My wife and I spent last week in and around beautiful West Yellowstone, Montana. This is where we go to escape the crowds, take in nature's beauty and fly fish the rivers I dreamed of as a kid.
West Yellowstone is a quaint little assembly of hotels, restaurants, fly fishing outfitters and souvenir shops. We usually reserve our fishing days for outings with our favorite guide Matt Morrill (you may recall my essay God's Greatest Work from 2010), and while we indeed enjoyed Matt's company once again, on this occasion we decided to update my gear at Arrick's Fly Shop and spend a day or two exploring on our own. Should you ever find yourself in West Yellowstone, fishing or not, be sure to visit Arrick's. Located at the corner of Canyon and Madison, this rustic anglers boutique is a veritable tapestry of American fly fishing---a place where a trout-obsessed bloke like me gets lost for hours.
If you enter through the south door, Lilly, a most delightful Llewellin Setter, will greet you with the sweetest handshake, and, if she takes to you like she did Judy, you might even receive a soft kiss on the wrist. Lilly belongs to Fred, the straight-talking, somewhat reserved, fly fishing master who spent a good forty minutes with me in consultation and rod-testing behind the shop. An enriching experience for both of us: I left, ecstatic, with all the essentials of a Yellowstone fly fishing expedition; Fred remained, his reserve intact (at least till we left the store), with all the contents of my wallet.
My new 4-piece rod came elegantly wrapped in a cloth sheath and tucked within a travel-worthy carrying case. I was so eager to get it unwrapped and assembled---upon reaching Yellowstone's Fire Hole River---that I nearly overlooked the tiny white sticker affixed to the thin sheet of plastic covering its cork handle. The three-word disclosure printed on the sticker explained a phenomenon Judy and I couldn't help but notice as we visited the various establishments back in town: A good percentage of the tourists (we saw maybe one vacancy sign, by the way) were from China, the place where my new fly rod was "finished" (remember "I Pencil"?). Of course! I thought to myself upon reading the sticker, That explains why all those Chinese folks are spending all that money in West Yellowstone. It's the result of all the business we do with them. All that money we spend on all that stuff made in China supplies those wonderful tourists with the U.S. dollars they need to travel to our beautiful country and bless our hardworking American-born merchants. International trade is unequivocally the reason West Yellowstone thrives today.
Without trade my friends, I assure you, there'd be fewer establishments, fewer jobs, fewer fly rods (at much higher prices) to choose from, fewer fishing trips, fewer plane tickets, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.
I can't help but think about the mountain folk who own, and work for, those West Yellowstone establishments. We overheard a woman at the WY Airport tell another how the Asian market is "huge right now". She gets it, because she's a direct beneficiary of international trade. Yet I wonder how other Montanans---those not as visibly reaping the benefits of cross-border commerce---view this wonderful phenomenon. Let's say the woman at the airport wasn't directly thriving as a result of the "Asian market". Would she then, in her heart, welcome the international traveler? Or would she make the profoundly foolish suggestion that we're being overrun by foreigners? Would she not understand that the vast abundance of affordable goods at her disposal is indeed the result of the process that brings these foreigners to her mountain community? I fear not. (Oh, and by the way, there's no stereotyping here; I would fear the same---based on personal experience---if we were talking about a Californian).
The truth is, international trade not only opens up a world of material options---creating prosperity in the process---it, best of all, opens the door to peace and true appreciation for other cultures...