June 24, 2012

Montana: Big Sky Country and Heidi M. Thomas

“You can take the girl out of Montana, but you can’t take Montana out of the girl.”
Even though I have not lived there for sixteen years, I still consider “Big Sky Country” home. I was born and raised literally in the “middle of nowhere” in eastern Montana, on a ranch near Sand Springs. If you look at a map of the eastern half of the state, right in the center, where there’s the least amount of writing on the map, that’s where I grew up! The nearby small town (and only incorporated town in Garfield County) is Jordan, best known for dinosaur discoveries and the infamous “Montana Freemen” militia of the mid-1990s. I lived in a dormitory there while I attended high school (the last known public high school dorm in the U.S. when it closed in the 1980s.)
Contrary to popular belief eastern Montana is not flat as a pancake. It is high plains desert, with rolling hills and buttes (plateaus or mesas) and we lived about 60 miles from the famous Missouri Breaks, pretty wild country.
This part of the state is known for its protein-rich prairie grass that produces some of the best beef cattle in the nation. Despite the arid climate, when it does rain, grasses and wildflowers, the like you’ve never seen, spring from hibernation.
Although I was somewhat socially backward when I ventured out into the world, I am glad I grew up there. My parents instilled in me a love of reading and learning and travel, and I am a strong, independent woman today because of my upbringing.
I moved to Missoula for college, received my degree in journalism, worked for the Missoulian daily newspaper, met and married my husband. We lived there until 1996, when we moved to northwest Washington for his job.
Missoula is the flip side of the Montana coin—green lush forests, mountains, rivers and lakes. The home of the University of Montana, it is culturally rich in opportunities for music, theater (Missoula Children’s Theatre travels nationally) and nightlife, as well as its great surrounding areas for fishing, hunting and boating.
My novels, Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream, take place in north central Montana, around Cut Bank (which usually makes the national news for being the coldest spot in the nation in winter). This is near Glacier Park, one of two in the state (Yellowstone is the other). My grandmother grew up in that area, riding bucking stock in rodeos alongside the men during the 1920s, and that is the fodder for my “Dare to Dream” series, about strong, independent women. I am currently working on a third book, based on my cowgirl grandma.
(Pictures provided by author)


  1. Great blog, Heidi. You really brought Montana to life for someone who has never been there. I love your cowgirl grandma, her inspiration, and that you are writing books based on her life.
    She must have been a feisty woman. Good luck with your books.

  2. A state long on my list of places to visit--though never in winter.
    Thanks for telling us about your home turf.

  3. Great post! I would love to spend time in Montana. I love the name Big Sky Country. Thanks so much for sharing
    Debby236 at gmail dot com

  4. You're right, JR, not in winter unless you're a skier!

    Thank you for stopping by, Debby and Fran.

  5. Golly Heidi! I thought I'd read most of your background, the road that brought you to a writing life....but this post made me want to know more about you and Montana. I've never been there, have always wanted to go and now more than ever.

    Karen Casey Fitzjerrell *Author: The Dividing Season* (from the great state of TEXAS)

  6. Glad to have been a part of those growing up years my dear friend. So many memories!

  7. Hi Sandy, many good memories of Montana, huh?!

    Karen, I'm glad I've piqued your interest. If you ever get a chance, go visit. It's really quite an interesting and beautiful state.

  8. Wow, this makes me want to visit Montana! :)

  9. Montana is a beautiful state and still has the wildness of nature in some parts. Great post.


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