Distance is a relative thing. Every weekend legions of people drive from Havre, Montana to Great Falls, Montana just to go to Home Depot or Bed Bath and Beyond and promptly return home the same day. That’s 230 miles round trip. They also won’t blink an eye about driving to Billings (500 miles) or Missoula (550 miles) just for the weekend.
When people in Montana drive such long distances they typically use landmarks to mark distance. And one of the most prominent landmarks on Montana’s Hi-Line is smokestack in Chinook, Montana.
Standing 226 feet tall it is Montana’s tallest structure north of Great Falls. And every time I see it reminds me of two things: (1) I’m nearing home, and (2) the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. Constructed by the Utah-Idaho Sugarbeet Company in 1925, the smokestack once served a very useful purpose. It was part of a factory that turned sugar beets into beet pulp and molasses until it closed in 1950. Today Chinook celebrates that heritage with what many consider one of the nation’s most unique high school mascot names. Today Chinook High School sports teams are still known as the Sugarbeeters.
My only concern is that one day I fear this tall friend that greets me every time I near Havre will be torn down.
Here’s to hoping that never happens while I am still around.