The Western ethos of we’ll-do-whatever-the-hell-we-want-and-the-federal-government-be-damned won a big victory this week as Senate Bill 39—a bill that would outlaw open containers in cars—deadlocked in the House Judiciary Committee (currently it’s illegal to drive drunk in Montana, but drinking and driving is A-OK in all but two Montana counties—Missoula and Ravalli). It’s not the first time the free-spirited ethos has cost Montanans federal money and it likely won’t be the last. This time the state stands to lose almost $6 million in federal funds for highway construction and maintenance if the Legislature doesn’t pass the ban.

Making maybe the most salient point, bill sponsor Sen. Dale Mahlum (R-Missoula), pointed out to the committee that “Money is not the object here. Lives are. We’re talking about life.”

Even Gov. Judy Martz showed up at Monday’s committee meeting to espouse the glories of teetotaling drivers.

“There is a myth in Montana that drinking and driving is part of being a Montanan,” she said. “I say that is nonsense.” Nonsense or not, nine members of the committee (including

Missoula Democrat Gail Gutsche) weren’t hearing any of it. Maybe Martz’ and Mahlum’s testimony just wasn’t as persuasive as the old argument one Helena man used: “The federal government is shoving this stuff down out throats.”

Damn those feds and their ongoing efforts to get raving drunks off the road! Damn them to hell!

•••

Two weeks ago Montana Department of Livestock officers and Yellowstone National Park personnel rounded up a reported 231 of the park’s iconic bison into holding pens and then shipped the beasts—part of the only free-roaming herd left in the U.S.—to slaughter. Most, according the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), were captured inside park boundaries, and none were tested for bruscellosis—the DOL’s usual reasoning for harassing and/or exterminating the animals.

The action—part of the Park Service’s so-called “management plan”—has drawn more than the predictable outrage. Citzens of Gardiner hosted a protest rally last Saturday to try to distance the town from the image of massacred buffalo, and everyone from the Natural Resource Defense Council to the Intertribal Bison Cooperative is pushing for Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to call an immediate halt to the slaughter.

But it’s not a proper cause until a rock star gets involved, and so relic trio Crosby, Stills and Nash—better known for showing videos of whales at some concerts (and impersonating whale songs at others) has jumped on the bandwagon, donating ten tickets and backstage passes to the BFC, which will sell the tickets and put the proceeds in the bison-saving kitty (800-728-6223 for info). Purchasers of the donated tickets will have a chance to “have [their] photograph taken with David Crosby and/or Graham Nash.” No word at press time on Stephen Stills’ apparent reticence. And honest to god, we didn’t even try to reach Neil Young for comment.

•••

Leave it to the Flathead to make karaoke a contact sport. The sing-along-turned-melee happened recently at the Ol’ River Bridge Inn in Columbia Falls after what was apparently a stirring rendition of Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee.”

“It was chaos. The couch was pushed up against the fireplace, tables were knocked over. There were women fighting, there were men fighting. It was like something from a bad movie,” reported the Inn’s manager.

Apparently, after a Merle fan finished singing Haggard’s 1967 hit, words were exchanged and fists started flying. In all, at least 15 men and women were involved in the brawl. “They were avid karaoke fans, so maybe they were mad that he stole the show,” the Inn’s manager told The Hungry Horse News, adding: “One thing’s clear—they all wanted to fist fight. These women were brawling as bad as their husbands. One of them hit me in the jaw. She was swinging like a grown man.”

Is that how they do things in Muskogee? What ever happened to “holdin’ hands and pitching woo”?

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