words and photos by Jules Older
When I teach skiing, I suggest to my students that, to establish and hold a rhythm, they find their ski song.
Truth is, my ski songs find me. My usual one is Sweet Georgia Brown. When I skied West Virginia, it morphed into Miner’s Lifeguard. When I crossed from Switzerland’s French side to the German, my song suddenly switched to Springtime for Hitler and Germany.
See? My song finds me.
So, I shouldn't have been surprised when, about a week before a trip to Whitefish, Montana, a new song came pounding into my head… and out of my mouth enough times to drive my wife crazy.
It has a couple of names: Leaving Cheyenne and Goodbye Old Paint. Here's how it goes…
I ride an old Paint
A leadin' old Dan
I'm goin' to Montana
For to throw the Hoolahan
Woody Guthrie sang it. Roy Rogers sang it. And now that I'm skiing Montana once again, I'm singing it, too. My wife can't wait for the big yellow taxi to take me away.
And I can't wait to get back to Montana. For a devotee of the beautiful and the peculiar like me, the state’s a double treat.
Montana is known for forested mountains, wide-open spaces, abundance of wildlife and absence of people. All true. It’s gorgeous.
It also has one of the most polluted cities in America; a history of bitter, sometimes deadly, labor disputes, and an over-abundance of weird villains including the Unabomber. It’s insane.