Montana manhunt

Going way out west, I’m charmed by a cowboy desperado

When I left for Montana, my 18-year-old son told me to find a rich Montanese (?) husband. I said, rather more sharply than I intended: ‘And what would be the point of that?’ Montana is bliss but bloody miles away. My beloved half-sister lives here; has done for nearly 10 years, and this is the first time I have managed to visit her, for her wedding.

She used to live in Wyoming and date cowboys. One was called Tracy, which detracted somewhat from his manly image. They do flirting and dating differently here. She lived in a small town and practically every man within a thousand-mile radius used to ask her out to dinner at five o’clock in the evening and fall in love with her. Now she is in glorious, liberal Livingston, also a small town, but more hippie, less enamoured of Trump and renowned for its writers and artists, who did a lot of acid in the sixties. Many a Livingston man has been smitten, too, by this exotic Englishwoman with aqua-marine eyes and the best laugh in the West. They are laconic and incredibly funny, these men. Tall and muscular, too, and all of them have beards, mostly grey, though the young ones have bushy, hipster versions and look like the men in Victorian advertisements for cologne or snuff. You don’t find many metrosexuals in Livingston’s two speakeasies.

My sister met her husband, a musician from out of town, at a fundraiser in nearby Paradise Valley and has married for the first time in her late fifties. One of the wedding parties was in the lobby of the Murray Hotel, which Anthony Bourdain rates as one of his top ten in the world. It has a certain Barton Fink charm. The centrepiece was a table laid with bottles of liquor the size of petrol cans.

So it was, as the evening (which started with large shots of varied spirits at five, according to local custom) wore on, I found myself the focus of some attention. For instance, from a Wyoming friend of my sister’s in a Harris tweed jacket with a handkerchief in the top pocket. He had old-world charm and fit my son’s criteria in that he was rich. My sister’s mother said he used to be the poorest but most glamorous man — ‘and so good-looking’ — in all Wyoming and beyond. He made loads of money relatively late in life (property deals in Florida, following years of cowboy-ing which never quite cut the financial mustard), but had not lost his manners. He kissed my hand and paid me compliments, which English men tend not to go in for so much, if at all. I can understand why. They are cheesy but, given the right climate (and being a middle-aged woman who is perhaps not receiving as many compliments as she used to, is precisely the right climate), they kind of work. Jim guessed I was a couple of years younger than I am. He could have pushed it to five or ten years younger, as other men do, but you always know they are bullshitting and he was savvier than that. He went out of his way to take me to the public bar to acquire my drink of choice, which was not available at the party. He insisted that of all the woman in the room I was the one he wanted to sit next to at dinner and would I reserve a place beside myself for him?

Did I mention that he has a reputation in his small town as a desperado who has chased every woman he sees since his wife of 30 years left him? Did I mention that during the party he hit on my stepmother, my other sister, pulled a Japanese-American divorcee friend of the bride’s on to his lap during the first course, and gave several other women the benefit of his fatigued forms of flattery? Did I mention that he was in his late seventies?

It was funny, actually, and managed, God knows how, not to be offensive. In all honesty, I couldn’t dislike him. In the right place and piled on with a certain knowing humour, charm helps you get away with a lot.

There weren’t any other single men in Montana or, at any rate, ones prepared to flatter me. There was one married man a handful of years younger than me who was handsome and clever in the extreme. Loved him — and his gorgeous wife — but married men are strictly No Go. In other circumstances I might have fancied him heaps, but I didn’t fancy the all too available pensioner for the life of me.

Anyway, that’s why, my darling son, I am returning from Montana without a rich husband, or any husband at all for that matter. Still, I had a fantastic time.


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