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"Montana seems to me to be what a small boy would think Texas is like from hearing Texans."

-John Steinbeck

I once ordered a cinnamon roll in a diner in Missoula. The waitress gave me an odd look, but brought the cinnamon roll along with all the other breakfast appetizers I had ordered. It was the size of a dinner plate.

Montana is what people usually mean when they say "Big Sky Country." I suspect the name was originally applied to the flatter eastern part of the state (sometimes referred to by western Montanans as "West Dakota"), but it is now plastered over every corner of the place by the tourism industry.

The sky in Montana, of course, is no bigger than the skies elsewhere. But it seems bigger sometimes, especially to an easterner driving up a long valley for the first time on a dewy spring morning, with birds swooping across the road in front of the car and a triple rainbow hung in the sky above snow covered mountains that look like teeth poised to devour the impossible raspberry-popsicle-blue, rainbow and all.

And I looked up and there they were:
Millions of tiny teardrops
just sort of hanging there
And I didn't know whether to laugh or cry
And I said to myself:
What next big sky?

- Laurie Anderson, Strange Angels

A year or two later I found myself driving up that same road, this time at night, in winter. Missoula was visible from thirty miles away, its orange lights reflecting off the undersides of clouds. It looked like the end of the world. I think that was when I knew it was time to go home, but it took me a few more years to get my act together and leave.

Montana may have a big sky, but I can see more stars here in New Hampshire.

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