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The "romance of the west" is felt most strongly by those who don't live there.

I am moved to write by the enclosed articles from our local paper(*). They speak directly to all those who dream of moving to Montana or some other Western state, believing that Paradise is out there somewhere far from where they now reside. I guess the Romance of the West is felt more strongly by those who don't live here than by those who do.

Californians dream of life in Washington state, Washingtonians dream of Montana and Montanans dream of life in Alaska or Mexico, depending on the season and their attitude toward snow. Some Montanans even dream of Colorado or Missouri! But I do not know of a state in the U.S. where you can't get away from the sidewalks and live a decent country life, including California, New York and New Jersey. They all have some advantages and disadvantages.

In Montana, for instance, we have no really large cities that can provide a local market for full-time small farmers, so most people who want the country life will have to find a job to support their farming. The only people who can move here without sacrificing their standard of living are the really rich and the poor. Even the low income may have to do without services they were used to in wealthier states. Make sure you have a secure job offer before you move to Montana or any other largely rural state.

Many people want to relocate out West. Unless they have a history of hardiness and self-reliance, I prefer to discourage them.. They will have a hard time finding employment here unless they have skills in short supply. More important, they will be leaving far behind the support systems of family and friends and trying to adjust to a new climate and culture while under financial stress. As many families come apart under that kind of stress as are strengthened.

I suggest a different strategy for our out-of-state friends: look closely near where you now live. Once you get 60 miles outside a major urban area, things begin to thin out considerably. You may find Paradise in your own backyard, at considerably less grief and expense than moving thousands of miles away. The countryside way of life does not require Montana, just a little bit of land and a living. Some of the most enterprising countrysiders are doing this in the middle of Megalopolis. It comes down to what you do with where you are, not where you are.

(*) The articles, from the Helena Independent Record, point out that most newcomers to the state become disillusioned and leave within a few years. The Kalispell Job Service sends a form letter to inquirers (mostly from California) saying it's common for 100 qualified applicants to apply for a single job vacancy. One lady who said they should stop promoting the state was asked how long she'd lived there. The answer: two weeks!
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Author:Mackin, Mark
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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