Talkin' white trash, and Milltown's short-lived art heist 

We will be the first to admit that there’s something really troubling—maybe even offensive—about the term “white trash.” After all, doesn’t it suggest that “regular” trash is some other color? Think about it. But even while we remain sensitive to the embedded racism of the phrase, we gotta admit that there’s something about the old WT label that really hits home. At least for us Independent lackwits, with our pot bellies, our PBR, and our gravy-stained muscle shirts. That’s why we had a mixed reaction to the news that, last week, Missoula was named one of the top 10 Northern white trash cities on the continent.

On Friday, the virtual truckstop known as Dr. Verne’s Northern White Trash Etiquette web site announced that the Garden City ranked fourth among North America’s best WT towns, as determined by a poll of 993 online readers. Missoula grabbed a respectable 12 percent of the vote, outdone only by Duluth (14 percent), Milwaukee (15 percent) and Cleveland (25 percent). Not bad, considering the poll’s criteria, which were, and we quote: “volume of quality dive bars, lack of yuppie influence, cheap housing, access to cable TV, hockey and cigarettes, and their general conduciveness to northern white trash living.”

Hockey? Crimony, everyone has a hockey team except us. Even Phoenix, for chrissakes. And cheap housing? Whatever. But despite its many refinements, it looks like Missoula’s preponderance of bars and country-fried culture helped ensure us a slot in the poll’s top 10.

Don’t look for Missoula’s new claim to fame to be emblazoned on pamphlets from the Chamber of Commerce. But it has inspired us to go ahead with our plans for a county-wide Independent belching contest. We’ll keep you posted.

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What is about lawn art that can turn an otherwise model citizen into a dime-store thief? We’re a good two months past prime hunting and gathering season for plastic baby Jesuses, when polypropylene saviors in swaddling clothes have a proclivity for disappearing. The 1999 holiday season was particularly nettlesome for nativity scenes throughout Christendom; in fact, a nationwide rash of grand theft infant from Charleston to Tacoma reached such epidemic proportions that one self-described “God Squad” in Chicago called it a plot hatched by Satan himself.

Such was nearly the fate of a Milltown-area deer sculpture as well, which mysteriously vanished several weeks ago from the lawn of artist Francis Pearson, who lives next door to Harold’s Club. The life-size buck was one of three in a herd of lawn fauna, what Pearson calls his “obsessive-compulsive assemblage sculptures” made of rope, wood, steel, automobile parts, and other found objects.

After flyers were posted around town, the hoofed critter mysteriously reappeared in the street on Super Bowl Sunday, thanks to a helpful tip from a Harold’s patron. Says Pearson, “When they stole it and got it home, they probably thought, ‘This guy must be crazy. This thing must’ve taken 1,000 hours to make.’” Which it did. In appreciation, Pearson treated the Harold’s Club crowd to a round of drinks.

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