Butte’s ugliness is in the eye of the beholder

Butte’s ugliness is in the eye of the beholder

Another smug writer is trying to give the Mining City a black eye.

Last week, Stephen LaConte of BuzzFeed posted the results of a Reddit thread, ranking the 18 ugliest cities. Butte came in at No. 18. It was listed at the end of the story, and the writing was so lazy that it was hard to tell if that meant we were first or last.

It also is not clear why a supposedly respected website would engage in such a conversation.

“Butte, Montana” the BuzzFeed post read. “No place I’ve ever been has more acutely captured the stale beer and piss, dirty ashtray vibe of utter despair.”

The post did not sit too well with some locals, who do not like their home disparaged by a wannabe cool journalist or anonymous clowns on a Reddit thread.

Such an attack is nothing new to Butte. Even though our beloved mining town helped save the world during a couple of World Wars, we are constantly in the crosshairs of the arrogant and pretentious types.

LaConte, who appears to be one of those cool guys who always has a three-day beard, just happens to be the latest.

Who can forget when the Missoulian’s editorial page fired away at us because a few people wanted to believe in some slick salesmen trying to sell us a package called “Destination: Montana” a few years back?

Did anyone really believe they would build a Six Flags, several theaters and a handful of golf courses in Butte? Not a chance. Still, the Missoulian fired away.

“Poor Butte,” the editorial without a byline started out. “That tired town is so far down it can’t see up.”

Who can forget another Missoulian writer blaming Butte because his clumsy mother-in-law fell and broke her wrist on our finely-aged uptown sidewalks during the first National Folk Festival? That writer sure did fire some nasty shots at the Mining City, saying that we should not be allowed to host such an event.

I worked at his sister paper at the time, so I emailed that writer to tell that I wished it was him, and not his mother-in-law, who fell and broke a wrist. That way, I told him, we would not have been subjected to his crybaby drivel, reasoning that it would be difficult to type with one arm.

Predictably, he went crying to his boss to tell on me.

Also, who can forget in the summer of 1996 when a Missoula writer wrote a piece in a national magazine attacking Butte?

The writer said we cannot grow trees in Butte, and we have too much arsenic for cats to survive. He also said Our Lady of the Rockies was looking down at our poor town in disgust.

I called this guy up and invited him to visit my hometown. I wanted to show him a cat in a tree. I could not argue the point of the Virgin Mary, though, because who can say what a statue is thinking?

Of course, the writer, who was teaching at the University of Montana at the time, turned down my invitation that was 100 percent genuine, I swear. I was not going to take him to the M&M and yell, “Get him.”

Well, probably not.

It is hard to say what makes these people attack Butte. Do they think we do not realize the water in the Berkeley Pit is toxic?

They usually seem to be trying to kick us when they think we are down (and we are not) instead of offering constructive criticism.

Sometimes, they are simply writing out of delusion. Take the time the wannabe Class AA football reporter attacked Butte High fans on Facebook. He claimed that Butte High fans spit at and throw batteries at the opposing teams.

While it is hard to disprove the spitting allegations, the battery thing is just plain crazy. Batteries cost way too much to just throw away, and there are plenty of available rocks that are much easier to throw.

Just ask the writer with the clumsy mother-in-law.

Calling Butte ugly could be seen as delusional, too. It could also be very true. It depends on which way you are looking, and it depends on your point of view.

I look at the Berkeley Pit and the few old mine dumps that still dot the landscape as a reminder of what kept this city going since the 1800s. I see those scars as memories of the families that were raised on the mines.

Sure, it is hard to argue their beauty, but not everything breathtaking is a work of art.

The Reddit poster that LaConte quoted apparently never looked south, east or west when he or she was in town. While beauty, as they say, lies in the eye of the beholder, only a total fool could look at the snow caps on the Highlands and not be taken aback.

If you walk, jog or ride your bike on the trails around Big Butte, on the northwest corner of town, you will eventually come to a skinny trail on the bottom of the south side of the mountain. The trail rolls through some thick trees.

Suddenly, a break in the trail exposes Mount Fleecer to the southwest of town. Words cannot describe that view from a spot inside the city limits.

Have you ever looked at the architecture of so many buildings in Uptown Butte and not been blown away?

Have you ever sat at 3 Legends Stadium to watch the Miners, Muckers or Tommyknockers play baseball at night? This Reddit poster that LaConte quoted surely has not.

The sunset. The skyline. The mountains. They are all beautiful beyond compare.

Some of Butte’s beauty is an acquired taste, to be sure. Some of it just slaps you right in the face. It is not our problem that some people cannot see it. It is there’s.

The most baffling part of the post are the words “utter despair.”

When one of us falls down, there are thousands of hands extended to lift us up. We do not feel despair. We revel in our past, present and future, the good, the bad and the ugly. Especially the ugly.

That is why we do not let the words of LaConte, or the bozos he gives credence to, get under our skin. We do not get our blood boiling about those pretentiously fainthearted Missoula writers who attacked us.

We just shake our heads at the battery allegations and laugh.

If we let small people like that bother us, Butte would have never made it through its many hard times. We never would have weathered those crippling strikes. We never would have survived the mine closures of the 1980s.

Rather, Butte folks always showed that tough times do not last, but tough old towns sure as heck do.

If you do not like Butte, that is fine. Tell your friends. Tell the world. Scream it from the mountain top. If you have a blog or work for a publication with a lazy editor, then write about all you want.

We prefer to look at such babble as free advertisement in an era when beautiful Montana cities are being invaded by out-of-state interests.

It helps keep us free of the type of jerks who run down other cities on Reddit or Buzzfeed.

— Bill Foley, whose beauty is also an acquired taste, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74

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2 Comments

  • Fritz Daily
    June 8, 2021, 11:26 am

    Bill, When it comes to economic development in Butte, the reality is you cannot hide the Berkeley Pit, nor can you hide the scars that have been created by mining to make the United States the great Nation it is today!
    When I drive away from Tech in the morning, or watch a football game at Alumni Coliseum Field, I look out at the beauty of the Highlands, Fleecer, the Pintlers, Mount Powell and say that is what Butte would have looked like if it were not for mining. However, when I come back to reality, I realize that the Berkeley Pit and the scars that are so ever prevalent in Butte because of mining, are just as beautiful. It’s perception! We see it as beauty because we know the history and lived it.
    As I say and write all the time—If it were not for that Berkeley Pit and the scars from mining that we see and live with every day, this Nation would not be the great nation it is today, if not for that Berkeley and the scars!
    To put that in perspective, I recently read—One Third of the copper used in the WWII War effort came from Butte Montana. If not for Butte Montana, I may be writing this response in Japanese or German.

    REPLY
  • SHARLENE Montoy
    June 8, 2021, 8:38 pm

    Wonderful to be from Beautiful Butte

    REPLY

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