Prairie Lights: On city signs, a little honesty goes a long way


Last Best News would like to announce that its annual convention, which had been planned for Harris County, Ga., is looking for another venue. That’s Sheriff Jolley and his sign.

Mike Jolley, the sheriff down in Harris County, Ga., has been making headlines for erecting an in-your-face sign in front of his office.

“Warning,” the sign reads: “Harris County is politically incorrect. We say: Merry Christmas, God Bless America and In God We Trust. We salute our troops and our flag. If this offends you … LEAVE!”

The sheriff probably thinks he’s harking back to a better time in our history, and I suppose he is. I’m old enough to remember those golden days myself. They were a time when people expressed gratitude, reverence and respect in a gentle voice, expecting nothing in return.

Now it’s popular to use those simple virtues to bludgeon people who hold opposing viewpoints, to put down others’ beliefs, to pick a fight. But still, I want to thank the sheriff for putting that sign up. Chances were slim that I was going to visit Harris County, Ga., anyway, but now I can just scratch it off my list and be done with it.

I only wish other elected officials would exercise the same aggressive honesty, so that travelers, tourists and people looking to relocate would know exactly what they were in for.

Would Mayor Tom Hanel consider putting up signs at all the principal entrances to the city of Billings? They could read: “Warning: No matter how much it snows, we’re only going to plow a few streets. If you buy a house, it’s probably going to be run into by a drunk driver. And don’t complain about that smell. If you don’t like roasting sugar beets … GET THE HELL OUT!”

Or how about Butte: “Beware: Butte is grammatically incorrect. We say ‘youse guys’ because we like the sound of it, not because we don’t know any better. Don’t complain about the cold. We know it’s cold. And yeah, that’s a very big hole and we’re aware of it. If youse don’t like it … SCRAM!”

Missoula? “Welcome to our peaceful community, but be careful. You call it ‘Rape City’ and we might punch you in the nose. Yes, a river does run through it. We hadn’t heard that one before. And technically, it’s not fog. It’s an inversion. If you think you need sunlight … HIT THE ROAD, DUDE!”

Miles City? “You have been warned: Miles City is not a small town. It’s exactly as big as we want it to be. Hell, we’ve got a Wal-Mart. We’ll take your money but not your advice. If you don’t like bucking horses, high water and old cowboys telling very long stories … GIT!”

Sidney? “Warning: If you’ve got even mild motion sickness, you might as well turn around right now. This is the city of ups and downs, booms and busts and a never-ending rollercoaster ride. We like beets and oil and football. You want to build a motel, take a number. You want to make cracks about this being the capital of West Dakota … VAMOOSE!”

Maybe the whole state of Montana needs a sign: “Welcome to Montana. You’re going to be here awhile, even at 80 mph. We’re no crazier than anybody else; those were isolated incidents. We have built some new rest stops, we swear. That’s right, no sales tax. If you like it here … just say YOU BET!”

Let’s face it, the country itself could use a sign, since the Statue of Liberty is no longer quite sufficient.

How’s this: “Welcome to the United States. Conditions may apply. If you come from a nation where bad people are doing terrible things, that may be grounds for exclusion. If you practice a ‘religion’ that most Americans are uncomfortable with, move along. Also, this is a democracy. If you’re not willing to live at a fever pitch for two solid years out of every four, passionately involved in the contact sport of presidential elections … GO AWAY! (We almost said Adios, but this is an English-only country.)”

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