Good manners are alive and well, not just in the South.

A few years back I married into a family with southern roots. Having recently spent 10 days with acquired grandchildren ages 6 and 9, and putting 1500 miles on a rental van while traveling around the fourth largest state in the U.S., I heard plenty of “Yes sirs,” and “Yes ma’ams,” as they interacted with our friends and the public. Any slight lapse was brought into line with a gentle parental reminder, “manners.”

Within my family, I don’t recall ever addressing anyone by their first name appended to a Miss or Mr. It’s taken awhile to get used to being addressed politely by Miss attached to my first name. Now I find it particularly endearing.

During their visit all the way from Florida, I was the designated walking-talking dictionary and encyclopedia for all things Montana; thus, Miss Marci, why this, why that reverberated around me until I thought my brain would explode, although I admit passing the buck to their Gramps on the history and lore of railroads. I’d forgotten how curious young kids are.

They learned about Confederated Salish-Kootenai tribes’ etiquette from our friend and Salish tribal elder, Manshadow, at the annual Arlee Pow Wow. Another highlight and especially stimulating for young minds was a trip to the Museum of the Rockies– lots of dinos, fossils and rocks with an interactive kids discovery area they loved.

They came to our state to see animals and got up close and personal with buffalo on the Bison Range. In our library, the 6 year-old made a beeline for a “Tracks & Scats” booklet, which fascinated. Reading aloud descriptions of the scat and tracks of the more commonly encountered animals of the Rockies, “Miss Marci guess what this is,” was sure to follow on. A welcomed brain break came when everyone got involved. These young nature buffs also seem to be budding rock hounds. Besides arrowheads on our bookcase, they were fascinated by the cowboy boot, leaf, hiking boot and bear paw rocks. Every rock in our yard was examined followed by, “Miss Marci where did this come from?” – followed by even more questions. Like looking for shapes in the clouds, searching for unusual rock shapes as we traveled, was a favorite occupation the minute they were out of the van.

They also got lessons in how to sit a horse and some western style etiquette from our great friend and rodeo star, Cowboy Mike, whose belt buckle is as wide as his smile – always tip your hat to the ladies, or gents!

My western life has been enriched with the addition of southern culture and charm. History resonates in our daughter’s soft “y’all.” I’ve even learned to like grits, although I’m not so fond of sweet tea. But those young’uns sure know how to give sugar!