A Final Tribute

Have realized that I need to blow Montana a big kiss before I move on…
so here it is.

DonnellyRanchSummer copy

Tribute To Montana

Well, damn! You know, this state has been one of the major loves of my life.
I grew up here, learned to love the outdoors here. What I know about solitude
and the natural order of life, I learned here. From its people I learned honesty,
integrity and toughness. This state, its beauty, its strength, its people, are in
my very fiber. I am beyond grateful.

Let me tell you what a place like this can do for a person. I lived in Atlanta for
33 years. I began a new career there, got married, became a father… life got hectic.
Not doing “hectic” real well, I would come back to Montana in the summer and
at Christmas, until money got so tight I couldn’t afford to come out here any more.
Then I dreamed about it, about being here, where city cares fell away. I
fantasized about moving back and living here so much that my friend, Rex,
told me he feared I was going to ruin the *real* Montana by making it more than
it was… more than it could live up to. That didn’t happen, and those dreams and
fantasies somehow kept me afloat for those last 10 years in Atlanta until I called
it a career and actually came home!
cabinSingle again, and broke, I settled into my cabin in Virginia City, which I had
built 25 years ago. The howling winter winds freaked me out a few times
that first year and I struggled to keep the cabin warm. That winter I re-learned
what it took to survive in Montana. I was 62 then, and able to make the
Ruby Valley BoysLife in Montana helped me leave my end-of-career blues behind. Old
Montana friends helped me get my feet back on the ground and moving forward.
New Montana friends invited me to play jazz with them up in Helena,
and suddenly I was making a little money and having fun with music. Yet other
friends went camping and fishing with me. My life became full and exciting again.
Stevie & WillieAll this was the result of Montana and its people. If you don’t know by now, it’s
a very different place. It has challenged me, nurtured me, and, with all its
rough edges, has been my safe haven.

SnowcrestsIt’s probably Montana’s rough edges that binds me to it, that makes me feel
so alive here. I love the islands in Northwest Washington, the scenery is
outstanding. But just like the Amalfi Coast in Southwestern Italy, it’s all
post card material. They are almost too beautiful, too soft, too perfect.
And much of Montana is post card material, to be sure. But it can be hard,
unpredictable, in ways my other two favorite places can’t be. And that
probably accounts for the feeling of “aliveness” here. Montana’s weekly
challenges throughout the year force one to deal with them and survive.
To live here all year, for years on end, is a most satisfying and completing
Steve canoing2With all that, Montana and its good people  offered me the opportunity to do
something I never thought I could do… snowmobile! For five years I rode with
the Vigilante sled club, and learned what it took to groom our trails and ride the
high country. Turned out to  be the most exciting thing I’ve done in a long time.
InHeaven copyThe trails outside V.C. are long and difficult for any greenhorn. There are few
level, “easy” stretches after the first 6 miles. It took me two winters to get
further than those 6 miles. Finally I was able to get over the hump and deeper
into the back country. What a kick! To be able to ride up the side of a steep
mountain side, through the trees and and down narrow ravines was a new
kind of freedom I’d not experienced since my skiing days. The back country
in the winter is spectacular. Even with all the getting stuck, digging out,
occasional dangerous situations, the feeling of accomplishment and
satisfaction at the end of the day was off the scale… a definite high point
in my return to Montana!
Steve & BaldyA great place to spend your childhood, a great place to spend your life.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     I won’t be spending as much time in Montana any more, still I’ll come
back every so often to her and her fabulous people. Yup, I’ll come back…
to where my heart has always been.

Steve Hulse


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