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While I was vacating 

While I spent two weeks in Massachusetts, the New York Times went west. First they hired Patricia Nelson Limerick to write some hopeful if vague columns, and then they sent John Tierney to Indian country.

Here Lance Mannion destroys Tierney's column. Maybe a bit overzealously, but I did find Lance's thesis more pithy and intriguing than Tierney's, to wit:
The West was settled and civilized when the government came in and took everybody’s guns away -- sometimes literally, but usually by making it unnecessary to carry a gun.

Meanwhile, Russell J. Milne sent me a nice note highlighting his new biography, "Orphan Boy," in which his father gets on a train to Poplar, Montana, in 1915. Thanks, Russell, and good luck with the book.

Finally, buried in a standard story about hardworking mainstreet retailers in the Missoulian is this startling stat:
The U.S. Census reports that the most rural of rural Montana counties lose about 40 percent of their retail dollars to larger towns and cities.

The decimation wreaked by big-box stores on small-town retail is a well-known subject (which is how I can be a bit flippant in summarizing the Missoulian story -- I've read similar ones so many times before) -- but even I didn't know the numbers were that high.

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