I often drive from Jackson to different towns and cities in Montana. I do this mostly to see my family and friends. I find myself being introduced to some pretty cool things, people or places that have come to fruition since I moved away in 2009. Recently I spent some time in Ennis, Montana. This place is quite a happening spot, especially in the summer. The main drag, with all the shops, a few restaurants, and bars, is about two to three blocks long. When I say that I don’t mean city blocks like New York City, I mean you can stroll from one end of the strip to the other in about five minutes. It’s small, quaint, and reminiscent of the Wild West.
While I was there I spent some time at Benjie’s. This shop is full of cards, souvenirs, jewelry, and many more items of which I cannot think of a category they would fit into. The real treat was meeting Benjie herself and hearing her great stories. She is full of hilarious memories, some of which have caused a stir around this great little town. Some, in particular, are recollections of the few people who have tried to sensor her shop. Benjie has some oven mitts, greeting cards, hand towels, stickers, and magnets displaying humorous obscenities. One card, in particular, said: “My bucket list is quite short, but my fuckit list keeps growing”. An oven mitt shows a girl under an umbrella in the rain and it says, “Fuck this shit”. Besides the foul language, there are some religious and political cartoons and jokes. All of which are in plain sight and for most customers are quite entertaining. For some customers though she has offended them to the point where they have tried censoring her products.
One day, she reminisces was very busy. Benjie noticed a man standing near the oven mitts and hand towels. He wouldn’t move and was sort of blocking the whole display. She couldn’t tell what he was doing and she couldn’t leave from behind the counter because she was so busy with her customers. After most of the day had passed and she emerged from behind her counter, Benjie approached her oven mitt, hand towel display and noticed that all the oven mitts or towels were off of the display and shoved under other items on bottom shelves. This man had stood in her store so offended by the language on these items that he took the time to shove them underneath other items. This man spent a lot of time on this project. I said to Benjie ‘why didn’t he just leave?’ She said, ‘I have no idea’. We giggled and she said ‘he was trying to censor me and my store’.
Benjie has different vision and views from most people in these small towns of Montana. I’m sure she has been offending people for most of her life with her views, and yet she and her store persist. She is a successful business owner and woman to boot. I think she is an icon of our age. No matter what people think or say she remains constant in her beliefs and hopes we all can find humor in our busy lives.
I think it is beautiful to see this strong female in such a small community thrive, and never let anyone shut her down. I hope her store, Benjies, continues long after she is gone and remains a staple in this small western Montana town.