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.