Tom Heatherington has a funny way of showing his appreciation for Montana.
In July, the Kalispell resident started a website with a simple message: Montana sucks. The website (www.montana-sucks.com) features a list of things that suck, a list of reasons why Montana sucks and “a store that sucks.” Its best-selling item is a T-shirt that reads in large type: “Montana Sucks,” with, “Now go home and tell all your friends” in smaller type below. An example of why Montana sucks includes an image of a sheep wearing fishnet stockings with garters and high heels, above the caption, “The locals have a history of animal abuse, don’t be surprised at anything you might see… If you value your family and your dog’s innocence, don’t visit Montana.”
Heatherington says he got the idea for the website a few years ago at a Kalispell restaurant when he noticed someone wearing a shirt exactly like the one described above.
“I was incredulous at first,” he says. But then he noticed the smaller type, and got the joke. After that, he searched for a shirt with the same phrase, but couldn’t find one. So last summer, he began making them on his own, using the website to promote them.
Until recently, he’d only get a handful of hits on the website per day, 30 at most. But then a March 23 Associated Press article about the animosity westerners feel toward California transplants mentioned Heatherington’s website. Since then, Heatherington says, his site’s received about 18,000 hits per day, and he’s sold more T-shirts in one weekend than he had since July.
Sarah Lawlor, a spokesperson for Travel Montana, the state’s tourism promotion division, says the site is harmless and might even spark regional interest. But, she adds, “I think I need to do a better job educating Montanans on the benefits of tourism.”
Lawlor points out that tourism tax revenues added up to $202 million in 2005, about $224 per Montanan. She also notes that tourism provides nearly 50,000 jobs statewide.
Heatherington also says his site and shirts are harmless, and that he has nothing personal against tourism or tourists.
“Everybody knows Montana is just such a beautiful state,” he says. “It’s totally a humor thing.”