“You folks up there sure got balls” Montana residents admire Coutts Truckers’ fight for rights

The Truckstop in Barretts, Montana six hours south of the border at Coutts. Photo: Mike Murchison

This morning, I was six hours south of Coutts, Alberta where the Convoy and protesters have been since last Friday. I had breakfast in a small Montana village called Barretts.

There’s a small, independent truck stop where a driver can get an old fashioned, sit-down breakfast, lunch, dinner or late night snack. Hell, it only has one television. There’s no music blaring out of ceiling speakers.

It’s one of few remaining places that the fast food giants haven’t discovered; so, let’s keep it as our little secret. Some things don’t need to change in the name of convenience.

I’ve slept there many times over the years. It’s been my “shelter from the storm” when the wind blew the snow horizontal across the highway to the point I couldn’t see fifty feet ahead of me. Many summer mornings I’ve woken up there to smell hay, hear birds and see horses grazing in the nearby pasture.

I woke there one morning on a September day twenty years ago. I went inside to grab some breakfast in time to witness the live coverage of a second plane hitting the World Trade Center.

On that morning, the truck stop was crowded with people gathered to support one and other in a time of uncertainty about their nation’s future.

I woke up this morning. Fired up the truck and headed inside; it was not that crowded. I ordered coffee and sat at the counter next to two other gentlemen at the counter. A third man sat in a booth. The waitress was near.

“Mornin,’ all,” I said in a slightly raised voice. “May I ask a question?’

“Go right ahead!’ the waitress said.

“What do you make of the protests up in Canada?”

I told them I was a Canadian driver and wanted to get an American perspective in our situation. We talked for a good hour. One man told me that there was a convoy of US trucks that got stopped at Sweetgrass on the Montana side of the border and were forced to turn around.

One of the gentleman two seats away summed it up nicely.

“It’s great. I think it’s fantastic. You folks up there sure got balls.”

I couldn’t help but smile at that remark.

The waitress said “Good for them. We should do something like that down here.”

“They’d probably call out the National Guard,” the guy in the booth remarked.

Coffee is best served with a side of good conversation and that’s just what I got this morning. It was great way to start off a day.

Twenty years ago, I sat in this same truck stop, discussing tense, important issues. Today, we are staring down the barrel of similar issues.  

Freedom, constitutional rights, privacy and looking out for our fellow human beings.

I’m not comparing Canada’s “Freedom Convoys” to the horrific events of 9/11; but I am comparing two instances, twenty years apart, that have made people come together on both sides of the border. We stand on a small plot of common ground to say “We believe in something.” That’s important.

When the US needed our help in that September day over 20 years ago, we helped.

When we needed their help in the last few days, they’ve shown up in any way they could.

The actual border between the US and Canada is just a line chosen the interests of political powers at that time in history, the 49th parallel. No one is lining up to defend the 49th parallel.

But threatening our right to freedom of speech, civil liberties, peaceful assembly and freedom of choice is a line that would best not be crossed by any political power, regardless the gain. That’s true on both sides.

The coffee was good; the conversation was, too. It was a good start to the day.

My boots felt nice, singing their own song on well-worn hardwood floor. As I walked past the cashier at the other end of the truck stop and thanked her for the coffee.

“Have a good day…eh!” she said.

I couldn’t help but laugh. I pointed my finger at her.

“You too….y’all”

Oh, I love my job!

Barretts, Montana Photo: Mike Murchison