Have You Heard About Montana?!

In which I pander to Montana

Before I get into this week’s topic, if you haven’t already watched my latest video about how I dug up the long-lost audio from celebrity announcements that ran in NYC taxis during the late 90s, you really should! It’s an untold story of good intentions that might not have turned out exactly as planned, and I spent months researching and conducting interviews for it. Just for you.

I was poking around my newsletter analytics the other day when I noticed this:

I have literally zero subscribers in Montana. It’s the only state where I have no subscribers. I guess I’m just not appealing to Montanans.

Let’s see if I can change that.

I used Google Trends to find out what the number one search topic is in the state of Montana. Can you guess what it is?

The number one search topic in Montana is Montana!

So maybe if I write more about Montana, people from Montana will find my newsletter, fall in love with it, and subscribe.

So I did some digging for interesting facts about Montana. Everyone already knows about the beautiful mountains (did you know “Montana” comes from the Spanish word for “mountain”?) so I tried to find things people might not already know about. Here’s some of what I learned:

Famous Montanans

Montana is the birthplace of many famous people! Some notable people from Montana include Michelle Williams, Reggie Watts, Ted Turner, David Lynch, Gary Cooper, and Ted Kaczynski!

The Testicle Festival

For 35 years, a bar just outside Missoula held an annual event called the “Testicle Festival,” or just TestyFest for short.

According to a review on TripAdvisor, TestyFest was a 5-day long “wild party” that featured wet t-shirt contests, mud wrestling, live music, and a lot of people eating rocky mountain oysters (deep fried bull testicles). You could even participate in a ball-eating contest.

A popular memento was a souvenir t-shirt that says “I had a ball at TestyFest!”

Curious people can go find videos of TestyFest on YouTube. But this is a PG newsletter so I won’t be embedding those here.

To make transportation easier, a bus company shuttled people to TestyFest from nearby towns. In 2017, an unruly passenger grabbed the wheel of the bus, causing an accident that killed two people.

The next year, the owner of the bar announced the end of TestyFest “due to social media, lawsuits, and general liability concerns.” He told local news, “I’m looking for less stress… I’m jumping into the medical marijuana field. I feel it’s a safer livelihood.”

Apparently there are other cities with TestyFests, but this is the first I’d ever heard of it. If you’re a new reader from Montana, do you have any TestyFest stories?

The Sip ’n Dip Lounge

GQ named this bar the #1 bar worth traveling to in 2003. It’s a tiki bar with windows that look into a pool where mermaids swim.

The bar’s website wants you to know: “It’s not a ‘show.’ It’s simply a mermaid swimming.”

It wasn’t always a mermaid bar. It opened as a normal cocktail lounge with a view into a pool:

Their Instagram offers interesting glimpses behind the scenes. Here’s what it looks like on the other side of the glass:

So, my new Montana friends, have you been to the Sip ’n Dip?

7.4 People Per Square Mile

That’s the population density of Montana. The only states less dense are Alaska and Wyoming. The national average is around 75 people per square mile.

If you live in Montana, how many people live in your area?

More Shoreline Than California

Fort Peck Lake is a manmade lake that has 1,520 miles of shoreline, which is more than California has.

At least, that’s the claim I found in a few places. But I’m not sure it takes into account a phenomenon known as the Coastline Paradox, which basically says that the measurement of a coastline increases as your units of measurement get smaller. Were both coastlines measured with the same unit? And is that really a paradox, or is that just how measuring things works?

What do you think of this, my new Montana friends?

Yogo Sapphires

Montana is the only place where you can naturally find a rare type of sapphire known as Yogo sapphires. But they weren’t always so desirable. Prospectors came to Montana looking for gold, but they kept finding these annoying little blue pebbles everywhere. Then in 1894, someone finally decided to see if they’re worth anything. From Wikipedia:

A local rancher named Jake Hoover sent a cigar box of gems he had collected to an assay office, which in turn sent them to Tiffany's in New York, where an appraiser pronounced them “the finest precious gemstones ever found in the United States.”

Now Yogo sapphires are part of the Smithsonian’s gem collection!

What Else?

Montana sure is an interesting place. I’ve only been there one time, to produce a video about a man who retired from the police force and started a second career doing helicopter rescue, picking up people who get stuck on mountains. I wish I had more time there to explore, but it was a fairly short trip.

So what interesting facts about Montana do you know that I didn’t include?

Oh, look! It’s the video I mentioned way at the top of this newsletter! If you haven’t already watched it, I mean, it’s right here. You might as well watch it.

I know what you’re thinking: “But I’m from Montana. Why should I care about something that happened in New York City 25 years ago?”

The answer is that this is much more than a New York story. It’s a story of good people who were trying to save lives, and how that may or may not have worked out. And that’s a universal theme.

So that’s it for another newsletter! Thanks for reading. And I hope you’ll consider subscribing if you’re from Montana.

With Thanksgiving in just a couple days, I want to tell you all how thankful I am for all the support you’ve given me. I wouldn’t be writing this newsletter and making these videos if nobody was reading or watching, so I’m glad you’re here.

If you live in the United States, I wish a happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! And if you live in one of the other 85 countries where I have readers, I hope you have a good totally normal week.

(And a special hello to the only subscriber I have in China, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, Ethiopia, Tunisia, and Belarus!)


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