Do You Know This Beloved Montana Icon And His Amazing Journey?
Recently I was introduced to the lovely song "The Ballad of Willie and Millie."
For those not familiar, the song is a love story about two folks (Willie and Millie) that met at the Columbia Gardens in Butte. It really has a beautiful backstory about not only the bond of love, but also progress and the toll it can sometimes take on both the land and the people that live on that land.
The song was written by Walkin' Jim Stoltz, who also just so happens to have a beautiful backstory.
Jim, who was born in Michigan back in 1953, lived a life that most folks can only dream about. To say that he took a different path than most would certainly be an understatement. Walkin' Jim Stoltz most definitely earned his nickname, as it is reported that he walked over 28-thousand miles in long-distance trips, including a coast-to-coast trip across the United States.
A photographer, songwriter/singer, painter, poet, and author, Jim was blessed with the gift of being able to capture the spirit of the people and places he encountered on his many journeys. While not a native to these parts, Jim would spend decades here in Montana.
His love for the state was shown in his many writings, including the book “Walking with the Wild Wind: Reflections on a Montana Journey.”
A strong advocate for not only the planet, but the backcountry, many of his writings encouraged folks to take care of this earth so that its beauty might be preserved for all generations to come. He started the Wild Wind Foundation and encouraged others to make their love of the wilderness known to politicians and lawmakers. Here's an excerpt from one of his writings:
"The folks in Congress do not know wilderness. They do not know the value of an unblemished skyline, or the sight of a grizzly bear galloping across a mountainside. They can’t grasp the importance of a spotted owl or for that matter a lowly prairie dog."
Jim passed away back in 2010 from cancer. However, his spirit lives on every day in his many writings, photos, and most importantly, in the lives that he enriched on his many journeys.