Petersen: The touriens
It’s midsummer and once again the touriens are with us. tourien: A noun recently accepted as a legitimate word in the New Dictionary of American Lingo, 1776 edition.
The expression represents an amalgamation of tourien: (tour-ist — noun. One who travels for pleasure), and: (alien — a-li-en — noun. A person from another and very different family, people, or place; a person who is not included in a group; an outsider).
You know it’s peak tourien season when:
— strangers, cameras at the ready, stop to watch ranchers in the midst of haying and harvesting.
— gasoline prices shoot up, ditto motel and hotel rates.
— restaurants put alfalfa sprouts on sandwiches.
— menus feature exotic dishes such as “Fettuccine with Beef Medallions and Chef’s Special Sauce over Pasta.” Local lingo translation: Spaghetti and meatballs.
— antique emporiums, souvenir shops and thrift stores experience a whopping increase in traffic.
— vehicles bearing out-of-state license plates pull up at any parking spot in town. One can often observe car doors flying open and kids, adults, assorted gear spill out.
— out-of-state vehicle passengers can often be observed studying a map.
— one notices wandering people, unknown and unrelated to any local person — unless they’re Norwegians from Norway visiting local relatives.
— Wandering touriens stroll along both sides of main street’s two blocks stopping in the drug store, the hardware store, the clothing store and both art stores and the taxidermist establishment.
— many of the tourien wanderers strolling around town are wearing brand new “cowboy” hats they just purchased from the lone department store.
— tourien families drift in clumps along the sidewalks. The father looks resigned; the mother looks harassed; the children look bored.
— touriens sometimes inquire, “Does the wind blow like this all the time?”
— touriens spend time ogling and photographing deer, moose and buffalo heads mounted on the walls of local restaurants.
— touriens in new, clean clothing often will visit the local thrift store where they will purchase old, raggedy and stained jeans, boots and hats and carry them reverently away.
— a tourien-driven automobile may pull in behind sheep or cattle being herded by horseback cowboys. The tourien driver feels obliged to honk causing the critters — especially sheep — to panic.
— a tourien asks where the post office is.
— a tourien checking into the local hotel wants to know, “Where’s the elevator?”
— touriens ask, “Why are the Crazy Mountains named crazy?”
— Long Horn cattle grazing in a pasture next to the highway have gotten used to being photographed.
— a tourien asks how to pronounce the words “Absaroka and Absarokee.”
— in the coffee shop, touriens outnumber locals.
— touriens actually lock their cars.
— as part of local summertime entertainment, country residents go to town, find a shady bench in front of store and spend time watching touriens.
I’m headed for town, now. Look for me on main street. I’ll be seated on the bench in front of the Crazy Woman Trading Post, a business that offers Montana-made gift items and clothing.
Despite the wry twists on above observations, please know that every small town in Montana, especially Big Timber, appreciates and welcomes tourists. We’ll go out of our way to assist a visitor. Just last week, I happened to go to the local (and elegant) library where I met a newcomer. She was asking the librarian directions to the local boot-repair shop which is tucked a ways back on a side-street that has no name. So, I advised the tourist just to follow me in her vehicle and I’d lead her to the boot shop. All was accomplished to everybody’s satisfaction.
By the way, if you’re a traveler to our town and visit the library, be advised that you can harvest paperback books from the paperback book shelves and keep them (absolutely free) for your very own. That way you have reading material of the entertainment kind wherever you stop on your journey. ❖
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