Capturing the Big Sky

January 20, 2017  •  4 Comments

Capturing the Big Sky

By Sean R. Heavey and A.J. Etherington

Can see for miles...Can see for miles and miles...Rolling green hills of Southern Valley County, Northeastern Montana

    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. 

  Crazy MountainsThe plains of Eastern Montana collide abruptly with the Rocky Mountain Front North of Big Timber, Montana    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.

Amber WavesA wheat field basks in the afternoon sun awaiting harvest in Northeast Montana.

    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.

The Tiger SleepsLightning erupts over Tiger Butte near Glasgow in Northeast Montana.     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. 

By George, I'm Free!A farm track leads off into the sun set in Northeast Montana


Duane Nelson(non-registered)
I'm sure that I will get it wrong, but I saw a quote that goes something like this: 'Anyone can love a mountain, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.'
Patti Cobb Armstrong(non-registered)
I have tried many times to explain the prairie, hills and space of eastern MT and have NEVER come close to the visuals you post. Thanks!
Lisa Garsjo Thievin(non-registered)
I have lived on the eastern plains of Montana my whole life. You capture the beauty I am blessed to see every day. Thank you Sean for sharing your photos with us! :)
Bill Jacobson - Native of Glasgow(non-registered)
I left NE Montana for good when I enlisted at the induction center in Butte at the end of August, 1967. I didn't realize at the time that my life was about to change dramatically. I spent 6 years in the Army including a year in Vietnam. Halfway through my enlistment, I found myself in Northern Virginia - and in love. I left the military in August if 1973 and brought my Virginia wife back to Montana and Eastwrn Montana College at Billings. The three years we lived in Billings were among the best of our 44 year marriage. My wife was a newly-minted RN and began her career at the Billings Clinic. After earning my teaching degree I attempted to find a teaching job in or near one of Montana's larger cities so my wife could pursue her career as an OR nurse. No luck. We left Montana in December of 1976 and settled near her home in Virginia. She started work almost immediately and I was teaching within 3 months. We have traveled back to Montana several times and hope to do so again soon. My family is in Virginia but my home is Montana - Eastern Montana. Thanks to the help of good folks like Sean Heavey I have been able to show folks the real beauty of Montana without the distraction of Mountains.

Thank you, Sean
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