Montana madness has nothing over West Virginia

August 03, 1998

Tim RowlandPerhaps slightly ahead of his time, Frank Zappa wrote a song years ago about his wish to go to Montana for the purpose of growing a crop of dental floss.

Montana now wishes this were the most bizarre scheme to ever soil its soil.

Given that the Unabomber, Freemen and now the alleged U.S. Capitol gunman all have ties to the Big Sky State (beat out "Millions of Rocks State" in the motto contest), there is a feeling that something in the air might breed a certain degree of kookiness.

Last week the governor took the incredible step of calling a press conference for the purpose of announcing to the nation that Montana is not, strictly speaking, a state filled with subversive loons. (Interesting how in Montana they complain there are too many subversives, while in Western Maryland we complain there are not enough.)

To be honest, Montana is not a state filled with anything. Its population is less than half the city of Chicago's. And having traveled extensively out there, I can agree that Montana is not the root of all strangeness. Idaho is much worse. And heaven knows you will see more loons in a 10-minute stroll through New York City than you will in the entire West in a year.


Montana's governor said that, yes, some residents believe that government is "irrelevant." Gosh. How could that rumor have gotten started?

But he said without the government to establish the Homestead Act and helpfully slaughter the Indians, Montana's ancestors might never have been able to settle there.

Who knows? They might have ended up instead in California, another bastion of reason and clearheadedness.

But as a person who grew up in West Virginia, I have to say that I feel a bit slighted. Did we not house the militia group that had plans to blow up a federal building in Clarksburg? Did we not just last week steal a truckload of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, 10 times the amount used in the Oklahoma City bombing? Did we not house one of the largest clans of tax-evading cultists?

So where's our free press? Where's our attention? Where's the National Public Radio reporter sticking microphones in our faces and asking in all seriousness, "So, are you people crazy?" Where are the tourism dollars? "Look darlings, see the crazies."

We never get the respect we deserve, be it for our sports teams or our wackos.

How about the guy in Kanawha County who shoved his wife in the river and threw rocks at her? When he was caught he told the court he was throwing rocks to "try to guide her back to shore."

How about the fellow right here in Berkeley Springs a few years ago who backed a tow truck through the plate glass window of a local supermarket, strapped the safe to the boom, hoisted it up and drove away? Math whiz that he was, would Ted Kaczynski have thought of that? Surely that act wins points for pure, drip-drooling genius.

All right, so it would have been a smidgen more impressive if the guy had remembered to put gas in his truck.

It's always a little compromising if, gas can in hand, you have to ask the state police for a lift to the local filling station when you have a 12-ton safe dangling from your tow boom. I hate when that happens.

I'm not trying to take anything away from Montana. They deserve their moment in the sun. But I think the press needs to look at this stuff objectively and give credit where credit is due.

The Mountain State (beat out "Big Sky State" in the motto contest) surely deserves recognition and appreciation for the wackiness we have brought to the newsmaking table.

Please give us our due before we feel compelled to blow something up. Or at least remember to put gas in our tow trucks.

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