(AKA: Why anybody who says the Blackfoot Nation is nothing but troublemakers is full of shit)
Ever since I first moved to Montana, any time I hear a mention of the Blackfoot Nation, or that someone is driving to Glacier National Park, somebody always says the same thing: “Don’t stop in Browning! You’ll either get robbed or stabbed! The Blackfoot are crazy!” I’ve heard it from non-Natives, I’ve heard it from other Native tribes, and always pretty consistently.
I’ve never really paid it any mind; I usually stop at the Exxon in Browning to get gas, whenever I’m up that way (gas is about 20 cents cheaper there than the other last stop before Marias Pass, East Glacier Park Village, and the Exxon in Browning has a better food selection inside). Every time I’ve stopped, I’ve never had a problem. Most of the people I’ve encountered there have been pretty nice. So I’ve always taken such statements with a grain of salt.
Then, last night happened, and after that, I’ll never pay heed to that stupid rumor again.
A buddy of mine, currently deployed, asked if I could drive up to Kalispell and pick up a parts snowmobile for him. I was driving US Highway 2, between East Glacier and the top of Marias Pass, when an Montana Highway Patrol trooper came cruising up behind me, cherries and berries flashing. I pulled over onto what I thought was the shoulder, only to discover that the highway didn’t actually have a shoulder, instead getting sucked into a dropoff, burying the passenger side of my truck in a deep snowdrift.
The MHP trooper slowed down (which tells me he did see this happen), but didn’t stop. Granted, he was on his way to an accident scene a few miles ahead, involving a big rig that had jackknifed and was blocking a lane of traffic, but come on–when I rolled by the scene of the accident later, there were at least eight patrol cars from three different agencies, a local fire & rescue unit, and three snow plows on scene. Nobody was injured, from what I understand. Most of those folks were already there, and most of the police officers were just sitting inside their cars. You’d think the guy could at least manage a “Hey, don’t worry, we’ll call for someone to help you” before continuing on his way. But I digress.
So I’m stuck, in the middle of nowhere, in -13° weather, with no cell service and several miles from the nearest town. I wasn’t entirely screwed; I had an emergency kit, to include a long length of logger’s chain, provisions, and the truck with still running with a mostly full tank of gas, but being stuck in the middle of the northern Rocky Mountain Range is not exactly an ideal situation. I got out of the my truck and tried to flag someone down for help. Over the next half-hour, I got passed by:
- Another MHP car,
- A Glacier County Sheriff’s Deputy,
- a truck from a nearby fire department, affiliation unknown,
- a snow plow from the Montana Department of Transportation,
- and at least five other vehicles.
Waved at all of them. Not a one of them stopped.
You know who did? A man from the Blackfoot Nation.
I didn’t catch his name, but he said he was a principal at the school in Browning; he was on his way to watch a wrestling team meet in Whitefish this weekend. Also a former Marine. Offered to pull me out, no questions asked. Made a bit of small talk afterward, and got back on the road. Nice guy, wish I would have caught his name.
So when somebody tells me that the Blackfoot Nation is full of ne’er do wells and troublemakers in the future, I’m going to raise the point that one of their people stopped to help me out of a jam when not even the local police, fire department, or Department of Transportation would.
Big D-Minus to those other people, but a big A Plus to the school principal with the red F-150. He is a credit to both his students and his people. The Blackfoot are All Right in my book. And I wish that gentleman and his students luck in their wrestling meet this weekend.