Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A place of full measure ...

I was extraordinarily fortunate, back in the fall of 1980, to sit in on a class called "Montana and the West" being taught at the University of Montana. This was, of course, the famous Montana history class taught by K. Ross Toole, easily Montana's best-known historian. Many hundreds of UM students took Toole's class every year, and his strident, insightful lectures helped shape a generation of Montana thinking. It was an amazing class, and was largely responsible for solidifying my obsession with Montana's history. Toole only taught the class once more, before dying of cancer in August 1981.

Here's a paragraph from the introduction to Toole's 1959 history of the state, Montana: An Uncommon Land:
The land itself is at once mountainous and flat, hot and cold, beautiful and terrible, and benign and malevolent. And the land has profoundly influenced events. There is little or nothing moderate about the history of Montana. It has ricocheted violently down the corridor of possibilities. What is good in reasonable measure is often bad in full measure, and Montana has been a place of full measure.

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