Well, hot damn! Missoula has finally hit the big time. Sure we’re no Lubbock, Texas or Bangor, Maine, but for the first time in history we’ve become a bigger, better, badder TV market than Billings, according to the recently released Nielsen Media Research group survey of Dominant Marker Areas (or DMAs for you media savvy ad men out there).

What the hell does this mean?

It means Jill Valley’s stern-but-fair reporting and Todd Reed’s booming Chris Berman doppelganger have paid off. Local network affiliate plans to tackle the big issues like treed house cats and high-school wrestling have finally come to fruition and hooked more viewers then ever.

But wait there’s more…The climb up the DMA ladder also means more money for everyone. While national advertisers usually concentrate on the DMA Hot 100, Missoula’s ranking of 168 makes us Montana’s top market—translating to higher commercial prices across most media outlets.

Furthermore it means that those star-bellied Sneeches over in Billings can’t boss us around anymore. We’re the top dogs and don’t you forget it Billings!

(Fair warning: next year we’re going after the always formidable #167—Hattiesburg-Laural, Miss.)

•••

Peace posts! Huh! What are they good for? Absolutely nuthin’! Say it again!

It’s one thing to put a “War is Obsolete” sign in your window or stand on a bridge every week dressed in black in peace-loving Missoula, but try that kind of rabble-rousing down in the Bitterroot and you could be popping the top on a tallboy can of whup-ass. Even after all the blood, sweat and tears that went into mounting the Bitterroot Peace Seekers’ “peace post,” some knucklehead (or group of knuckleheads) just had to cut it down.

Erected in a private lot on Main Street in Hamilton just before Christmas, the seven-foot post was a rallying spot for the Peace Seekers, a local chapter of the national group. Once a week since December, the group has met around a cozy fire to pray for peace, talk about how to prevent war (and now that it’s started, what to do to stop it) and eat soup. If the spirit moved someone, he or she would add a message of peace, a letter or poem, to the post. Then some bastard (or group of bastards) had to take a chainsaw to the thing.

“It had been lightly vandalized in the past,” says Bitterroot peace advocate Kerry Wall-Maclane. “There had been prayer flags ripped off and various poems ripped off, but this is the most serious thing.”

The incident happened late Saturday night or early Sunday morning before a Support the Troops rally. Wall-Maclane doesn’t believe anyone involved with the Troops rally cut the post down, because the folks behind that effort were so amicable and the rally “wasn’t at all incendiary.”

A police report was filed by the owners of the land where the post once stood and the case has been assigned to an officer, but no investigation has begun (not much to do when half the county owns their own chainsaw).

In the meantime, what are the peace seekers going to do?

“Well, gosh, we’re putting it back up,” says Wall-Maclane.

Maybe the Grinch (or group of Grinches) who stole the spirit of the peace post will learn that every peacenik down the Bitterroot will still gather in that lot downtown to pray and talk and hope for peace, post or no post.

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