Montana, you Make Men… of Men.

by R. McKinnon Baxter

Dear Montana… thank you for raising the bar of my manhood.  Your nature, your influence, your challenges… they all bring out the best man, the most man in me.  You are a natural boot camp and strengthening of the mind, body and soul.  You remind me that if it’s to be… it’s up to me.  You mold me, shape me, and chisel me into a man of purpose, strength, character, resourcefulness and means.  You are the woman by my side Montana, silently motivating me, encouraging me to step up, make it happen, and never rest on my laurels, let alone the leather cushioned couch in the coffee shops that line the streets of the world.

But as you know… I have not known you my entire life… I was not raised by your side, within your mountains and around your rivers and lakes.  I have seen many of your winters, but not all of them.  I have been shaped partially by you, but not fully.

And then there is my friend Jack… a born and raised Montanan.  Now let me tell you about Jack.

Jack lives in your mountains… I mean… really, in your mountains.  He owns 40+ acres in your Bridger Mountain range… and he is quite literally… the “jack” of all trades.  Jack is a friend of mine, and he is a friend that I most admire.  You see he has known you his whole life.  He grew up with you.  He’s hunted your lands, he’s fallen your timber and he’s warmed his family’s home with the same.

Jenny and I made our maiden voyage to see Jack, in part because he was relatively close to our home base of Bozeman, but also, because we knew we would be in good hands if something went wrong.  See Jack can fix anything.  I mean, Jack can fix ANYTHING.  He’s a product of your making Montana… and it’s impressive.

Jack has a 14 and 16 year old, son and daughter respectively.  His wife, Misty, he met when they were teens, high school sweethearts.  Montana, you have molded Jack from day one and as a result, he is more than a provider for his family… he is a protector, an insurance policy and a safe haven for them.

When Jenny and I pulled up, Jack met us outside with a Corona in hand, not his tenth, but certainly not his first.  I don’t know how long Jack’s been drinking Corona beer, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words… and his garage, well, it tells the story better than I could.  My picture is a little blurry, but those are bottle caps, fallen below the bottle opener and evidence of many a good time.

Coronas

Coronas

While I can’t tell you for sure, I would venture to guess that Jack spends 75% of his home time, in his garage.  His home is built into the mountains, so the garage is largely underground with only one side open, facing east.  That said, whether winter or summer, with garage doors closed, it stays a comfortable 55 degrees, without heat or air conditioning.  This of course was no accident.

Jack likes his cars, used to be a mechanic years ago… but was once told by an old mechanic friend of his… “hey Jack, you’re young… get out now… do something else, before it’s too late and you end up like me, turning wrenches in your 60’s.  So he got out… but once a mechanic, always a mechanic, and Jack knew how to fix cars… so fix cars he did… for himself, for his family, for his friends.  For his 16 year old daughter, he recently acquired this classic old Lincoln Continental with the reverse doors, and is in the process of restoring.

Jack's daughter's Lincoln

Jack’s daughter’s Lincoln

For his son, this old Chevy Camaro.

Jack's son's Camaro

Jack’s son’s Camaro

He’s collected parts from all over and like so many other projects he has started… and finished… these will be no different.  Just has to make room for them when he completes the other three sitting in his garage at various stages of completion.  Who does this?  Who has this mountain of skills?  Men do, I realized, and at the risk of being vulnerable Montana, at the risk of exposing some chinks in my own armor… products of your making like Jack… well, they make me realize I am not all that you want me to be yet… I am not yet what you need me to be as one of your men among men.  But with your daily encouragement, Montana… you are shaping and molding me to be your man among men.

What impresses me about Jack is this… Jack doesn’t flex his muscles.  Jack doesn’t puff up his chest.  Jack doesn’t pick fights with people.  Jack doesn’t plaster himself with tattoos. Jack isn’t a member at Gold’s gym, pumping iron 4 hours a day.  Jack doesn’t have drinking contests or tell you to drink up and it will put “hair on your chest”.  Jack just… is… Jack is, I guess you could say much like the powerful and determined animals that roam your land… he’s a product of natural instinct, not of society and the molding of culture… and this is what impresses and inspires me.

When you walk into his garage, he has four chain saws hanging from a support post… but not just a support post, this is a fricken tree that he cut down, and now offers support to his home.  He’s taken this log, and used it in all the ways possible.  First as support for his home, and second for supporting his tools.  He literally sawed right into them to create holding holes for his chainsaws… and hold them they do.

As I look around his garage, what I find so fascinating about this place is that every nook and cranny has a purpose… and believe me, Jack knows where it is, and what it’s all for.

Jacks Montana Garage

Jacks Montana Garage

At first look, you might say it’s just a lot of junk, just a lot of “stuff” stored away for no apparent reason.  But no, that is not the case here… Jack has a place for everything, and there is very little waste.  Something will no doubt be of use in his mechanical and resourceful mind.

Jenny and I arrived on July 4th, so certainly some festivities were in order.  Now every man is a provider for his family.  Should he be?  Personally I hate that word should, I tell people to stop shoulding on themselves because it smells, is very unattractive to others and clearly is awkward and uncomfortable to those who have just done so… but it’s a constant question among the masses, so since perhaps relevant to our subject here I’ll ask the question… and, I’ll leave the answer to you… but my two cents is this… in your world Montana, man is the stronger and more physical of the two genders, and most equipped to hunt and provide.  So let’s agree with that, and not get into a political gender debate on the subject.  After all, this is a love letter, and I think I should refrain from confrontation right now.  My bad, I brought it up, I am sorry.

Anyway… guess who is the cook in this family?  That’s right, it’s Jack.  After a few Coronas and enough car talk and fixing to satiate any man’s appetite, Jack called me up to his upper deck, and encouraged me to “check this out”… At the BBQ, wrapped in foil, was his slow roasted ribs, to which he poured a little of his corona and then gave me a sample.  Delicious… no that didn’t do it.  Incredible… no, still not the word.  Insane, yes, that is it… so totally out of the ordinary good, that I lost all sense of reality.  But if that wasn’t enough, he took me another 10 steps to another little project he had going.  Inside a simple outdoor toaster oven, was his “slow roasted pork loin” simmering in jalapeno chile peppers, among other goodness that just might have been proprietary, because he did not fully share.

slow roasted pork in montana

slow roasted pork in montana

But it didn’t matter.  I took a bite of it with complete faith and assurance that this was going to be one of, at least the second most tasty meats I had ever had, and well, if the ribs were insane… the slow roasted pork was perhaps comatose.   There were no words really.  It literally took me off my feet and I fell into an outdoor tattered leather couch that also sent me into another world.  “What is this place?” I thought… “What is going on here?” Have I entered the Twilight Zone?  I told Jack upon an earlier visit… his property, his home… was “imperfectly perfect”. It was not the Taj Mahal… but it was comfortable beyond measure.  Jack and his family lived out in the boonies… and they had it all.  He could do it all… they were prepared for it all, and it was good living for sure.  Their lives were not about showing people… impressing people… their lives were about… well, appreciating all you’ve got to give us Montana.  Jack’s family is a Montana family to the n’th degree, and while I know thou shalt not covet… in some ways, I really wanted more of what they had.

Well it was growing dark now and it was getting to be party time.  Jack had bought fireworks, for the kids I suppose, but Jack certainly is no stranger to gun powder, or shall I say gun power.  Let me just say this… you don’t want to mess with Jack.  He is a collector of guns of all sizes and shapes, and all levels of use.  Whether hunting, protecting or just appreciating the history of weaponry, I know nobody who comes close to Jack’s level of expertise.

When we started shooting off the fireworks, somehow I sensed Jack mildly bored with the display… and somehow I also knew there was quite a bit more to come… and I was right.  Jack soon produced something, some orange packaged explosive of some kind that he got somewhere… who knows, but it promised to deliver an experience perhaps the rest of us had never seen.  With a gleam in Jack’s eye and a grin a mile wide, he placed it out on a stump in his side yard.   Jenny and I pack a 22 caliber hand gun for safety on our travels, so he told me to get it out and take some shots at this thing.  I’ll be honest, I am not a great shot, but I did expect to hit the target at least after three shots.  I emptied my clip, 9 shots, missed on every one of them.  Jack pulled out the fire power though.  Not one, not two, but three different guns needed to hit the damn thing… finally had to pull out his AK-47 and AR-15 only to realize we were dealing with a dud.  Maybe I hit it after all 😉  But thankful to the dud, I got to experience not one gun demonstration, but four… resulting in Jack using the heavy artillery on the target, delivering the punishment it deserved for failing to deliver on its promise.

Later in the evening, I lit a smoke bomb of sorts and threw it down into the driveway.  About the time it hit ground, Jack had lit off something else in the general vicinity and I heard the loudest explosion I have ever heard, even larger than the M250, which is essentially a quarter of a stick of dynamite that I lit off in Mexico years ago.  What it was exactly, Jack never said, but he just chuckled and raised his eye brows.  “Pretty intense, huh?”  Another something, from somewhere, that Jack had in his arsenal of Montana Manpower.

With all our ears still ringing, It seemed we were all done for the night, and I returned to Jenny, made my bed, and went to sleep in short order.

Now Montana, you are known for changing your mind as often as, well, a lot… and so in spite of the sky full of stars, being deep in your mountains that night, I should have known better, but filled with slow roasted pork tacos, and BBQ ribs, with the faint ringing in my ears, I guess I was just not thinking, and left Jenny’s windows down. The rain sounded beautiful and while I had at least the good sense to close the rooftop fan on her, I did not think as far as to close the door windows… so Jenny got a nice shower, inside and out.

Early in the morning, I awoke to a beautiful sunrise, rolled over half asleep and took this shot with my phone.

Sunrise in Montana

Sunrise in Montana

When the sun was up and I followed, I had to take a photo or two of the life and beauty around me.  Montana, as a man of your state, I appreciate all the beauty you express, I appreciate all that is natural about you… and I am often in awe of you.

montana nature

montana nature

Montana Indian Paintbrush

Montana Indian Paintbrush

Later that morning Jack and I did a little fixing on Jenny… we fixed her refrigerator switch, which had broken two nights before… with Jack’s tools, I fixed her parking brake, which needed some major adjusting, and I fixed her radio antenna, which had come off and needed a little fabrication.  After that, I took Hahnna off Jenny’s back and we rode up to the top of the mountain, which felt like we were on top of the world.

 

 

top of bridger mountains

top of bridger mountains

 

Upon our return, I thanked Jack for his hospitality and enlightenment, and told him I’d keep him posted on our journey. Jack and his family live the good life Montana… they listen to you, they embrace you and they love you.  I’ve learned from them… they are a model of how I want to be with you… and I appreciate what you have created in them.

Montana, you are truly beautiful… and you make me a better, more resourceful, stronger and wiser man.  You are what every man needs, and I am grateful to have you by my side.

R. McKinnon Baxter, an Automated Business and Online Marketing Expert, has sold nearly $50 Million in products online over the course of 12 years. Today, he enjoys his life as a Travel Writer along with the freedom of the mobile working lifestyle driven by his automated business model and strategies. To learn more about McKinnon’s principles and methodologies, visit www.AutomatedProducer.com.

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