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Somewhere in Montana

Somewhere in Montana

Polebridge, MT is at the end of a gnarly dirt road in a valley adjacent to Glacier National Park. Every so often, an old debate erupts again over whether to pave that road, but the paving proponents always lose. Oliver, the German-born owner of the North Fork Hostel, where I stayed last night in a one-room cabin called the Goat Chalet, told me the dirt road is so daunting that it tends to filter out all uninteresting people. Therefore, Polebridge remains impossibly small. Nearby the North Fork Hostel is the Polebridge Mercantile, a general store that’s developed a following in the area for its confections, including its huckleberry bear claws, and the Northern Lights Saloon, a bar and restaurant (pictured above) with picnic tables set out in front under a huge canopy tree. At the Northern Lights I ate seared trout made by the cook, Tater, whose chef’s hat, which towered above him like a small nuclear cloud, lent him a strange kind of dignity. Yesterday was Tater’s birthday—I judged that he might have been turning 25 or so—and friends of his, a country and western band from Knoxville, Tenn., drove up along that long dirt road in a great white school bus, and set up for an outdoor show under the Northern Lights tree. Tater had to continue cooking through much of the music, which made his friends taunt him. At 10 or so, though, the kitchen shut, and Tater, who is lanky and pale and wears his dark hair long, joined his pals. It was quite a party. When I got up this morning, at 8:30 or so, Tater was still going—he hadn’t gone to bed yet, I heard him tell someone—and by now he was standing with his buddy out in front of the Mercantile, and had switched from his chef’s toque, to a 10-gallon cowboy hat.

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