Sunday, January 24, 2010

By George, I'm free ....

A few weeks ago, I mentioned A. B. Guthrie's famous novel, The Big Sky, and told how the book's name reportedly came from a declaration made by Guthrie's father on his first morning in Montana. Here's how Guthrie himself recalled that story, as told in his 1965 autobiography, The Blue Hen's Chick:
If my father did indeed feel alien in these physical surroundings, it wasn't for long. He used to tell me abut his first morning in Choteau.

He had arisen early and gone outside. The air he inhaled cheered him as no air had before. Five miles southward rose two lonely buttes, which in that atmosphere he estimated to be about a mile away. All up and down the western skyline stood the great blue lift of the Rocky Mountains. Benches climbed from he valley of the Teton River and to the east leveled into flatlands that ran out of sight. Overhead -- you could almost say on all sides, too -- was the sky -- deeper, bluer, bigger than he had ever known.

The breathed the air. He looked. He heard the ring of silence. He felt somehow afloat in space. A shudder shook him, the shudder of delight. He stretched his arms wide and said aloud, "By George, I'm free!"


  1. I love this description. And I often feel that way about living in Montana, especially after a trip to Billings. Isn't that crazy? I know some people who feel vulnerable and scared, with this much space around them. They want people and buildings and noise, because it comforts them knowing others are around. I get overwhelmed with humanity, and need a little space and air. Well, Montana sure has it's share of both.

  2. Oh, it's not crazy at all! In fact, I know exactly what you mean.

    Bozeman certainly isn't a big city by most people's standards, but sometimes the bustle of it just gets to me. So I put the dog in the car, and in a few minutes we're out in the middle of nowhere ... and I feel a million times better. For me, at least, there's something about the wide open spaces that's immensely good for the soul.