Montana natives flock together to reminisce State society holds Quiet Waters picnic

June 07, 1993|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

Bert Rice loves Montana.

Now, don't get the Odenton man wrong. There's nothing wrong with Maryland. But it's just not Montana.

"It's just a different place," Mr. Rice said of his home state. "You have more time out for people in Montana. It's a scramble here. It's rush rush here.

"But if you go to Montana, people there will want to visit with you. If you stop to get gas, the people there will keep you there so they can talk to you. Montana just tugs at me."

Evidently, Montana tugs at many of its displaced residents.

Many Montanans who now live in the Baltimore-Washington area gathered at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis yesterday at a picnic sponsored by the Montana State Society.

For non-Montanans who have no idea what the Montana State Society is . . . well, you're obviously out of the loop. Everyone who's anyone knows that the society is a group for Montanans who want to maintain those Montana ties, no matter where they may be.

"If you happen to bump into someone from Montana, they're really quick to tell you about" the group, Mr. Rice said.

No one quite knows just when the Montana State Society formed. The best guess is in the 1920s. But what is known is that Montana has maintained one of the larger state societies, with local groups formed in American Samoa, Idaho, Iowa, Virginia and New York.

But the Baltimore-Washington chapter, about 260 strong, is one of the most active.

There's a congressional reception with the state's two senators and lone congressman in February (the state lost its second congressman last November through redistricting).

"Most people feel one representative is enough," Mr. Rice said.

Mr. Rice, who is president this year, said the knowledge of having common friends helps perpetuate the organization.

"What usually happens is that someone from Montana will run into another Montanan, and they'll start talking and find out they know the same people," Mr. Rice said.

"When they join us, the same thing happens. People come looking to find someone they know, or someone who knows someone they know."

Mr. Rice, who was born in Intake near the North Dakota border, and his wife, Deanna Rice, who was born in Choteau, near the base of the Rocky Mountains, are called frequently by lonely Montanans looking for people they know.

The Rices, who put out a newsletter for Montanans in the area five times a year, said they were even contacted by a woman who was not from Montana, but had visited the state several times.

"She said she loved it there so much, and she saw our ad, she just had to call," Mr. Rice said. "I told her, 'Well, what if we make you an honorary Montanan.'

"I got a call just today [Wednesday] from a young girl who saw one of our ads," Mrs. Rice said. "She'd moved to the area to take a job as a nanny, and when she saw the ad, she said she was so happy.

"You know what she told me? She said, 'I just wanted to talk to somebody from Montana.' "

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