Missoula's always had a reputation for being, well, a little out-of-step with the rest of Montana.

So when its daily newspaper, the Missoulian, did a feature on a loon that landed on the Clark Fork River in Missoula, Al Acheson of Superior couldn't resist poking a little fun at the Garden City in a letter to the editor. Acheson quoted the lede to the article, which said: "This may sound crazy to the rest of Montana, but Missoula is no place for loons."

Quipped Acheson: "Now, that is funny! Ha ha ha ha."

The "campiest" place on planet Earth? According to the New York Times, it is Great Falls' infamous Sip 'n Dip Lounge, known for having women dressed as mermaids swim in an underwater pool that's visible through a window from the bar. The bar also features "Piano Pat" Spoonheim, who has played her "jazzy" style music since 1963.

Times reporter Brook Barnes describes the Sip 'n Dip as a "kitsch-tastic tiki bar" hidden inside the O'Haire Motor Inn where a dozen women -- three are currently out on maternity leave -- rotate as the bar's mermaids. But Spoonheim, who plays three nights a week, seems to be as much of a hit as the mermaids. 

Barnes says the Sip 'n Dip has become a magnet for travelers around the globe, "a must-visit for fans of Americana run amok — the wacky places where the human spirit gushes to the surface in an unexpected geyser." She quotes one visitor, a teacher from Illinois, who called it a "bucket-list place."

Of course, this being the Times, Barnes couldn't help but take some condescending shots at Great Falls, which she says can be a "soul-deadening place." She started her story this way: "When a study recently found Great Falls the least gay-friendly city in Montana, one man wrote on a local news website, “Let’s keep it that way.” Mermaids are totally tolerable, though." (Nothing like using one idiot's remarks to represent the thinking of an entire city, huh?)

The "recent" study Barnes refers to was done more than four years ago by the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBT rights. Its study gave Great Falls low marks for such things as lacking a human rights commission, policies on bullying, and a non-discrimination laws. The report also marked the city down for having a median household income of only $42,487 (the report doesn't explain how that level hurts the LGBT community more than it hurts other parts of the community.)

The top story on the front page of Wednesday's Helena Independent Record took a look at donations GOP Congressman Greg Gianforte has given to conservation organizations that are allegedly trying to dismantle federal campaign finance rules. 

The same story also ran in Montana's other Lee Newspapers, and was attributed to the Center for Public Integrity, a group most Montanans probably have never heard of. The center, which describes itself as a nonprofit news organization, is based out of Washington, D.C., and has called itself "strictly nonpartisan."

But the New York Times and Los Angeles Times have both described it as "liberal," while Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a self-described progressive media watchdog, also has labeled the center as progressive. According to Wikipedia, the center's funding comes from various liberal foundations, including George Soros' Open Society Foundations.

So don't the Lee editors owe their readers an explanation for their decision to turn over such prime news space to a group widely viewed as left-of-center? Especially at a time when polls show that readers, especially those on the right, say they don't trust the media to be fair? This recent Gallup poll, for example, showed only 27 percent of Americans said they had a lot of trust in newspapers.

MONTANANS love their huckleberries. But what would they think about the tasty fruit on their burgers? Now we've got a chance to find out.

​James Monroe, the Eureka chef who won the nation-wide best burger competition in 2009 with a Cajun-inspired creation on the "Live! with Regis and Kelly" TV show, is back with a new artisan burger that's topped off with a splotch of huckleberry ice cream.

Sounds yummy. Or not. Guess we'll have to try one to find out.

Anyway, because of his burger victory, Monroe's been invited to serve his prize-winning Bubba burgers, as well as the new huckleberry burgers, at a reception that follows the lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., in early December. The 70-foot-tall spruce is being harvested in the Kootenai Forest, not many miles away from the Front Porch Grill that Monroe and his wife, Andi, run in Eureka

THE POLICE blotter reports in Montana newspapers offer some of the most amusing -- and perhaps insightful -- commentaries on human nature.

Take this recent item in the Flathead Beacon: "A Canadian called the sheriff’s office and asked, 'What the heck is going on down there?' It’s unclear if anyone had an answer to that question."​​





Some Blackfeet have misgivings about monument designation

Health-care coverage for 24K MT kids could run out on Feb. 1

State slowly tries to make progress on cleaning up abandoned mines

Investigators trace origin of illegal fish in Swan Lake

Tester, Gianforte among 33 members of Congress who got ag subsidies

Billings school tries new route to educating student

Survey moves Lincoln to center of Crown of Continent map

Man killed by car former Butte High coach

Forest Service adapts new techniques in doing post-fire work

Zinke spent over $53,000 on three helicopter trips

In Capitol active shooter drill, goal is to buy time

Feds take custody of Mexican who had been held on sex assault charge

AG Fox: Petition is 'thinly veiled request' to nullify immigration laws

Jury finds Busby man guilty of strangling, burning Crow Agency woman

Billings police shock eastern Montana county attorney with stun gun

Daines' legislation would eliminate wilderness study areas

Browning native, actor Steve Reevis dies at 56

5 men, including outfitter, accused of illegal hunting of mountain lions

Some faculty members want UM to reconsider Hauck hire

Federal appeals court endorses MT's nonpartisan judicial races

Bozeman boy lights MT Christmas tree outside US Capitol Building

Daines asks EPA to put Butte on top 10 list

Police pursuit ends with shots fired, arrest of 2 in Lake County

Syphilis rates skyrocket in the state

Feds to review end of protections for Yellowstone grizzlies

Plan calls for closure of Colstrip power plants by 2027

Kalispell man convicted of killing man by shoving him off bridge

Defendant: Woman was strangled, burned after she gave a 'dirty look'

State must scramble to get up to 70 out of county jails, or lose $2M

Delta flight makes emergency bathroom stop in Billings

County's Menorah lighting request spurs debate over religious symbols

Revenue director expects MT to lose millions due to federal tax reform

Stapleton sees no vote fraud, but problems that should be fixed

Revenue Department staffing cuts in counties miff local residents

Zinke recommends new national monuments in MT, 2 other states

Feds say white-tailed prairie dogs don't need special protections


Promoters say proposed Billings development will be big boost

Flathead cherry growers vote to end their checkoff program

Feds delay Obama-era rule that restricts methane emissions

Whitefish Energy settles spat with Puerto Rico over grid work

Glacier Park Inc. rebrands under 'Pursuit' label

Consumer demand fuels boom in Montana pulse crop industry

Modular construction firm to build plant near Missoula


Dave Dickenson says UM got right guy when it hired Hauck as coach

Griz rally falls short as Georgia State wins by 3

Santa Barbara blows by Bobcats 91-69

UM faculty members who criticize Hauck get angry email

Lady Griz win 3rd in a row, defeating Stephen F. Austin

Whitefish Mountain Resort set to open Thursday

UCLA cancels game with Grizzlies due to wildfires

How Brockton went scoreless, losing 102-0



Keep an eye on Washington rate case and its impact on Colstrip

Media obsession with scandal played out in Whitefish Energy story

Doggone, Montana needs to do more than add area codes

Battle over FWP settlement shows transparency efforts have ways to go

Gianforte still isn't being accountable for his personal actions

Why did Lee papers run an anti-Gianforte story done by liberal group?

U System must make it easier for students to transfer credits

After session, budget cuts will start to have real-world impacts


Kevin Costner says 'Yellowstone' series will be 'postcard' for Montana

2 Montana-made films picked for Sundance Film Festival

Eureka -- once the world's Christmas tree capital

Surprise: A loon lands on the Clark Fork at Missoula

A look back at the amazing life of Butte's Evel Knievel

Beaverhead High alum screening documentary on rare illness in Dillon

Smithsonian loans large, unique beetle collection to MSU

A look at some of Montana's best local eateries



Rebecca Farm to host Flathead skijoring competition Dec. 30-31

Rod Stewart doing his 1st Montana concert in Billings April 14

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Members of the Saffer family of Belgrade pose for a photo this last week. The four Saffer children are among about 24,000 lower-income Montana kids who are get their health insurance through the Children's Health Insurance Program. However, funding for the program is set to run out at the end of the month unless Congress acts. (Bozeman Chronicle)

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A daily digest of Montana news

Dec. 11, 2017