Mon Ami

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My final Mourning Would mens’ breakfast on Mount Sentinel

I have had a lot of close friends in my life. Some live far away, and yet we stay in constant contact, while others are on the periphery, and we connect when we can.

Finding a new set of friends at 34 is a tough business. You spend a lot of time at work and the rest of your time with family. There are few opportunities for guys’ nights or getting in some workout time with the guys.

But if there is one thing I take away from Missoula, it’s the amazing friendships I’ve made during my time here. These are not throwaway relationships. These are lifelong friends that I won’t get to see every day anymore.

I’d like to highlight a few of these.

The first two gentlemen I was privileged enough to get to know in Missoula are journalists, and therefore they hold a special place in my thoughts. The venerable Tristan Scott, reporter extraordinaire and the writer I’d most like to emulate. And Cory Walsh, whose fine news mind and analysis of life I have come to depend on completely. These two took me for a drink on my very first visit to Missoula, and we’ve had many a conversation over pints or drams of whiskey since.

Another gentlemen from the newspaper that I’d like to highlight is the one and only Michael Lee Moore. “The Other Micheal Moore,” as he has come to be known. This southern transplant to Missoula has all the charm and hospitality of his roots intact, and he’s become, aside from being a great personal friend to me, a friend of the entire family. My wife and kids adore him. It’s not just his willingness to teach us the proper techniques of rock climbing, it’s the way he earnestly engages with people.

A number of my Missoula homies have moved on, but we stay in touch. Graham Murtaugh, Bynum Boley, Adam Richards. You guys are not only the tallest friends I’ve ever had, you’re some of the classiest. I miss you guys.

Wylie Carr, I know you’re still here, and though we don’t connect nearly as often as we should, the adventures I’ve had with you all over this crazy place will go down in whatever annals these kinds of things go down in, not to mention my notebooks.

Nicky T, I don’t see you as often as I’d like to, but you came to represent the finest example of what I consider a Montanan to be. I’m glad I know you buddy. 

But every man has an inner circle. That group of guys that typify his character and in which he finds that rich combination of edification and criticism he needs to grow.

These are not easily found and rarely in one place. I was lucky to have stumbled into a perfect storm of friendships that were honed quickly in small but intense fires. Things like early morning hikes, backcountry camping, hunting, fishing and those refining conversations that are like reading the most illuminating chapter in an illuminating book.

From the first day Jon Lewis was a kindred spirit and yet the polar opposite of me. Quiet and contemplative where I’m loud and all too often obnoxious, he is the reflective nature I still need to develop. He’s the listener I would like to be. The richest of friends, he offers an unconditional view of life that one lucky enough to be his friend can sharpen the dullest of tools on. In this sense, I am blessed to be sharper because of him.

Beau McBryde is not the person I would naturally be drawn to. A rugged outdoorsman with a passion for living that I have seen in very few people, Beau extrapolates man knowledge from some well that the majority of men have lost touch with over the years. Beau won’t touch digital, his analog nature being more in touch with the natural things. Our friendship was forged over arguments related to his criticism of the industry I worked in. And I am fascinated by him. He knows how to smoke a wild turkey and skin and tan a hide. He has old knowledge that belies his age. He’s a man in the way my grandfather was a man, a way of life most have lost touch with. Beau has put me in touch with elements that are some of the rawest ingredients of men, of friendships of life.

The good doctor. Chris Caldwell is, for lack of a better word, a specimen. Physically fit and imposing with a squared off jaw like a movie actor, he’s the kind of guy that I couldn’t stand in high school. I’ve always been round and jovial when I longed for tall and lanky. I’m sure there was carry over when we first met, and I assumed his personality would match his looks. What I found was one of the most thoughtful and intelligent people I’ve ever been privileged to know. What’s more is he has that enduring quality, the heart of a child. That unequivocal view of life whereby everything is brighter and more beautiful than another person can imagine. Chris brings this view to friendship, which is sacred to him. I’ve learned more about myself from Chris than anyone else in my life up to this point.

Mike Lake is one of the nice guys. His reputation at work is that of someone who would bend over backwards to help someone else out. That is a rare quality these days. I came to rely on Mike at work on tough issues that needed a creative solution. But it was a simple lunchtime tradition of hiking to the M on Mount Sentinel that has meant more to me than anything else lately. With work becoming increasingly more stressful, Mike and I would venture up those 13 switchbacks every day talking through our problems, planning our futures, encouraging each other and burning off those work worries. Family, work, sports, it was all fair game on our hikes. We bounced ideas off each other and I’d give anything to be able to work with Mike again and restore that tradition. I don’t  know if I’m going to miss Mike as a colleague or neighbor more. But I know that I won’t have to miss him as a friend.

There are others of you who impacted me and continue to do so as my days in Missoula wind down. You should each get your own descriptions, but this is a blog, and I should follow the rules.

But these gentlemen have come to quantify friendship for me. These are not suburban friendships or casual in any way. These are guys who come in and out of my life on a daily basis, and if there is anything that terrifies me in this move, it is that I won’t have that daily interaction that I’ve come to rely on.

I’ve never been one for goodbyes, mostly because I’ve had to live through too many. Let this serve as a reminder of what we built here over these last years. A rock pile by which to find our way back some day.

Thank you all,

Tim

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