Shit on your boots: Cash in the bank

You will never be able to live, save, spend or give against the cultural tide without proper perspective. A small Montana town gave me that. Where shit on your boots or farmers tan was a sign of honest work, and all the trappings of success needed.

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In a small community people are known. Deeply known. These are folks who have known each other the better part of their entire lives. If a person is honest, trustworthy, generous, or hardworking; people know that. They respect that. We call that “good people”. As in, “Yeah the Jones’s down the road, known them a long time, they are good people.” The clothes you wear won’t fool anyone. What kind of rig you drive won’t change anyone’s opinion of you. That kind of crap only impress folks who don’t really know you. And in a small town, everyone knows you.

Any idiot can finance a truck they can’t afford.

Let’s contrast this “wheat and cattle” environment I grew up in, to Washington DC where we lived for 4 years. Ah, the art of bullshit is almost a game. At least it seemed like bullshit to me. Cocktail parties were exhausting. I really don’t care where you work (as opposed to why you love the kind of work you do), or who your company represents, or which president you have a picture of yourself shaking hands with while doing the “side hug”-almost a requirement for anyone trying to impress. I don’t care how expensive your shoes are. I don’t care what grad school you went to. I don’t care whose names you try to drop (people or organizations). And I really don’t care the means of transportation that brought you to this party.  Or what neighborhood you live in. I’m sorry, I just don’t care.


I love the Montana community I live in now. It’s not as small as where I grew up. I get to meet new people at dinner parties. I love getting to know these folks. If they are married or have kids. If their family lives close by. What good books they have read? If they hunt, fish, hike or ski. Or maybe garden! What kinds of tomatoes do they plant? If they have pets, chickens or ducks. What do they do on the weekends? Do they volunteer? Do they go to church? I am sure we love a lot of the same things. Playing in the lake on a perfect hot summer day. Spotting black bears on a long hike. Growing that perfect Brandywine tomato.

Maybe that stuff seems like bullshit to you. Maybe I am just a Montana girl at heart. But family, friends, what people love to spend their time doing, what they are passionate about, how they make a difference, well, that is far more interesting and important to me. Not their cars, shoes, job title or handshake pictures. (Although if you personally restored a classic muscle car, the Hubs will be very, very interested! Prepared to be peppered with questions till you just give in: take him outside to see the car and give him a test drive. I, on the other hand, will be inside wondering where the hell my husband went!)

If we spend our lives trying impressing people we don’t know, it’s awfully hard to spend, save and give with any other purpose. I’m so thankful for that small town I grew up in, because the perspective it gave me is helping to catapult us into early retirement.  I would rather have some shit on my boots, cash in the bank and freedom to hang out at the lake on that hot summer day with some “good people.” Really knowing people and being known.  You bring the home brewed beer, and I will bring the venison jerky.


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30 thoughts on “Shit on your boots: Cash in the bank

  1. Grew up in a small town myself (2500) & try to keep the framing I grew up with in mind. Even here in San Francisco. It’s not easy, and my husband grew up in Tehran (about the same size as NYC), so we approach things from really different perspectives. I like small town living & would go back to it in a heart beat for the right opportunity.

    • Growing up in a small town is a defining experience. There were less than 1000 people in my home town. I graduated with the same 20 people I had known my whole life. Mr. Montana grew up in Las Vegas. So we are bit of clashing of the hometown culture as well!

  2. Having lived in and around DC for 8 years, I get just what you mean. I eventually pulled up stakes, spent most of a year traveling around the US, and re-settled back in the midwest, where I grew up.

    I also know what you’re saying about hardworking, simple, honest ‘country’ people. Among the best folks I have ever known are the people who over many years have farmed land my family owns in central Illinois. Being around them almost makes me ashamed of myself. 🙂

    • The first two years we lived there, almost every day at my job some one would ask, “You’re not from here, are you?” I took it as a compliment. =) I never did really fit in. Never could buy into the idea that I am my job, my stuff, or my connections.

  3. My first time catching your blog… I effing LOVE it already!!! It’s not hard to tell you fit into the “good people” category. You speak the lingo!! Cheers and will be following. 🙂

  4. Currently live in the suburbs outside of DC. This is post rings so true! And a great explanation of why, despite living here for 4 years, while DC will never feel like home like NC does.

    • Yeah, after 4 years it still didn’t feel like home for us either. I was in my early to mid twenties while we lived there, and that age group is desperately trying to seem important. They are now the little fish in a big pond. But it drove me a bit crazy. Expensive shoes won’t make a person seem more important or significant as a human being.

  5. Killer post! “Any idiot can finance a truck” – I’ve been trying to get people at my office to understand this for years. Gosh, what a great line.

    • Thanks so much! I am always confounded when people hope that I will be impressed by them taking on a bunch of debt to buy things they can’t afford. It leaves me scratching my head. What part of this is suppose to impress me. That you couldn’t actually pay for it? That you failed to plan ahead and save up? That you are going to have to make payments for the next 60 months? Or maybe that you had to have that new shiny thing right NOW? Sorry, not impressed.

      • You’re so right. The only thing you’re telling me when you do that, is that you have a nice healthy appetite for debt, that I don’t share. Thanks, but no thanks.

  6. Yes! I love small town people! Mine was a mixed agriculture/trailer park town. No one really had good financial management, but nevertheless…I still miss the small-town part.

    My husband grew up in downtown Denver. He just doesn’t get why I like to go hunting, fishing, and shoot bows and guns for fun. At least he’s promised to water the garden while I’m out doing biological survey work this summer (BTW – I’ve got 12 types of tomatoes in my garden – one of which is Brandywine!) 🙂

    • Boy, those Brandywine are so freaking good! The farmers market was already sold out this year when I bought my plants. If we weren’t going to be gone for 6 weeks on a road trip, I would hunt one down. Mr. Mt is from Vegas, but is loving the Montana life. He just bought his first gun last year!

      That must be one heck of a garden! I bet you get a good haul of tomatoes. I did a big garden 1 , count um 1, year. Nearly killed me. =)

  7. Absolutely killer rant, and every word rings so true! Phoney baloney office schmooze parties were the bane of my existence – so glad they’re a thing of the past. Can’t wait to kick around in my shitty boots tomorrow!

    • Ha, glad you liked it. It’s a funny place. I’m glad we were there for a few years, but was really happy to leave!

  8. Stop talking up small town MT. In fact, stop talking up MT in general. It sucks. And everybody needs to know that.

    Nah … just like your boots. I’m shittin ya’. Just hate to see uppity out-of-staters move in and try to change things to the their left coast state of mind. If they liked it there so much they should have stayed.

    Glad I found your blog. Keep it up.

    • Ha. =) I think if a person is awesome enough to read my blog, Mt would love them! =) We get a lot of out of staters in our area, and I find that they either love Mt, and stay. Or they miss the big, fancy life and leave. Nobody has time for people’s “I’m so important and you should know it” brand of bullshit. Glad you like the blog!

  9. Trying to impress others with your gadgets/etc is a losing game. I would also rather be known for my character. If I like nice shoes for me, that’s fine. If you don’t like me because my job isn’t impressive enough or can’t get you anywhere, then that is your loss.

    Small towns are not for me, personally, but I love what you are describing here.

    • You’re right, it is a losing game. And fleeting. The people who will think better of you for your job or car, we change their mind as soon as the car or job is gone.

  10. Great article and oh so true. I grew up in a small town as well and often miss the honesty and simplicity of it all. Today – I live in DC and certainly can relate to much of the bullshit game you’ve accurately captured in this post. Perhpas soon I’ll get out. Montana has always sounded appealing to me…:-)

  11. I live in the dc area. I’m in a campground right now, night before had a block party with neighborhood friends, last week took the kids to a free museum. And yes I checked on my garden this morning before I left. Sorry you had a miserable experience in dc but life is what you make of it, and happiness should not be controlled by others, and dc offers a ton for those willing to look beyond cocktail hours

    • Oh, I liked it just fine. We had a good few years there, but in the end it never did feel like home. Plus the traffic sucks. =)

  12. This brought back memories. I didn’t grow up in a truly small town, I only learned to ride in one and there were plenty of days we stamped manure off our work boots before going home. My grandma back home lived in a small village with fewer than 500 people, and farmed her land well into her 80s. Even though good people are good people, no matter what you dress them in, but for some of us country folk I think it’s easier to spot them without the trappings.

    On the other hand, I’ve got some friends who are tremendously talented, truly down to earth and caring people, who fly in the fancy circles of Big Law and banking yet have never taken on shallowness of caring more about who you know than who you are. I’ve always admired their ability to code switch between excelling in their professional circles and still be substantive people who care deeply about society and giving a helping hand to those who need it most.