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For over a week I have been in Montana on a vacation. Coming from Tampa Bay to Big Sky Country can be a physical and cultural shock. I have seen more open country around Big Sky than may exist in all of Florida. And, I have to say that bison, elk and moose make our Tampa Bay raccoon population look kind of puny.

I could devote thousands of words to the beauty of majestic snow-covered mountain peaks and the thrill of surviving a ski run during a snowstorm. But, the words I want to share today are about the people of Montana. They are wonderfully unassuming and decent. They care about each other and even visitors like me. They care about the environment. They put family first whenever there is a decision to be made. They help their neighbors. Their lives are paced so there is a balance to work and play. Real conversation comes easy to them just about anywhere. Pettiness and jealousy seem to have been banished from the state. Genuine concern for the common good seems to be a genetic trait.

Spending time in Montana is a tonic for me. It clears my mind and freshens my outlook. It changes my priorities. Even though it is hard to preserve the Big Sky mentality when commuting up and down US 19 in Pinellas County and rushing from appointment to appointment, some of it always remains long after a vacation here.

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