Outdoors overload on an indoor afternoon


September is usually the finest month of the year in Montana, and Saturday was a nearly perfect September day — blue, cloudless skies, a slight breeze and temperatures in the low to mid-70s.

That’s why I joined several thousand other outdoor lovers and spent a good chunk of Saturday afternoon indoors — on opening day of the new Scheels, the retail behemoth, Montana’s latest temple of excess, the store that is not merely a store but a shopping experience. Continue Reading →


A Scotsman walks into a bar…

The Prez

Lay of the Land: A series of essays on the spirit of Montana

It was an evening in late May 1995. Around midnight, I got back to my room at the Northern Hotel in Billings and picked up the phone. I was desperate to talk to my wife, Mary, who was back home in Scotland, where it was 7 in the morning. The conversation went roughly as follows: Continue Reading →

One-of-a-kind house: In the city, off the grid


When Randy and Janna Hafer finish their house on the North Side of Billings sometime next year, it won’t look all that different from other houses in the neighborhood.

There will be one noticeable difference, though — the 23-foot-high wind turbine on the corner of their lot at North 23rd Street and Seventh Avenue North. Continue Reading →

Downtown living and the best of both worlds


I live in Montana. Most people, hearing that, especially if they weren’t from around here, would probably picture a log cabin surrounded by towering pine trees, alongside a racing stream, with snow-clad peaks over yonder.

Not quite. I live on the second floor of a century-old converted warehouse 100 feet from the railroad tracks in the heart of the biggest city in the state. Out my windows I can just see the tops of the forest of pipes and stacks rising from the Phillips 66 refinery. Continue Reading →

Local cops, federal money: How much is too much?


Eight times a year, on average, the Billings Police Department deploys its Special Weapons and Tactics team, 12 officers wearing heavy armor and toting semiautomatic and automatic weapons.

In almost all cases, they are executing high-risk search warrants at the homes of suspected drug dealers, and they roll up in the BEAR, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Department’s 35,000-pound Ballistic Engineered Armored Response vehicle. Continue Reading →