Book: The Flying D Ranch Lands of Montana

Book: The Flying D Ranch Lands of Montana

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Mike England

Large ranches aren’t quite as common around Bozeman as they used to be; beyond the trophy-cabin fragmenting that’s visible roadside, the proliferation of “Cows not Condos” bumper stickers around the Gallatin Valley is evidence enough. But by and large, southwest Montana is still home to lots of open space. Wander just about any direction from Bozeman and within an hour you’ll be into ranch country—big ranch country, 20,000-30,000 acres or more in some places, with dark-coated cows & horses speckling the golden fields that stretch off into the distance. But there are very few remaining ranches that are truly unique, truly Montanan, that combine the diverse characters of mountain pine and sagebrush, foothills and flatland, alpine and riparian environments. There are even fewer that have remained largely intact over the years, withstanding the hard toll that commercial & industrial development exacts on the land.

One such survivor is The Flying D Ranch, a 100,000-acre hunk of land at the northern edge of Gallatin Canyon. In her new book, The Flying D Ranch Lands of Montana: A History, local author Phyllis Smith narrates the ranch’s rich and colorful past in concise, clear, accurate detail. This is Smith’s second book of local history, and this latest glimpse into the Gallatin Valley’s bygone days chronicles the exciting history of one of southwest Montana’s most distinguished natural landmarks—from the ranch’s disjointed beginnings in the late 1800s up to its current, highly controversial position in the local and regional community. A thoroughly interesting read, The Flying D Ranch Lands is well written and far-reaching. More than just a provincial exposé, Smith’s book is an insight into Montana life—both its working-cowboy past and its billionaire-conservationist present. Following the unwritten code of all good historians, Smith takes no sides in what most locals know to be a fiery issue; rather, she presents The Flying D in all its beauty, intrigue, and stunning natural & cultural character.

The Flying D Ranch Lands of Montana: A History is available at Country Bookshelf and other local bookstores.

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