February 3, 2018, marked the date of the annual Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center’s induction ceremony and fundraiser event held at the Best Western Heritage Inn in Great Falls, Montana. This year’s event was well attended by families across the state, and even some traveling out of state, to celebrate family members and friends induction into our great state’s western legacy and heritage.
Every year that I’ve attended this ceremony, I’m taken aback by the unique stories told by each new inductee, legacy and living. And as I have the chance to observe the room full of on-lookers, my heart swells, and occasionally a tear or two wells, at seeing the genuine pride each one has for their family’s honorable inductee being commemorated. It’s heartwarming. And it’s a good reminder of why I feel so strongly about the advancement of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center.
Like its inductees, this organization isn’t without its own trials and troubles; most recently in search of a place to put down roots to commemorate our western heritage and its growing number of inductees has offered up some road blocks. It’s been a tough year on the group guiding and forging a positive path, sometimes feeling as if there would even be one.
But you know what makes this organization? The spirit of the people like the directors, volunteers, the board members and trustees and membership, all working together on their own time to see this through. To me, that’s the epitome of the cowboy and western spirit. The organization will have a future and a place because of that and these people that care. We may not know what that looks like just yet, but a room full of strong-willed, generational Montanans, cowboys, cowgirls, and Native Americans alike, will see it come to pass.
You see? It’s because deep down, we all have that will, the cowboy spirit, or heritage inside us. The very core of what drove our families to settle and ranch and muster up a life in Montana is inside all of us; that fighting, tenacious spirit. That room full of people celebrating their western ancestors proved just that. It’s in the blood. We’re born to survive, take a beating, and persevere. We’re weathered and tough and stronger because of the adversity we’ve all seen.
Our heritage is our legacy, and it will because of the grandmother that took the time teach her granddaughter to bead or tan a hide. Our heritage is strong because somewhere there’s still an old cowboy showing a young man how to gentle a colt and throw a mean head loop, and read the herd. Our heritage is strong because of bootmakers, leatherworkers, artists, cattlemen, horse trainers, teamsters, cowboys and cowgirls across this great state. Our heritage doesn’t wash out in the water, because it’s always in the blood. It’s in our blood.
We may not know what tomorrow holds, but one thing is certain, we have the makings to keep on keeping on. It’s just what we do as cowboys and cowgirls. There’s a whole other generation out there needing a vivid reminder of where they come from, a reminder of whose blood runs in their veins; someone to teach them how to work the land, ride a horse, hitch a team, plant crops, conservation and ethical land use. They desperately need mentors and teachers to remind them where they come from, remind them of what’s inside, so they know where to go and how to get there; to develop grit along the way. Tip your hat to that, then pull it down right, roll up your sleeves, nod your head, and get ready for the next ride.