Overheard at Fairmont Hot-Springs


the storm system has been blowing in
all day

it’s March, which means madness—a madness
reaching far beyond

at the Hotsprings resort, killing time with the kids,
I assume all the nicely dressed people are here
for a wedding

some of the older men are wearing gold,
ceremonial necklaces, no biggie

they are gathering by the hallway to the
conference center, the girls in brightly colored

but then I start listening to a conversation
near me; I hear “Grand Master” and “initiate”

the older man speaking is from Wyoming
and says Montana chapters
are down, fallen off
I hear another man say
they have 5 boys being initiated this year

after sneaking a pic with my phone
I tell my kids it’s time to go
we walk through the sliding glass doors
as another man wearing a gold necklace
walks in

a couple inquires what he’s here for
“just a gathering of a youth group,” he says

I scoff within earshot of this couple
and lock eyes—“are you ok?” she asks

I pause, thinking what to say back

“what I just overheard,” I say, “freaked
me out”

I pause again, then

“I think they’re KKK”

I turn and keep walking, no longer chilled
by just the wind

—William Skink


  1. Turner

    A scene from post-racial Montana. In a restaurant a few miles from Dillon I noticed a teenage boy and a grandmotherly woman enjoying a music video playing on the teenager’s hand held device.
    It seemed to be a country-type singer celebrating the imagined assassination of Barack Obama. Trying to get a better look at what they were watching and listening to, I glanced past the teenager and noticed several violent images, including explosions, and heard a number of racist insults. Each explosion or racist remark brought a chortle of appreciation from the two of them.
    White racists are well established in Montana. And they’re trying especially hard to work on the young ones.

  2. JC

    A major target of white racism is directed at native americans. There are a slew of white supremacist groups in montana and around the country, and up here on the flathead rez, they are continually causing a stir. The big topic right now is the ratification of the water compact. Listen to those who oppose it, and you’ll be directed right into the heart of the matter.

    Here’s a bit of a primer on white/anti-native hate groups. We may worry about an influx of KKK, or groups from out of state hating on muslims or latinos or blacks, or whomever. But the ones that are here, and have been here for generations are insidious and working to nefarious ends.

  3. mtfunhwg

    Just 2 cents. The Klan usually refer to members of their hierarchy as “Grand Wizards” not Grand Masters. Most fraternal organizations, Rotary, the Freemasons, the Elks, ect, refer to their leaders as “Grand Masters” and they wear gold ceremonial necklaces,( http://www.fundraising-jewelrywholesale.com/fraternal.html ) whereas I don’t think that ceremonial jewelery plays a big role in Klan ceremonies ( http://kkkstuff4sale.com/KKKjewelry-necklaces.html ). Also Idon’t think the Klan has disappeared or diminished in Montana (especially since Obama’s election) http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/local/2014/08/30/montana-kkk-flier-prompts-free-speech-debate/14892173/ or http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/03/inclusive-kkk-montana-chapter/18406129/ . Fraternal Organizations have been shrinking like crazy as the last generation to join them have been dying in droves. Here is a good primer on the lingo and symbols of the Klan (and lots of other hate groups too). http://www.adl.org/combating-hate/hate-on-display/summary-view.html?hate_symbol_category=ku-klux-klan-symbols#.VR8Adkb6dic

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