If you’ve been following along this week you might have noticed I’m in Bozeman Montana with some friends. I’m hoping to find a homestead. My father loves to call Montana the last best place. He moved up to Whitefish a few years ago for retirement from Boulder Colorado. Our boomers know the score. He knows the last best places are dwindling as the frontier turns into subdivisions.
Growing up in Colorado was about as close to paradise as it gets. We had clean air, plenty of open space and a laid back uncrowded atmosphere. My brother was born there but my parents made a brief detour to Silicon Valley where I was born in the eighties. But Chief Niwot’s curse must have called to my family as we moved back to Colorado when I was still young. My dad thought Boulder was a better place to live than San Francisco or Palo Alto. No one who has been to Boulder escapes the curse.
“People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty.”What is Chief Niwot’s curse?
I call myself a Boulder native even if it’s not technically true. If you count the sojourn in the Bay Area, I’m one of those Californians that ruined Colorado even if my family had arrived long before I did. But we certainly didn’t arrive before the Arapaho. Perhaps I wasn’t in the wave of Californians that turned Colorado, and Boulder Valley in particular, into a boom town in the aughts and teens, but I’m still part of the undoing of the beauty of this valley. Anyone who is descended from immigrants has contributed to the curse.
The reason I chuckle at my father calling Montana the last best place is because the state is following the path that Colorado took. Bozeman feels exactly like Boulder did during my childhood. It’s no surprise to me Colorado folks are moving here to recapture what we’ve lost. If you came of age in the mountain west before urban sprawl and yuppie gentrification you yearn for a return. Boulder Valley has been undone by those that loved it’s beauty. And so we seek new frontiers.
In twenty or thirty years will the Gallatin valley and Bozeman face a similar fate? Almost assuredly. If anything, it makes me confident in putting down roots here. Maybe then my kids can call themselves Bozeman natives the way I do with Boulder. Maybe they can complain about the high housing prices and the arrival of tech workers and tell tales about how their family got here in the roaring twenties before all the Coloradans ruined the place.