In 2011, Mercury CSC created the “warm season” in-state ad campaign for the Montana Office of Tourism centered around Montana’s High Plains. I was very honored to be chosen as the spokesperson for the campaign. I helped write the copy for the three thirty-second TV commercials, and we recorded my voiceovers at Peach Street Studios and Peak Recording in Bozeman. Andy Adkins filmed me taking pictures in Harlowton and at the Crazy Mountain Inn in Martinsdale. Below is the commercial we did featuring the C.M. Russell Wildlife Refuge and Circle, MT. (The others were on Bighorn Canyon and The Wild & Scenic Missouri.)
I became a fan of Circle, after shooting a New York Times travel story in eastern Montana. Although it’s only 46 miles from Glendive on Highway 200, and a mere 59 from Terry on Hwy 253, I’d never made it to this speck of a town.
Circle has about 600 residents and is the McCone county seat. If they ever remake The Last Picture Show, they can skip hiring a set builder and just come to Circle; it’s a visual throwback to another era. Even some of the trucks that are parked haphazardly around town would make good props.
When I visited, the Circle Chamber of Commerce’s website listed “85 Things To Do Around Circle For Less Than $10”. The list included “Play Horse Shoes in the Park”; “See the Vintage Clothes at Family Heirlooms”; “Buy A Shot of Liquor from Midland Lumber & Home Renovation Supplies”; (???!!!!) and “Have Your Blood Pressure Checked at the McCone Clinic”. I couldn’t decide where to start.
The first business I pulled up to, Farm Equipment Sales, is one of the best John Deere Implements in Montana. My oldest son LOVES tractors…so, oddly enough, I find myself frequenting John Deere stores. I bought several Johnny Tractor illustrated books, four green and yellow sippy cups, a toy lawn mower, a wheelbarrow and several teething rings shaped like ears of corn for my twin babies. (Who knew you could go hog wild with the joint checking account in a town like Circle?!)
I loved the LunchBox, where you can get deli sandwiches, wraps and espresso drinks—as well as tan and have your nails done. Talk about consolidating errands! Nearby, Joanne’s Boutique stocks clothing, jewelry, cowgirl hats and even Montana-crafted, hand-thrown pottery.
I just love the DIY mentality of whomever fabricated the cement dinosaurs gracing town. No, they’re not authentic-looking. In fact, they more closely resemble Dino from “The Flintstones” than the state-of-the art replicas down the road in Glendive…but they’ve got heart. You can tell a Circle native rolled up his or her sleeves and said, “By gosh, this is Dinosaur Country. We need some dinosaurs around town!”…then walked directly to hardware store and got busy. Here’s one by a gas station that certainly makes a good photo op.
This “installation”, my favorite pile of dinosaurs in Circle, is in the yard of the McCone County Museum. I’m pretty sure that they’re supposed to be fighting, but I can’t help but think, “Cretaceous Caligula,”.
Speaking of the McCone County Museum, it’s brimming with 7,000 items of historical interest—including over 200 mounted birds and animals displayed in their natural settings. It also has the one-room Cow Creek Schoolhouse, a prairie church, and the old Northern Pacific Depot. I really loved a room displaying portraits of McCone County ranchers with their brands and saddles. And, of course, the Cretaceous Caligula scene depicted on the lawn out front is a high point.
Circle’s website says, “In four hours of light traffic you can be in Billings, MT or Bismarck, ND.” So when I got to the edge of town heading southwest on Highway 200, this sign sent shivers up my spine. I knew I was settling in for one loooooong drive back to Livingston. (Anytime a sign puts you 67 miles east of Jordon, you’re a long way from anywhere.) Thankfully, the drive is nothing short of magnificent, as it winds through jaw-dropping, wide-open country.
Who says you need to travel to exotic lands and faraway places to experience the changes and meaningful encounters travel brings? Circle is plenty far. And let me tell you…if you hit the right farm implement, it’s no bargain trip either.
McCone County Museum
Open May 1 – September 30
Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm
201 Main Street
Circle, MT 59215
Open Monday – Friday, 10:00am – 6:00pm
Saturdays – 10:00am – 2:00pm
902 B Ave
Circle, MT 59215