Montana, High, Wide, and Handsome

Montana, High, Wide, and Handsome

Montana, High, Wide, and Handsome

Montana, High, Wide, and Handsome


In these pages you will come to fall in love with a ruggedly diverse and strikingly beautiful state, a land that takes hold and won't let go. Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome is widely recognized as a classic history and delightful ode to the idiosyncratic personalities, restless landscape, unforgettable peoples, and lively history of the Treasure State. William Kittredge provides a new introduction for this edition.


William Kittredge

In the 1980s, when James Welch, Mary Clearman Blew, Bill Bevis, Rich Roeder, Bill Lang, Annick Smith, and I were struggling to settle on the contents for The Last Best Place: a Montana Anthology, we decided that we wouldn’t include any historians. We were putting together a “literary” collection, and chapters from histories didn’t really fit. Besides, there were too many good historians in Montana—they would take up half the book.

Then we violated our resolve by including “They Brought Satin Pajamas …,” a chapter about the coming of homesteaders from Joseph Kinsey Howard’s Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome, a history that seemed to constitute a special case. Since its publication in 1943, Howard’s book, because of its insights into Montana politics and economics, issues of fairness, and environmental concerns, has been widely influential in Montana. Opinionated and iconoclastic, it is also a “literary” look at trends and events, a real storyteller’s book.

Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Americans living in east coast centers of educated civility had been thrilled and entertained by a seemingly endless series of semi-true and simultaneously mythologizing stories from the frontiers, as pioneers moved west across the Alleghenies into Kentucky and Ohio and onto the Great Plains. Tales of exploration and Indian wars, captivities and escapes, encounters with carnivorous animals, frontier adventure and heroism—some quite tall—were hugely popular. There even emerged, from this miscellany, a national classic, The Journals of Lewis and Clark.

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