Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Quincy Dabney, the relatively new mayor of Lodge Grass, Montana. Colin Betzler, a local entrepreneur and friend, made the introduction.
Dabney had plans to visit Sheridan, and Betzler helped connect him with folks in the community to talk about how we could work together more. Both sides of the conversation — folks in Sheridan and Montana — have a lot of ideas on how to increase our interactions in a positive manner. Some big plans are in place to advance those ideas and strengthen the relationship with our neighbors.
I have to admit, I’ve never stopped into Lodge Grass. My only interaction comes in the form of squinting out the car window at the community located off the highway and reading news stories. I imagine that is true for many Sheridan County residents.
Interestingly, many Lodge Grass residents frequent businesses in Sheridan County. They travel south to catch a movie, shop, eat and attend sporting events. Rarely do Sheridan residents return the visit.
There are reasons for that, and Dabney speaks plainly about his community’s challenges. He’s no stranger to the stories and the assumptions others have about Lodge Grass and the people who live there.
But, he’s looking to turn that image on its head and — to some extent — literally clean up his community. He has big dreams of bringing businesses back to the area and helping set his neighbors on a better path.
The entire interaction — from Betzler asking if I had time to the conversation itself — prompted a lot of reflection regarding our interactions with neighbors to the north. Lodge Grass is about 49 miles away, but that number doesn’t accurately reflect the distance that exists between the residents of Lodge Grass and our community. The distance that exists in terms of our relationships stretches much further and reflects a divide rather than a smooth highway drive.
After all, 49 miles for most Wyoming residents is a minor detail and sometimes is just a trip to the grocery store. To put it in perspective, Clearmont is about 40 miles from Sheridan.
As Dabney and Betzler help create more connections that span the state line, it will be interesting to see how we all respond. With so many possibilities, if even some fall into place, all involved could benefit in more ways than one.