Several of my recent essays develop the theme "Bozeman, Gateway to Wisdom". I hope you'll read them. Why? I want to share with you and others invested in our home territory and civic culture the wisdom I've learned during four decades of living here.
This and subsequent essays will be published on the Oolite Media site, "This Is Bozeman." Your reading suggests some, perhaps much, interest in our town, valley, and surrounds. I hope you find my series of columns helpful, provocative, and enjoyable.
I feel lucky to write them while on our Gallatin Gateway ranch. My breaks from work often involve watching trout and other wildlife, working with farm machinery, or adjusting irrigation from a canal built privately through our place in 1883-85. Initially it was known as the Gallatin Bozeman Canal, then the Kleinschmidt, and now the West Gallatin Canal. Our water rights, 100 miners inches, date from 1866. I paid an entire year's salary in 1970 for this water. It augments our 1883 water rights. We have secure water rights, even in dry years, and reserve some of it for wild trout.
Ramona and I feel blessed, partially because our ranch is ideally located. Bozeman’s Ridge Athletic Club is 45 minutes away when biking, a third of that driving my Jeep. We reach the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in 25 minutes. We have traveled a lot and know there is no better place for Ramona and me. We are grateful to live and work here.
My writing aims to foster responsible liberty, sustainable ecology, and modest prosperity. Some institutional arrangements promote virtue; others political predation via cronyism. More about this will come in a later post.
Social virtues and natural amenities make the Bozeman area increasingly attractive to talented and accomplished people. They are among the unspoken reasons Bozeman has become a magnet for people holding high human capital: education, skills and the ability to defer gratification. These characteristics foster success. The Bozeman community rewards various kinds of intelligence, both mechanical and symbolic.
The phrase "Bozeman, Gateway to Wisdom" carries two distinct meanings, one geographical and the other cultural broadly defined. Geography is the theme of this piece.
For many years Ramona and I organized and hosted 400-mile, fully supported, weeklong bike trips. Ten people from around America would join us for these annual "Rolling Salons". We had a Suburban outfitted to carry a dozen bikes, our "sag wagon". It was always available when individuals wanted to avoid a difficult climb, were hot, or merely tired.
People flew in to Bozeman and had their bikes set up and checked out at Summit Bike and Ski. We'd meet at our Gateway ranch, have a six-mile checkout ride "around the block", and have dinner at the Gallatin Gateway Inn. The next day we would begin our 400-mile trek, It was often to Wisdom, Montana in the Big Hole Valley. We also biked from Gateway to Glacier Park and to Jackson, Wyoming. This one however, Bozeman, Gateway to Wisdom, was our favorite ride. Here is a photo from one such trip.
All bags, lunches, and belongings were carried in the vehicle. The operational rule made light riding: Riders carried only water, sunscreen, and a rain jacket on the bikes. We averaged 60 miles a day with an optional century on the final day.
We stayed in small-town motels, Ennis, Dillon, Jackson and Wisdom were favorites. We had dinners in bars and restaurants. Evening discussion salons were based on short readings sent out in advance. Most evening talks related to the culture and geography of our region. We often discussed American traditions of responsible liberty, the role of law, and the blessings of living in the world’s most successful large scale social experiment.
Were we were still hosting these rides, I’m sure we’d discuss the trend lines of this experiment. Alas, many are downward. Here is America’s big question: How can we help reverse the downward slope?