If you live in Chinook, Montana or elsewhere along Montana’s Hi-Line AND you have Netflix video-on-demand you really owe it to yourself to watch season 6, episode 17 of “The West Wing,” which first aired on March 2, 2005. Chinook and Blaine County (Montana) are hilarious central characters on the show. It makes it even more hilarious for me since this is where I live and it is the backdrop for much of my Montana photography.
As part of a subplot the show spends a great deal of time dealing with an international incident between Canadian cattle ranchers and Blaine County (presumably) hunters. Hostilities escalate dramatically between the two friendly countries at the start of the spring snow goose hunting season. Canadian ranchers posted “no trespass” signs on wooded property on their side of the 49th parallel. An agent from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service then says, “While an American party was setting out decoys for the Great Snowy Honker this morning, Canadians surrounded them and pinned them down. It’s unclear whether the Americans are under siege or have been taken hostage.” Stupid, I know.
The American hunters are presumably from Blaine County. How do we know this? Just wait.
Later in the same episode an aide to the Vice President refers to the incident, somewhat comically, as the “The Saskatchewan Incursion.” He says, “The Vice President has interest in the situation…(he) is a stalker of the black bear; owns a hunting cabin north of Chinook.” When he says “Chinook” he butchers the pronunciation saying “CHA-nook” instead of “SHI-nook,” but he clearly says “Chinook,” WHICH is immediately south of Saskatchewan. But wait, there’s more.
Later in the episode, as tensions increase along the border between Blaine County and Saskatchewan, a conversation takes place in the White House Situation Room. It adds more clarity to the fact this “incursion” is along the Blaine County border with Canada. It goes something like this:
U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE AGENT: “A sawmill in Climax is piling on.”
NSC AIDE: “Is Climax us or them?”
U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE AGENT: “Them.”
U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE AGENT: “They’re demanding the President drop tariffs on soft lumber products. And, uh, a meat packing plant in Lodgepole…uh, us…they’re offering free coffee to all Americans on their way to the front.”
NSC AIDE: “Can we at least not call it a front?”
U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE AGENT: “The Royal Canadians have arrived, but they are at a disadvantage.”
NSC AIDE: “How so?”
ARMY GENERAL: “A Mountie’s standard issue is a Smith & Wesson 9 millimeter.”
NSC AIDE: “And the hunter’s are packing 12 gauge shotguns.”
ARMY GENERAL: [Looks as though there’s more to the story.]
NSC AIDE: “And??”
ARMY GENERAL: “A couple Barrett 50 caliber snipers, HK carbon-fiber assault rifles, and infrared night goggles.”
U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE AGENT: [Giggles like a school girl.]
Climax is, of course, a Canadian city north of the Turner Port of Entry and Lodgepole is a small town on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in….Blaine County.
For starters, there aren’t many black bears, or hunting cabins for that matter, north of Chinook, let alone trees. Secondly, while snow geese do migrate through Montana, they follow a path along the Rocky Mountain front and not this far east. And without snow geese, you guessed it, there probably aren’t too many snow geese hunters in Blaine County. Also, there is no meat packing plant in Lodgepole. There IS one in Malta, but not Lodgepole. And Lodgepole is not along a major highway, so the chances Americans would be going through Lodgepole on their way to fight Canadians at the border is highly suspect. About the only thing the writer of the episode (Carol Flint) got right was the weaponry those Montana hunters had in their possession. True, a Montana goose hunter typically wouldn’t need a 50-caliber sniper’s rifle, or a Heckler & Koch carbon-fiber assault rifle, or infrared night goggles, but I assure you, I know people in northern Montana who own all of the above.
There’s much more to the plot. Watch it if you can. It’s hilarious.