Top 10 Montana Lessons For A Southerner

#1: Winter actually happens. My #BigSkyMove kicked things off right with a little snow and ice. Might as well get the first one out of the way so I can move on with things.

#2: Flights out of Helena aren’t that out-of-this-world expensive, except for when I’m trying to fly home. I could buy a flight to England cheaper. But I did manage to find an affordable flight home for Christmas by flying on the holidays (Christmas Eve and NYE) and switching from Little Rock (Hill Billy National) to Memphis destinations.

montana wide open skies from the interstate#3: Distance to any town is measured in hours driving at 75 mph. And you are expected to maintain that speed by other drivers on the road. And yes mom, I do take it easier when there is white stuff on the road.

#4: 30% chance of snow showers means you just might wake up to everything covered in white. But it’s not really that bad because Montana actually has the equipment to move that stuff off the roads quickly.

#5: Not only is sweet tea not served here, I have to be careful to clarify that I want ‘iced’ tea, not hot. Learned that lesson the hard way.

#6: Be careful who you say ma’am or sir to. Not everyone responds to it as well up here. Apparently people don’t take to kindly to it if they assume you’re inferring their old. To me, it’s a sign of respect. Can’t help I was raised that way.

tarmac airplane gate sign#7: Get used to walking out on the tarmac to board planes with propellers on the side. But on a good note, Alaska Airlines allows me to book with Delta SkyMiles!

#8: I will survive. With a low so far of 3 and a wind chill as low as -8 at one point in the day, this was officially the coldest day I’ve ever seen in my life. And it wasn’t that bad. It could have been much worse with the snow and wind. A humid cold feels much colder. (Update: My phone said -6 when I woke up this morning.)

#9: Driving a little white Ford Taurus across the state in all sorts of weather (even ice and snow) makes you realize you’ve really made it in life. (My boss actually said something to that effect.) On the bright side, I made a few hours round trip to a meeting and only spent $20 in gas.

#10: Montanans are very hospitable. I have had more than a dozen requests from folks that I join them for Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone wants to make sure I am fed. I should have started taking notes from the beginning on which one had the most beef at the table. But no, really. I am very thankful for that.

After only 3 weeks of living in Helena, I can honestly say driving home last night after a day of cold and ice, it really felt satisfying to be driving home. I think this place might be growing on me rather quickly…


  1. I really enjoy your thoughts, Ryan, and reading about the places you are and have been. I’ve been to Montana. But – having grown up and spent half my life in the frozen north, I am not fond of being above the Mason-Dixon line except in short doses. Of course, where I’m from originally, the humidity was 110 percent 364 days of the year which makes cold much, much colder and even warm uncomfortable. Montana is beautiful but so is where I live now, and we only have winter sporadically for three months or less. And, yes, we do get snow, considerable amounts from time to time. Even waist high. I can see the mountains from my house and be at the ocean in no time. We have ocean, rivers, lakes, the Bay, lots of farmland, and mountains. Sort of America In Miniature! We have a couple of large cities with a lot of American history we can visit, beef and dairy, horses, sheep and chickens, good, productive farmland, and plenty of places to be alone if we wish, and enjoy nature – and, of course, the wonderful blue crabs to eat. (I guess you get the idea that I am happy where I am!) I am also grateful that we raised beef cattle for so many years, which gave us the opportunity to see so much of the U.S. and meet so many of the people. This country is incredibly diverse and beautiful. Enjoy it all!

  2. Your comment about distances measured at 75 mph is absolutely true, and the rudest awakening I had when going east was to find that Mapquest listed a 30 mile trip as taking 50 minutes and I thought they were crazy. I didn’t realize I’d be lucky to hit 45 mph. So yes, it’s a different mindset in the west. I’ll honk as I speed by you.

  3. It is amazing how fast we can adapt to new places and see their unique beauty. Never thought I would love another state like I love my home state, but I do. One heart, two homes. Best of luck to you!

  4. Its amazing how diverse area cultures can be. When I started working working a new full time job the bosses were all surprised and startled when I said “ma’am”. The boss asked one of the floor supervisors ” does she always talk like that?” Lol. I’d never thought anything of it, it was just the way I was raised.

    1. Humid cold is chilling… dry cold seeps in to you almost unawares till you start to thaw then, oh the pain. I’ve lived in the same area all my life and two days ago I discovered that you can get chapped through your clothes!

      1. Humid cold is just more miserable than dry cold. I’ve been in both. Below zero thirty degrees is cold whether its dry or humid. Only thing is sometimes the humidity will freeze on your nostrils. Yuk!

  5. Ryan~ Beings that I am a Southern born and raised gal from a small farming town in North FL, who lived in Billings and Miles City Montana off and on for 6+ years on large cattle ranches, I loved reading this!! This is definately something any Southern should know when moving off to Montana. (I especially loved #5 and #6!)
    My family’s first move to Montana was in December of 1995 – Yes, right in the middle of a pretty good winter! I was 17 and a junior in high school. We had many memorable experiences that first year in MT. After the first year, it was a piece of cake! I moved back and forth from my small hometown down South to Montana a total of three times… three times of hauling everything I owned (furniture, horses, dogs) in a 32 ft. stock trailer. But I wouldn’t trade any of those years for all the money there is!
    Enjoy your time in Montana, but hang on to those good ol’ Southern roots!

  6. I love #10 Last year I had thanksgiving in Belgrade with my aunt and uncle. Turkey!? whats that we eat prime rib on thanksgiving. Best thanksgiving ever!

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