Tourist season

A rider in the Tobacco Root Mountains

We love having visitors in Montana. For one, it’s a huge driver for our economy—we’ve got an obscenity of riches when it comes to outdoor recreation opportunities and were I to live anywhere else, Montana is where I’d long to be.

But by the end of July, after one or two giant motorhomes have nearly run us off the road and a half dozen Yellowstone tourists have been stomped, gored or smacked after trying to take a selfie with a buffalo, the shine starts to wear off and we begin to look around more warily than we might when it’s thirty below and we have the state to ourselves.

Like birders trying to identify a species based on it’s flight or it’s song, there are a few characteristics that stand out when trying to identify a Montana tourist.

Five ways to stand out as a tourist in Montana:

Live performances of “A River Runs Through It”

It seems common sense, but worth repeating in some cases: If you’re not confident in your fly casting, it’s better to have your line in the water than in the air. The back and forth and back and forth and baaaack and forth and baaaaaaaack again…you know what I’m talking about. Fish live in water.

Also, hip waders are also a dead giveaway.

Shortie shorts

Speaking of clothing, these are a favorite at parades and rodeos and while I get the concept, they lose points for me in practicality. Around here, we abide by three “S”s when choosing clothing: Sun, skeeters and snakes. Can’t hold up to those then you might want to re-consider.

Run at horses and ask to pet them

Actually, don’t do that.

Horses are prey animals and as far as I can tell, they still think a mountain lion is waiting to jump out from behind every rock, tree and Starbucks. Running at them clicks on this “RUN, EVERYONE, RUN!” voice in their brain. And sometimes, they listen.

Might not be true for every horse, but even the best ones can be one shade left of crazy.

Also, they kick. And bite. Just FYI.

Erratic driving

Tourists are best identified while driving. Sure, the giant RV is a bright flashing sign to approach with caution, but so is a Subaru with Washington plates. It usually goes something like this:

  • Ride bumper of car in front.
  • Speed past car at 90 mph, on a curve, in the pouring rain.
  • Pull in front of car.
  • Drop speed to 20 miles below the speed limit.
  • Veer off on side of road without turn signal.
  • Jump out.
  • Take selfie.

Smiling faces

For all the questionable qualities a good tourist season brings, there’s one that is infectious long after it is over. Happy faces. After all, if you’re vacationing in Montana, can you help it?