Friday, July 17, 2009

White Crosses and Gambling

The two things I noticed on my drive through the mountains of Montana, and a bit of the Big Sky part, were all the white crosses.

When we first crossed the border, we were not greeted by the typical Welcome to....sign, but rather a large, blue sign explaining that wherever there has been a road fatality, white crosses have been placed.

The next thing you notice is the speed limit.....70 mph on a country road. In Oregon, and I think most states, the limit on a highway is 55 mph. I am wondering is speed is the reason for all the fatalities? Is some organization hoping that seeing all these white crosses will cause people to voluntarily slow down? I'm wondering if native Montanans have gotten used to the crosses; for a visitor it was quite noticeable and very disturbing. At one bridge there were 17 crosses. Some were big, most were small. Was it a large family with many children? A church youth van on an outing? Who were the faces behind these crosses? What was their story.

White crosses were as frequent as mile posts. I asked a friend who has a relative in Kalispell about it, and she said that the choice to speed is a high value in the state. That even if you do get pulled over, you just carry some cash in your pockets because it is very easy to pay the police off when they pull you over. Interesting. A few years ago the speed limit was 90 mph, but the federal government refused to give funds for road improvements until the state lowered the speed limit.

The other noticing I had were all the gambling establishments. Not, spanky new ones that you'd find on the various reservations in Oregon, but dives with names like, LuLu's. On the main drag of town it seemed like every three storefronts was a casino. This really cheapens the landscape, so I am grateful that gambling is not legal in my state. Who gambles at all these casinos? The state population isn't that large. Is it the same few people? It was rather depressing thinking of how this addiction is destructive and robs families of so much, even when it is just the destructive pastime of one family member.

The natural landscape of Montana is a draw for visitors and residents. I would love to go back and explore, but the two above noticings did cause me to be a bit reflective and solemn.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Montana and places you've visited there.


Diana (Ladybug Limited) said...

Ah, some of the same things I noticed since I've married a Montanan. I really dislike visiting his family in Great Falls simply because of the casinos on every corner. It gives the whole city a mantle of despair, in my opinion.

And as for the speeding, Greg says that it used to be that if you got pulled over for speeding, it wasn't actually a speeding ticket but a ticket for overconsumption of fossil fuels or something like that! Excuse seems to be that it's a big state and takes forever to get anywhere without the high speed limits, but the governments in CA or TX never used that argument to raise any limits-- way more traffic, I guess.

Laura said...

I did not know that about Montana. Very interesting information.

Genny said...

The last time I was there was in 1995. I don't remember crosses or casinos. I was in Helena and had a couple of trips across the state. It was a beautiful place and fits the Big Sky Country name. My favorite trip was to my friend's family ranch. There was so much history in this small town. I got to see their family's original homestead and could imagine them in their wagons crossing the prairie. Also they pointed out things called buffalo wallows where the ground was lower because the buffalo would roll and lay there. On this same trip my friend did get a speeding ticket. She actually wrote the officer a check for the fine. I it was $25. I think the speed on the highways was 55, but there wasn't a speed limit on the interstate. It was weird getting passed when I was doing 85.

Rebekah said...

Genny, interesting about the buffalo wallows.

Anonymous said...

I did not know that about Montana. Very interesting information.

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