Sublime Solidarity

Sublime Solidarity

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Mike England

Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude. –Ralph Marston

Several years ago an essay landed in the O/B editorial inbox, about a woman’s post-divorce experience working in a barn with a retired rodeo bull named Wander. Called “Wandering” (Fall 2007, p. 66), it was insightful and amusing, erudite and down-to-earth: a well-written personal narrative rich with emotion and meaning. We published it the next issue.

A couple months later, another story came in from the same writer. “On the Wind” (Winter 2007-08, p. 62) had the same engaging, introspective style; this time it was about a nostalgic cross-country ski tour near Livingston. Like the first, this email got right down to business: “Here’s a story I thought you might like.”

Who was this woman? The random emails, the professional-caliber writing, the no-nonsense approach… I had to know. I Googled “Joanne Wilke” and to my surprise discovered a former Runner’s World editor who had recently published a historical memoir entitled Eight Women, Two Model Ts, and the American West. She’d set a school record as a college runner, mothered two children, and was now working in the MSU engineering department, writing outdoor-oriented essays in her spare time.

It was then that I began to truly understand my love for Bozeman. Sure, there’s the landscape, recreation, and wildlife that have always held my heart; but in all honesty, those things can be found elsewhere. What really sets Bozeman apart, I slowly realized, is the quality of much of its citizenry: quiet, unassuming professionals with diverse and impressive backgrounds who share a deep affinity for the land.

Yep, our little corner of the country seems to attract a disproportionate amount of these eye-on-the-prize, outdoor-oriented go-getters—men and women of action, not idle dreamers who never leave the couch. They are smart, capable citizens who work hard to accomplish their goals, and who thereby inspire the rest of us to accomplish our own—in both professional and recreational realms. When it comes to the outdoors, this community of achievers encourages us to be our best, to try our hardest, to reach our fullest potential… whether that’s doing the Ridge Run, climbing Granite Peak, paddling the Kitchen Sink, or just becoming supremely adept at one’s chosen sport or activity. Misery may love company, but around here, excellence is the life of the party.

As always, this issue of Outside Bozeman is about recreation—fishing, paddling, hiking, biking, skiing, and all the other activities we enjoy during a southwest Montana spring. But it’s also about people of quality: motivated and talented humans who aim high and embrace the spirit of excellence in its myriad forms. Who are these people? Friends who join us on the river day after day, sacrificing basic social needs in order to truly connect with the river and find its deeper meaning. Fierce competitors who help us summon the strength to complete grueling trail runs. Conservationists who build our trails and protect our wildlife. Trainers and nutritionists who help us stay healthy and fit. Farmers who put healthy, all-natural food on our tables. Photographers and writers who document our amazing outdoor lifestyle. Idealistic firebrands who aren’t afraid to call bullshit on those who threaten our way of life or try to corrupt our easy-going, open-minded nature. And, of course, people like Joanne Wilke, who live their lives in such a quintessentially Montana way that they’re an inspiration, and a reminder, to us all.

So get out and get after it this spring season. Climb the mountains, run the rivers, watch the wildlife. Identify your goals and make up your mind to achieve them. Above all, allow the excellent residents of this fine town to inspire you, encourage you, embolden you. Reach deep within and find that indomitable human spirit that so characterizes Bozeman’s demographic. And remember why you’re here in the first place: to live a good life, in a good place, among good people.


Regular O/B contributor Joanne Wilke passed away last fall. Read more about her on page 63.

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