Facing Main

Boring Montana

Apparently for the Montana-born these weekly floats on the border of a national park are as common as mosquito bites

By Maggie Doherty

“Montana is so boring, Mom!”

So whined my son, my firstborn, a slur he hurled at me – Dear Reader, wait for it – from the bow of our neon green raft, his thin and tan little body riding the waves as we splashed along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River earlier this month.

Running his fingers through his long hair, a move that immediately made me flash to his coming teenage years, he continued his rant while I rowed, waiting out his tirade and balancing my own rising irritation. “I’m in prison here. Mom! There’s nothing to do,” he moaned.

It took an extraordinary amount of patience to not flick him overboard into the chilly, clear teal waters, but I took a deep breath, took in the lush green flanks of Glacier’s southern mountains, and laughed. Dear Reader, I laughed so hard. Then I said a silent apology to my own parents, because, although I wasn’t rafting in Montana as a 7-year-old, it’s more than likely I wailed and complained about a similar adventure like canoeing and spotting moose browsing the dense thickets of northern Michigan.

If my parents hadn’t thrown me out of the Old Town, I could surely withstand the absurd complaints bellowed from the bow of the Aire.

Part of my meditative/being a nice human-practice, rowing gives me more space to assess the emotional current of my son, and besides an immediate need of hunger, I also guessed that he suffered from the midsummer blues, an affliction that I also remember from childhood. Missing friends and not missing the daily interaction with a little sister who’s developed a mean kick when things don’t go her way. He’s longing for what he considers to be his summer vacation, because apparently for the Montana-born these weekly floats on the border of a national park are as common as mosquito bites. For him, August can’t come soon enough when he can suffer in a hot van as we drive almost 2,000 miles to Michigan where he can see his grandmother, great-grandmother, and scores of teenage cousins.

To miss your 94-year-old great-grandmother says something, so I let the whining slide and scouted for a sizeable rapid (few and far between due to low water levels) to give him a wet shock and shake him out of his foul mood. Prison? Where did this even come from? I really wanted to channel my father with an “I’ll show you prison” response, but rowing calms me.

Here’s what the gut punch is beyond the Montana-is-boring angst. This experience to drive less than an hour from our home and float on a stretch of a Wild and Scenic River won’t last. Climate change and its catastrophic weather events are dramatically changing landscapes and waterways, and the things my firstborn loves like skiing and, yes, even rivers when he’s not brain boiled by the July sun, are no longer a guarantee. A lack of action, despite all the evidence for decades, that climate change is dangerous and real, might, in fact, prove Charlie right. Montana might become a boring place to live when we’re driven inside due to constant poor air quality from wildfires, extreme weather events, and lack of precipitation in its flake and flow forms.

It’s not too late to take action and make sure we can continue to subject our kiddos to hikes to pick hucks or even, yes Dear Reader, those fun whitewater raft trips.  

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