Friday, August 6

Helena adventures: The capitol

I may not know who Montana's senators or representative are, but I have taken a tour of the state capitol building, and I figure that is a pretty good start to spending at least three of the next four years in the state.  Now I have something to talk about with the locals.  I can say, "That certainly is a high dome," or "Those Ohio brothers did a fine job of decorating the original part of the building," and I will be in.  My compatriots will know I belong.  Until questions of regarding past and upcoming votes on the national stage come up.

Seeing as how no one else joined me on the top of the hour at the security station, my guided tour of the capitol was personal and private and moved at my leisure to take pictures in the empty senate, supreme court and house of representatives.  Not that there is a terrible lot of interest to take pictures of when the legislature is not in session, mostly empty halls, stained glass ceilings, statues, oil paintings and a lot of pictures of Lewis and Clark.  There's one oil painting in the hall leading to the house of representatives.  There's the Charlie Russel mural Lewis and Clark Meeting the Flathead Indians in the house of representatives proper.  And there's the immense bronze bas relief in the Senate that celebrates the bicentennial of their passing through Montana.  And therein lies my frustration.

Why all the love and celebration of two men and their Corps of Discovery who only passed through the land, six decades before it was even a territory, let alone a state?  Yes, their exploration was important, and their early observations of the rivers, flora, fauna and local people are well preserved, but they only passed through.  They spent no more than a year here in total.  They both died well before settling began in earnest.

It's like Montana is desperately searching for the respect of the East.  We totally love Lewis and Clark.  You know who they are, right?  They were sent out by Thomas Jefferson.  He's cool, right?  That makes us cool by extension, right?  It would be like Gonzaga claiming Sherman Alexie as a notable alumnus when he transferred within a year.

Come on, Montana, have some real state pride.  Celebrate actual Montanans and those whose actions formed the state.  More statues of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress.  Paintings of Sidney Edgerton and Joseph Toole, the first governors of the territory and state, respectively.  The slightest bit of notice paid to the Copper Kings.  Celebrate your own history and people.  Don't glom on to those already established in the history books.  If the rest of the nation has no idea who Marcus Daly is, whatever.  He's yours.

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