Tag Archives: etiquette

Idiom Index

Welcome to Montana—as you’ve probably noticed, there’s some lingo getting thrown around that you might not have heard before. Study this cheat-sheet to familiarize yourself with a few common terms & phrases, along with likely scenarios, before making a fool of yourself out there on the streets of Bozeman.

Road soda (a.k.a., roadie)
It’s Friday afternoon, you’re done with midterms or a big project at work, and it’s time to head out for a long weekend in the mountains. “Hey, pass me a roadie, would ya?”

Tag soup
You’re sitting around the dinner table, choking down the cheapest ground beef you could find at T&C, explaining to friends that you came home empty-handed from a hunting trip. “Tough conditions out there; we ate tag soup.”

No friends on a powder day
Your ski buddies stop at a flat spot to regroup and declare how great the day is. You come flying by, blasting them with snow, carving turns across the untracked meadow they were all admiring. “No friends on a power day, suckers!”

Cowboy (or cowgirl) up
Your friend’s being a ninny: “Wow, that’s a lot of whitewater! House Rock looks pretty scary. It never feels that big from the road. What if I flip?” “Aw, put on your PFD and cowboy up already.”

Whiskey ditch
You’ve got an exam tomorrow and need to slow down, but can’t leave the bar yet ’cause there’s a really hot guy who keeps checking you out. “Bartender, I’ll take a whiskey ditch.”

Ain’t my first rodeo
As you inspect your flat mountain-bike tire, blown halfway up Leverich, your new riding partner comes in hot with a patch kit and unsolicited instructions. “Easy, tiger. I got this. It ain’t my first rodeo.”

Crick (as opposed to “creek”)
You’re chatting with a rancher about hunting his place and where to leave your truck. “Should I park over there by the crick?”

Bikini hatch
Your friends want to fish the lower Madison on a blazing hot Saturday afternoon. “Are you kidding me? The bikini hatch will be full swing. You’re more likely to hook a tuber than a brown.”

You don’t have to outrun a griz, just your friends
Your friend from Wisconsin is a little worried about going backpacking in the Madison Range; she heard about all the bears in those mountains, and how fast they are. “It’ll be fine! Just remember, you don’t have to outrun a griz, just your friends.”

I’ll never leave Montana, brother
You’re a recent engineering graduate, still living on ramen and Coors Light. Your friend asks, “Where are you gonna go now, to make a pile of money?” “I’ll never leave Montana, brother.”

Code of the West

by Courtney King

Many folks are moving to Montana through a great migration from cities and areas that are experiencing wildfires, riots, and hurricanes. If you are among the newbies, welcome—and help us preserve our Montana lifestyle through the Code of the West.

The Code of the West is a set of informal laws that originally shaped the cowboy culture of the Old West, and is still active today. What are these unwritten rules, and why are they important? If you come from a bigger city where it’s more acceptable not to speak to strangers and keep to yourself, know that it’s basically the complete opposite here. If you come from California and wonder why you feel shunned all of a sudden, there’s a backstory to this behavior. Previous newcomers tried to bring Californian ways to Montana that simply were not well-received.

The pioneers of the West, agree with them or not, paved the way to civilization using laws of the land. While things have changed with the times, in Bozeman we stay true to the best of those values. Statutory morals centered on hospitality, fair play, loyalty, and respect for the land and each other. We treat others as we want to be treated, and we still hold the contract of a gentleman’s agreement to a high standard. Most folks still consider a handshake a contract.

The Code’s implications can be as simple as waving to a passerby driving down your road, to striking up a brief conversation with someone out on the trail. Montana is not a hurried lifestyle; take your time and enjoy it. If you’re coming from out of state, embrace your new different life.

Back in the day, anyone who broke the Code became a social outcast. Here is a brief list still applicable today as it was back then—if not in the literal sense, at least in the figurative.

  • Don’t inquire into a person’s past. Take the measure of a man for what he is today.
  • Don’t ask a rancher how many cattle she has; that’s like asking how much money she has in the bank.
  • Close the gate when you open it.
  • Say howdy to folks on the trail (and pick up your dog’s indiscretions).
  • Never order anything weaker than whiskey.
  • Always fill your whiskey glass to the brim.
  • Do not practice ingratitude.
  • A cowboy always helps someone in need, even a stranger or an enemy.
  • Real cowboys are modest. A braggart who is “all gurgle and no guts” is not tolerated.
  • Respect the land and the environment by not smoking in hazardous fire areas, and not disfiguring rocks, trees, or other natural areas.
  • Honesty is absolute—your word is your bond; a handshake is more binding than a contract.

Post Wisely

by Corey Hockett

We live in a funny time. An age where announcing one’s experiences outweighs living the experience itself. If you don’t have a picture, did your trail run even happen? If your photo wasn’t affirmed with 1,000 cyber hearts, was your bike ride even worth it? If you climb a mountain, but fail to take a reel of it, were you there at all? So goes the thought process of the digital age.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a millennial who has social-media accounts and does in fact post from time to time. I have a camera and I understand the appeal of sharing images with one’s community. But must we do this with every last activity, every single outing? Is it too much to exercise a little discretion? We in Montana are still lucky enough to enjoy places to ourselves. Let’s do our best to keep it that way.

For the locals out there grumbling aloud about busy trailheads, head to the next drainage over. The one without a parking lot. Sure, it might be a little further from where you intended to go, but isn’t that what we’ve loved about this place all along? The opportunity to explore and discover?

Now, for those of you who have stumbled upon an area seemingly unbeknownst to others, please, for the love of all that is holy, keep it to yourself! Recognize the sacredness of such a thing and don’t ruin it by advertising it to your whole social network. Step back and realize that the reason the place seems so lovely and enjoyable is that there’s nothing around but the natural world. Crazy, huh?

As bewildered as I am over this, it’s clear that some folks are unable to move through their days without providing constant updates to their digital followership. Slaves to their vibrating, attention-sucking, brain-numbing devices, they need affirmation from others that the life they live is in fact a good one. To this, I say fine. If you want to post a photo of all the fish you caught in your secret hole, great—just don’t include easily recognizable landmarks. This same stretch of water could be quietly enjoyed by others, too. Choose a frame with an indistinct background and a caption that conceals the location’s identity. You get to show off your fish and preserve the solitude for others. Win-win.

I understand that as an outdoor guidebook, we play a role in the increased visitation to certain locations. There’s no way around it. However, we do so judiciously. No place that we promote, in print or online, is a secret spot—they’re all well-documented on maps and in other guidebooks; they’re all well-known among the local outdoor populace. “Secret” and “favorite” are not the same thing. Part of our job is to facilitate outdoor recreation—and newcomers (to town, or to a certain activity) need to know where to go. Sometimes that helps protect a place from mankind’s ravenous propensity to rape, pillage, develop, and commodify; other times, it simply leads to overcrowding. This is a conundrum, and if you think we could do a better job, tell us.

The point is, we live in a time where social media is everywhere. Like it or not, this includes our outdoor spaces. Thus, our responsibility—and I mean everyone here—is to use it in a manner that encourages healthy engagement with nature. What does “healthy” mean? In loose terms, it’s creating awareness for wild places under threat while keeping quiet about the so-called “undiscovered” spots. As for knowing which is which, it can only be up to the individual. But it ain’t that tough.

Post wisely, my friends.