Surprises in Montana
Our hotel room overlooks Flathead Lake. This lake has 185 miles of shoreline and over 200 square miles of water. It’s the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi in the lower 48 states. Surrounded by the mountains, it’s pretty spectacular looking. Everyone I know who has visited here, has told me it was knock- your- socks- off beautiful, so I shouldn’t say it was a surprise.
I always notice differences in architecture. This, being my first visit “out West,” I enjoy seeing the unique housing styles that are asymmetric, wide sloped roof, low structures with small windows, plain, simple. And there aren’t porches. I can tell I’m not in the South anymore! These are dwellings made for work function. Not porch sitting. On the basis of the architecture, I think I can conclude they have a lot a wind out here. The snow breaks built across the plains protecting settlements speaks to the drifts.
I love the different flora and fauna across our land. Montana has lots of land. We saw a truck with a bumper sticker that says, Montana’s full. Go home. It’s one of the least full places I’ve ever seen! I think there’s an acre of empty for every man, woman, and child in America! We passed a National Bison Grazing land; we passed through two Native American Reservations with the highway signs written in their native language; we passed the speed limit signs posted at 80 mph.
The places are small, even the capitol, Helena, is a small place. All clean and inviting. In the Mission Valley at the base of the Mission Mountain Range, we came across the town of Saint Ignatius, population 850. This is a mission, built in 1890. A Catholic Church built by Native Americans and Jesuit missionaries, out of bricks created from local clay, is open every day and Mass is held there. Inside the Church are 58 murals on walls and vaulted ceiling. They are light, bright, and airy. Totally unexpected. They were painted by Brother Joseph Carignano, a self-taught artist who lived and worked at the mission as a cook and a handyman. (No matter who you are, God will find you and use your talents.) Next to the brick church are two small log structures, one built by the original missionaries in 1856, and one built for the Providence Sisters in 1865. This was so unexpected, it was the biggest surprise of the day.