A small glimpse into Rocky’s connection to the real-life Dutton family, as not seen on TV.

With an audience of about 9.3 million viewers following the season four finale, it’s safe to say much of the allure outsiders find in Montana can  be drawn back to Paramount’s series “Yellowstone.” The show romanticizes the West, portraying the high stakes and heartwarming lives of characters associated with a seven-generation Montana ranch owned by the fictional Dutton family, the patriarch being none other than Mr. “Dances With Wolves” himself, Kevin Costner.

Reminiscent of similar beloved westerns, the show depicts a dramatic narrative of the new West, illustrating the dangers and difficulties that come with operating the largest contiguous ranch in the United States, including threats from land developers, the Broken Rock Reservation, and even America’s first national park. As a Montana native, it was nearly impossible to keep me from delegitimizing the entire show, (did you know they shoot it almost entirely in Utah?), despite my secret obsession for its many complex and compelling characters like Monica (Kelsey Asbille), Kayce (Luke Grimes) and the oh-so-beloved, and admirably unhinged, Beth (Kelly Reilly). Yet, I can’t help but wonder to what extent non-Montanans, as well as our new Californian neighbors, take the show’s many Big Sky details to heart. It might surprise a few of you to know that “the Duttons” are much closer to reality, and Rocky’s campus, than the show, cares to divulge.

Hours after my arrival at Rocky Mountain College last semester during orientation, I was greeted by my third cousin, Cassidy, who shares my mother’s maiden name, yes folks, Dutton. We were coincidentally paired up to be roommates and have been best friends since, often relating information as far as our family tree is concerned and reminiscing on our shared childhood memories. In truth, we hadn’t known much about each other prior to Rocky, with the both of us having moved around collectively quite a bit as children, but we shared a common heritage, which made up for a lot of lost time. The both of us, as cousins, come from a long line of cowboys, the two of us connected through our great grandfathers who were brothers, a central theme which remains a large focus throughout “Yellowstone.” We grew up connected to ranching, Cassidy much more so than myself.(I am actually writing this on the way back home from her ranch) Ranching is in many ways the heart of our family and arguably that of the state, which is why I think “Yellowstone” is difficult to dislike. The ranch is what the characters return to and what they depend upon, something very familiar to the Duttons I know and love. 

I remember branding from when I was a kid, standing on the bed of a truck watching the world become a cloud of dirt as soon as my uncle wrestled one of the calves to the ground just before the singe of my grandfather’s brand touched down on the black hide. There is indeed a bunkhouse at my grandfather’s ranch, though it’s mostly inhabited by a plethora of granddaughters swapping stories during an occasional game of  Old Maid.. The show even reminded me of my favorite horse, the late Little Joe, strikingly similar to Monica’s Palomino, an image which made me miss home just about as much as anything. And while I cannot speak for the rest of Montana, let alone the rest of my family, there is something scintillating in seeing the likeness of your childhood, as well as your family’s livelihood, on television while knowing others, strangers, and yuppies I dare say, are as enticed as you are.

Though there are scenes I can’t help but discredit, including the speed at which a newborn calf stands up, for instance, I can acknowledge the beauty and effort made toward the show’s execution and the earnest admiration for the way of life so many Montanans maintain. Cassidy, through nearly an entire life, spent ranching, has acquired an astounding amount of wild stories that would challenge any Hollywood drama that “Yellowstone” tries to imitate. Although we don’t take double-crossing visitors on habitual trips to the “train station,” nor do we take turns branding our ranch hands, we do, however, maintain our dedication to work, home, and family, which is uncommon in this day and age. So as a granddaughter to a hall of fame cowboy, and a Dutton at that, I hereby give my stamp of approval, as long as that means I still get to poke holes at the imperfect plot every now and again.

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