Capturing the Big Sky
By Sean R. Heavey and A.J. Etherington
Montana has two sides really. Literally and figuratively. When confronted with Montana, which fittingly means Mountainous, you must also consider the nickname Big Sky Country. The truth is the “Big Sky” has nothing to do with the Mountains. If Montana, as a name, represents the western side of the state where the Rocky Mountains stand as proud sentries between the ground and sky blocking the view from peering eyes, then Big Sky represents the eastern side of Montana. Open and free the sky stands uninhibited by the Earth revealing the cosmos in all their glory.
A Mountain never changes, the scenery remains the same. Sure the light may change, fog may roll in, and snow may cover it, but the Mountain remains relatively unaltered. The landscape, therefore, is the dominate scene of Western Montana.
On the eastern side of Montana, however, the landscape bows out to the superiority of the sky. Unable to compete with her beauty the land is left to supplement the heavens which becomes the ultimate focal point in a land of plenty and selflessness.
The truth about the Plains of Montana, is that it is a land that sneaks up on you, grabs your heart and takes it hostage. It is a place of harsh reality and still unparalleled simple beauty, full of honest souls and leathered hands. For Centuries natives, pioneers, plainsman and farmers have sought freedom on the prairie of Northeastern Montana. They faced hardships, isolation, exposure, wild dangers and disease that gave most pause, but for those few who came the plains of Montana were a beacon of liberty and independence. They became a place where a man, women or family could make their own life free of masters, free from oppression and free from discrimination. The plains beckoned a life that offered the closest example of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Looking out over the sees of grass and wheat speckled with cattle, deer, pheasant and antelope the eye is drawn out, but ultimately it is drawn up as if viewing a large mural painted on the ceiling of an already ornate Cathedral. This painting, however, lives, it breathes and it changes making the canvass constantly in need of documenting and rendering in all its awe inspiring forms.
This sentiment has been shared by many who have made this land home, and wouldn’t have it any other way. Pulitzer prize winning writer A. B. Guthrie Jr. was quoted saying, “By George, I’m free!” after stretching out his arms under the big sky of Montana.