Montana Man Wins Darwin Award (or Darn Well Should)

Okay -so today’s post isn’t necessarily about Wyoming, but rather its neighbor to the north, Montana.  And today I’ll give you a break from the stories of my time in Wyoming, but I’ll come back to those tomorrow. Montana and Wyoming have sort of a special relationship anyway, because if you live in Wyoming and feel the need to go to an actual city, you pretty much have to leave the state. Casper, Cheyenne, and Rock Springs are the three largest “cities” in Wyoming, and put together they have a combined population of just under 150,000.

Denver, Colorado is probably the closest actual city to anywhere in Wyoming, but Montana has a couple of nice smaller options. Billings, Montana (population 105,000) is where everyone goes to shop when that “big city feel” is desired for larger shopping malls, high rise hotels, and what have you. Weather permitting, of course. Billings is only a couple of hours from my small hometown.

Of course, Montana has its share of one-horse towns as well. Take Kalispell, Montana, for instance.  Kalispell is 20,000 people (okay, so a two-horse town), and is located in a high altitude valley between mountain ranges.

Now, I’m not trying to be ornery here – I think Montana is a gorgeous state with a rich history – but for a Rocky Mountain state with only 1 million people – about double the population of Wyoming – Montana sure does seem to produce some kooks. Mr. Kaczynski being the most infamous, of course.  And now it has produced a man who I believe is eligible for the 2012 Darwin Award of the Year, and will probably show up at some point on the television show, “1000 Ways to Die.”

For those of you not familiar, the Darwin Awards are awarded (usually posthumously) each year to individuals who permanently remove themselves from the human gene pool in a sublimely idiotic fashion.

Enter Mr. Randy Lee Tenley, 44, of Kalispell, Montana. Last weekend Mr. Tenley waited until the sun set, donned a camouflage “ghillie suit” and stood in the middle of U.S. Highway 93.

Was he trying to commit suicide?

Nope, at least authorities do not believe so. After interviews with Mr. Tenley’s acquaintances, Montana State Trooper Jim Schneider issued the following public statement, in what may be the best news story quote of 2012:

“He was trying to make people think he was a Sasquatch,” Schneider said.

Before we go any further, it might help if you were familiar with what a ghillie suit is and what one looks like. A ghillie suit is a full-body camouflage suit covered in fake foliage. A classic ghillie suit:

“Obviously, his suit made it difficult for people to see him,” Schneider said.

Really? I mean, wearing that, at night, in the mountains, on a major highway, might not be the best idea?

Well, it wasn’t – Mr. Tenley was struck and killed by two cars in a row while he stood in the middle of the highway. The first car was driven by a 15 year old girl, the second car was driven by a 17 year old girl. The drivers failed to see or identify the obstacle in the road that would have basically looked like a small tree growing out of the highway. No charges have been filed in the case, as it is clear that Mr. Tenley’s actions were not in the interest of public safety, and least of all his own. Authorities have deduced after several interviews that Mr. Tenley was indeed trying to impersonate a Sasquatch, trying to incite a false Bigfoot sighting. It remains to be seen if alcohol was a contributing factor, Schneider added. (But if I were a betting man……..)

I don’t know if Bigfoot is real or not – I have heard evidence both for and against. In the long run, I’m not really even sure it matters. I mean, new species are discovered by scientists every year (mostly bugs, I grant you). Is it possible that there is a large humanoid mammal species out there that has not been formally inducted into the Animal Kingdom?  Sure, almost anything is possible, I guess. Is it likely?  I don’t know. And I really think that’s the wisest answer in the “Search for Bigfoot.”

Of one thing I am pretty sure, though – anything that has managed to avoid detection for this long is not going to be standing in the middle of U.S. Highway 93 just after sundown. I’m just sayin’.

Although the loss of any human life is of course tragic, I might suggest that Mr. Tenley did not quite think things through here.

Congratulations, Mr. Tenley – allow me to be the first to formally nominate you for Darwin Award of the Year. I really think you stand a really great chance of winning, I really do.

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