People can be amazing. Well, not the scary guy in line at the grocery store tonight who realized he’d left his wallet at the casino and did a very loud freakout that scared children. He wasn’t at his best tonight. But there are people in this world who, for example, own beautiful pieces of land and choose to share them with the world in ways that enrich the land and teach all of us about what’s precious. These people are amazing. It fills me up to find them. Luckily Montana is blessed with more than a few.
A short drive outside Billings is Rim Country Land Institute, founded by Carol and Larry McEvoy, “a family therapist and physician who noted in their professional practices that many of their patients suffered from a sense of disconnectedness, lack of meaning and depression.” The McEvoys concluded that “these patients mirrored the larger culture which, on observation, was seriously disconnected from the land and the cycles of the land.” To respond to this need, the family bought 2400 acres and put it in a conservation easement. They’re now developing programs to catalog the plant and animal life and make the land accessible and enriching to the entire community. There’s also a Rim Country blog that’s full of quietly moving accounts of time on the land and stunning nature photography.
A slighter longer drive south of Billings takes you to Chief Plenty Coups State Park, which also traces its existence to an extraordinary individual. Plenty Coups, the last traditional tribal chief of the Crow people, was known to the tribe as Aleek-chea-ahoosh, meaning “many achievements.” He was one of the first of the tribe to settle on a farmstead, where he farmed and ran a store for nearly 50 years.
Upon his death in 1932, his wife, Strikes the Iron, honored his wishes by donating 195 of their 320 acres to the state as a park, including their homestead and sacred spring. The place is serene and has a soft light. It leaves the strong impression that Plenty Coups must have been a great soul. There’s a nice little museum, and if you come at the right time there’s also a trailer nearby selling cold drinks and Indian tacos. Sweet.
I know we’re all supposed to be divided and at each other’s throats, but there is still grace in the world. Hang onto it when you find it. And for the love of pete, share it!