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I never knew Big Sky Country in the flesh and soil,
feet on the biggest landlocked state, wheels on I-90,
but I knew it through the tales of a towering nurse,
my lover’s godmother, a woman from Charles County,
who fled her Washington college the moment she graduated
to heal from the peaks to the plains.
She, a blue-eyed girl with black bushy brows, lived
with the Crow tribe in a house with no kitchen.
Her betrothed, a man back in D.C., wrote her letters about
national politics and fine art,
while she learned the limits of her training and her faith
as a country girl from Maryland.
Growing up on Poorhouse Road, this nurse knew
golden corn and rusty cows and verdant hills.
She did not know the open land, land so flat and land so bare
that you could see a tree from miles away.
Before her move to Montana, she had only ever seen cowboys
on Bonanza and The Unforgiven.
Then suddenly they became an everyday sight, so much so that
when her fiancé first visited her new home,
she took him to a bar where every man
wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots,
and the bartender, looking her sweetheart up and down,
from his baseball cap to his sneakers,
whispered, “You’re not from around here, are you?”