Wilsall Grain Elevator, picture from MontanaFilm.com (I can't find my camera in the chaos that is my house!)
Amanda, Lil and I went and supported Build a Better Wilsall, in Wilsall, Montana, over the weekend. Wilsall is a small community about 30 miles north of Livingston, made up almost entirely of ranching families. The town itself has a reportedly fabulous cafe and several bars...and that's about it. But it's at the foothills of the Crazy Mountains and is really an idyllic setting for a small western wide spot in the road. The fundraiser was Dinner and a Movie; they served a prime rib dinner and then showed Destry Rides Again starring James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich. All this took place at the rodeo grounds, so watching the movie on a temporary screen as the stars came out was really kind of special.
The event also brought home to me how much I appreciate small towns and ranching communities like Wilsall. Here are a bunch of people who have a narrow profit margin at the best of times, but things are even tougher during this recession. Still, they gave of their time and pocketbooks to come out for this event. Community members spent quite a bit of money at the live and silent auctions, on stuff that was a luxury. Who really needs yet another ornamental duck decoy? Yet, it went for over $100. The generosity of those people was amazing.
Another thing that really touched me was their Gold in the Valley segment. The Ringling 5, a local band made up entirely of ranchers in the Shields Valley, recorded a song about the Wilsall cemetary, which is where they "keep all the gold in their valley". At the event on Saturday, they played that song and had a slideshow of everyone from the community who died in the last year. It was enough to make the strongest of the crowd tear up a bit. Almost all the people who died were elderly...which highlighted another noticeable aspect of the evening. There were few if any children there. Ranching communities thrive on the younger generation--they're the ones who will take over the ranches and do a lot of the work even before that. There should have been children and people my age all over the place this weekend. Unfortunately, people my age or younger were pretty scarce. What will Wilsall be like in another 10 years? Who will run those ranches and continue to Build a Better Wilsall?