Most travel under their own power
in rural, central Montana. Meaning
truck, auto, horse, tractor, bicycle,
foot, or even the occasional ride-on
lawn mower. You can try to hitch a
ride into town. However the further
out the greater the odds against you
running into other humans. Initially
the railroad played a key role in the
development of Lewistown. Sadly
post the advent of automobiles our
rail local system simply evaporated.
And now we're rather out of the way.
Best laid plans
Local folklore has it that years ago our
"city fathers" rejected a state highway
passing through our town. Whether
true or not it slowly passed us by. For
a long time anybody traveling from
Billings to Great Falls or visa versa
passed through town. However now
most turn at Eddie's corner - twenty
five miles outside of town. Thanks to
World War Two we have an airstrip
that's able to accommodate large jet
landings. Unfortunately we lost all
commercial service a few years ago.
Therefore getting from here to there is
challenging. Especially if you're new
to town. The fact is that newbies either
happen upon our community or have
some reason to visit. Some locals brag
that they've never been farther than
Billings. However as far as I know,
isolation has never been an impetus
for development. Thus in my opinion
we've got a big obstacle to overcome.
Yet it seems that I'm in the minority
given few locals consider our lack of
transportation a liability or opportunity.
Signs of the times
There's little doubt that Lewistown has
more than enough to offer. Surrounded
by several mountain ranges we boast
world class hunting, fishing, hiking,
and camping. Our historic downtown
aside, just twenty three miles southeast
of town lies the largest concentration of
Plains Native American pictographs and
petroglyphs in North America. Add our
close proximity to the Upper Missouri
River Breaks National Monument and
who wouldn't be tempted to visit? So
why isn't our local economy booming?
Unfortunately some locals suffer from
a very bad case of "us" versus "them."
Fergus County Commissioners have
repeatedly rejected any/all attempts to
designate lands within their jurisdiction
as national treasures. Instead they have
myopically supported the desires of a
minority versus the majority of county
residents. Don't get me wrong, I really
don't want to see much change around
these here parts. However I do want to
do whatever is possible to make sure
that Lewistown survives into the future.
Like those mysterious "city fathers"
of yore, some of our local leaders
seem committed to doing whatever
it takes to defer growth. Sadly they
lack the desire to protect our legacy
while investing in "next." Here in
Lewistown proper, a panel of our
peers recently opted to propose a
return to a mayoral government on
the November ballot. Which prior
leaders rejected twenty years ago.
Thus rather than move forward,
they propose we go back in time.
End of the line?
Somehow Lewistown continues to
survive against all odds. However
one can't help but wonder how long
said momentum will continue. At
some point most of our luck will run
out. Therefore it's important that we
start thinking big and most definitely
out of the box that some want us to
stay within. What happened to our
pioneer spirit? In the future why can't
all roads lead to and from Lewistown?
Isn't it time that we opened our hearts
and minds to success? Giddy up!