Friday, March 6, 2009

Fort Benton MT

Recognised as Montana's oldest town, locals will proudly tell you that this is where Montana started - much to the chagrin of our Butte-born driver. Situated as it is high up on the Missouri River, fur trappers and hunters quickly established Fort Benton as a trading hub, and today still draws hordes of outdoors enthusiasts as well as history buffs eager to follow the tracks of Lewis and Clark on their pioneering journey westward to the Pacific, which was pretty much where the band was heading after this stop, and we griped that although Lewis and Clark didn't have the relative luxury of air travel, neither did they have to check instruments, or go through security - it's all relative.

With a population of around 1500, Fort Benton is a pretty tight knit community where agriculture and rail along with tourism keep everything ticking over, and the streets stay quiet as the river rolls by, where , as the girl in the diner put it, "not a lot happens, and that's just fine."

Arguably, Fort Benton's most famous citizen was a border collie named Shep, who lived in the 1930s and , after his master's death and removal by train to his final resting place, waited patiently on every inbound train thereafter for his master's return, digging out a home for himself underneath the station platform, and living on scraps from the station agents and employees that came to adopt him; a small town story that perfectly befits this small town.

Where possible, I like to leave the last word to the town itself.......

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