Did you ever watch the series “Northern Exposure”? I always liked that show. Alaskan small town, harsh environment, yet the community was strong, and was always entertaining. My recent time here reminded me of this show. Butte has always had a rough and tough reputation, and some of it very well-earned. However, underneath that is something that attracts and retains many, and is something I want to try to explain.
When I signed the lease on my office the week before Christmas, so say December 20th, I asked if I should just come in on the 2nd of January (since my lease started on the 1st and that was a holiday) to get my keys and pay for the first month’s rent (no deposit required). I was told that it didn’t matter if I took my keys then and started moving in early. Let me say that in my former work world, agreements were executed to the letter of the contract, and there were no thoughts of honoring things through a mere handshake. This felt good.
I started moving into my office on January 2nd because I was busy during the holidays. The mailman came in that day delivering mail to the business next to mine. He stopped, noticing that a new business was moving in, and asked what it was called and where I preferred to have my mail delivered – on the table (in the open reception area) next to the other business’s box (I mean that literally – a cardboard shoebox), or right by my door, or did I want to hang a tray by the main entrance “like some other businesses” (he said with a scoff). I indicated the table. He put his hand out and said, “I’m Ed, you’re regular mailman.” I took his hand and introduced myself. Where else does this happen? Not where I’ve been. Again, this felt good.
Then tonight I met my friends first at Headframe Distillery to have our token two drinks. It’s always fun listening to the music and seeing who is out and about and who we recognize. Then I met another friend to have pizza at one of the many local casinos because it has the reputation of having one of the best pizzas in town (Treasure Chest). Well, Friday night is boys night out, when her husband and his golfing buddies get together for drinks. The boys joined us, and we all laughed together at a table.
We told stories that exemplified the reputation Butte has earned, both good and bad (depending upon your perspective). There were the stories from the older generations at the table of the Crowley’s, Reilly’s, and other assorted Italian names who committed this serious crime and that, had mafia connections, and had many good times in the good old days. Then there were the modern-day stories of Butte-culture-meets-the-outside-influences from California or other populated places. Ideas come from those newly imported to Butte to expand hours, work on Saturdays, or even seven days a week to increase business. Ah, but the locals know this doesn’t pan out. Here, people value their time off to get into the great outdoors – hunting, fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, golfing (in the summer of course), etc. Forget getting business done on a Saturday. Sure, there are those that get caught up on errands on the weekends, but it doesn’t seem to be the majority. The pace here is much slower. I’m adapting to it and finding it to be an elixir. Funny how we adapt to the culture and its pace wherever we are. I for one enjoy the slower pace here. Stop and say, “How she goin?”, and actually listen for the answer.
It’s good to be home. God bless Butte America.