told myself I would stop crying as kept telling myself that that’s not you lying there; that you’re in a better place; that you’re no longer suffering.
I told myself I would stop crying as I walked into the church and fought to hold in the sobs that struggled to escape my throat when I saw your picture sitting by itself on the stage. I told myself I would stop crying as I walked up to practice singing with your accompaniment for the first time, never thinking only one of us would be present for this moment. I told myself I would stop crying as I struggled to sing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ because, all the while, I was wondering how would my heart go on without you here.
I told myself I would stop crying just long enough to sing the song with you and for you, in front of the three-hundred plus people who showed up because they loved you. I told myself I would stop crying when I was wishing that you would’ve realized just how many people were in your corner, but now they all live with pain in their hearts from your absence. I told myself I would stop crying as your voice carried through the air in song and your whole life unfolded in videos and pictures before our eyes.
I told myself I would stop crying as we fought the crying sky to go and say our last goodbye. I told myself I would stop crying as I was handed one of the freshly-cut yellow roses. I told myself I would stop crying as I my hair stuck to my face with rain and tears; when there weren’t enough tissues and my feet were paralyzed, unable to move forward. I told myself I would stop crying as I walked unsteadily up to your casket so my yellow rose could join the others. I told myself I would stop crying as my fingertips grazed the blue paint that had an unsettling shine.
I told myself I would stop crying when little reminders of you popped up in everyday life, and when I would hurry myself to sleep so that you might visit me in my dreams. I told myself I would stop crying on what would have been your 31st birthday.
Then one day I couldn’t hold back any longer. I told myself to cry. I told myself to cry for your pain. I told myself to cry because I am in pain. I told myself to cry because “some things in life cannot be fixed, they can only be carried”, and that’s okay. I told myself to cry because I loved you. I told myself to cry because every tear is a testament to that love. I told myself to cry because I will feel better.
I told myself to cry when I went back to where you lay and laid down beside you as I watched the sky turn shades of pink and orange through blurry lenses. I told myself to cry as I dusted the fallen flower petals off of the granite where your name is neatly carved. I told myself to cry because I was angry. I told myself to cry because I was sad; because I am sad.
Dear Daniel, these tears are for you; every single one. Not a day, not a minute, not a second goes by that I don’t think of you, that I don’t wish this was all just a bad dream and it will be all over when I wake up.
Dear Daniel, I know that I have to love you enough to let you go, but the years God granted us with you will never be forgotten or taken for granted. I’m happy that you are no longer suffering and that pain doesn’t exist where you are now, but down here the deepest pain is felt.
I tell myself to cry because I miss you.
Daniel Heath Kennell was born on February 3rd, 1985. He was a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, an uncle, a cousin, and a friend. He was the star of his high school basketball team, an entrepreneur, a musician, a jokester, and a DJ. He was a smile on the face for anyone that knew him.
Losing Daniel is a wound that will never truly heal. This letter outlines every moment of grief from my first-hand account in the tragic loss of my beloved cousin. There are good days and bad days. These words have taken ten months to get out, but they are written in hopes to continue healing and in the hopes that they might help others to not feel so alone in the absence of a loved one. Through my grief, I found it so hard to let down my guard and fully feel-out my pain because I was afraid to cry. Through it, I had to learn that it’s okay to be vulnerable; that it’s okay to cry.
If you or someone you know is battling with depression or suicidal thoughts and you need help, in the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Know that you are not alone.
If your parents are anything like mine, they raised you with lots of TLC, advice, and knowledge, and a little tough love as well. Most college kids have their parents to thank for where they are today, so why not take the time to actually thank them, even for the simple things.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you for…
1. Listening. If your group projects are anything like mine, you need someone to vent to. When I say vent, I really mean yell and scream to get everything that you’ve been bottling up out so you don’t freak out on that lazy person you’ve been forced to work with for 15 weeks straight. There have been more than a few occasions that my parents have listened to me vent for 30 min. or more, even when I know they don’t care. You guys are troopers!
2. Making me humble. Parents teach us the values and morals that mold us into who we are. They hope that they have given us enough knowledge in order to make us good people and to survive out their in the “real world.” I truly believe that being humble got me my job (thanks mom), and my hard work ethic helped me to succeed in my job (thanks dad).
3. The letters and CARE PACKAGES!! There is really nothing better as a broke college student than going to get your mail and seeing a big box with your name on it. Also, even though the older generation might not believe this with all of our gadgets these days, most college students still love getting letters, or at least I do. I love getting letters from family and friends, knowing that they sat down and took time out of their busy schedules is very special to me. Care packages and letters give college kids something to look forward to, so keep ’em coming please and thank you!!
Me when I get mail that isn’t junk….
4. Being patient with me. Let’s be honest, all kids suck. Sure, yeah, they are great and all. They love you and they are humble ;). But kids can be shitheads, and parents have to put up with them. I applaud my parents for putting up with everything I put them through; I can’t imagine how much patience they had to have with my siblings and myself.
Speaking of siblings….
5. Siblings. I guess I should probably thank you for blessing me with two of the most frustrating, loving, idiotic, and comical siblings ever. We fought like all siblings do, but I wouldn’t trade my brother and sister for anything. Siblings teach us many important things in life like how to win arguments and how to get what you want in return to keep your mouth shut and not tell mom and dad.
6. Teaching me that it’s good to make mistakes. Growing up I always got down on myself for making mistakes. My parents taught me, as I’m sure yours have taught you, that as long as you learned something from the mistake, it isn’t a bad thing. As simple as this lesson is, I believe it is important in life to not get down on yourself and be positive. Thank you for making me learn from my mistakes guys.
7. Giving me my love of pizza. I truly believe that my family loves pizza more than any other family, and I’m sure my cousins will back me up on this one. College students love pizza, and I just think that we should all thank our parents for introducing us to this heavenly food.
8. Being my best friends. A best friend is someone who listens without judgement, who’s there for you always, and who pushes you to be your best. Best friends get excited to see each other when they’ve been hundreds of miles away from each other for months. Best friends make you laugh and cry, and they order you pizza when you’re having a really bad day, or a really good day, or just an okay day, they just eat pizza together okay? My parents and I eat pizza together, and all that other stuff too.
9. Worrying about me. I know I missed a lot of curfews and made you wait up for me. I always told you I would be fine and that you didn’t need to stay up and wait for me. I hate that you worry about me so much, but sometimes it feels nice to be worried about. Knowing that there are people out there that are worried about you, makes you feel special.
My parents when I tell them I was at a friend’s house watching movies…
10. Making it so hard to leave. To quote my dear old friend Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Thank you for being so great at parenting. I like to think you did at least an okay job 🙂
If you have parents who raised you right, and loved you more than anything, don’t forget to thank them!
This blog post is dedicated to not only my parents, who gave me life, but also to the many other sets of parents that have figuratively “adopted” me over the years. I will never ever be able to thank you all enough for everything you’ve done for me. I love you all to the moon and back <3
Written By: Megan Johnson is a Senior at the University of Montana, graduating in December of 2015.