This time of year, in an annual news-cycle soft spot between old news and new, we traditionally publish a last-minute gift guide. But we’re not doing that this year, because what the world needs now is hardly more shopping aids. If you’re still stuck for a critical gift this late in the game, you might as well just lean into the spirit of the season and ask Alexa. Instead, we decided to imagine the perfect stocking stuffers for some high-profile Montanans who’ve kept us in news this year.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

Hardly a week goes by when Ryan Zinke doesn’t wind up as the punchline of his own bad joke. The latest example came just last week, when Outside called out the former congressman for rigging his fly rod wrong. (The magazine then claimed Zinke’s office blocked one of its editors from a conference call about national monument shrinkage.) As chuckle-inducing as Zinke’s attempts to flaunt his Montana bona fides with cowboy hats and arcade hunting games may be, they have the collective effect of making him look less like a seasoned outdoorsman than a clueless dude from a paperback Western. So, to remind the Whitefish homeboy of his roots this holiday season, we propose booking him a guided fly-fishing pack trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Media-free, of course. We’d hate for him to have to bar more press from his teleconferences after he hops in the saddle backwards.

opened gift box 3d illustration

Kevin and Kyle Washington and all University of Montana football boosters

What do you get for the guys who have everything? And who give you anything, like a beautiful new Champions Center, as long as you field a winning football team? Why, whatever they want. Fellas, you already know what’s keeping your stockings warm, and it’s a toasty Bobby Hauck, a man who shoulders both a revered football legacy and at least some responsibility for the university’s plummeting undergraduate enrollment. Regardless of whether or not the rumors are true (that deep-pocketed boosters wanted Hauck back even more than they wanted Stitt gone), this is what they’re getting. So it’s nice that big donors and regular Montes alike get to spend the holiday season fantasizing about this time next year, when—perchance to dream—they’ll still be making plans to tailgate deep into the FCS playoffs.

Incoming UM President Seth Bodnar

We thought a conductor’s hat might make the perfect welcoming gift for a guy who seems determined to get everyone at UM on board the optimism train, but we figure a former executive in GE’s locomotive business and board member of a nonprofit called the Positivity Project probably already has one. Next we poked around Amazon in search of some book-length manifesto on the importance of the humanities, which could come in handy as the new president tries to punch the tickets of UM’s angsty professors. We found some, but then realized Seth has probably already read them. We also considered putting a big bow around a box of Cards Against Humanity. (Seth, not yet 40 years old, seems so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, after all, and everyone loves card games.) But we’re frankly spooked by the thought of what might happen to campus once Seth’s tenure is tainted by cynicism (even though it’s only a matter of time). So we decided to gift Seth with a purely practical tool: a scalpel. Cut smart, Mr. President.

Missoula Rises founder Erin Erickson

Over the last year, local activist Erickson and her fellow Missoula Rises members have built a prominent progressive movement out of a Facebook group, showing up for rallies, panel discussions and phone call campaigns on a regular basis. One of the things they’ve been most vocal about? The lack of direct constituent contact from Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte. So to Missoula Rises we gift an in-person meeting with the Republican faction of Montana’s congressional delegation of no less than 90 minutes. They’ll have to listen to your concerns about health care, gun violence, reproductive rights and public lands, and they can’t “accidentally” kick you off, like on a tele-town hall. We think being in a room with either of those guys is a weird thing to want, but hey, it’s what you’ve been asking for all year. Merry Christmas.

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