You don’t go to Roundup, Montana, without a pretty good reason in mind. I am not suggesting Roundup is a bad place. Far from it. Roundup is a nice place. The surrounding landscape is scenic. But Roundup is remote—even by the standards of Montanans—which is saying something.
The highway through town isn’t going anyplace in particular. Roundup isn’t one of those little stops in-between two big towns. The town hangs like a lone bead on a secondary highway in the middle of quiet. Roundup just is. The town got its name because early ranchers found the narrow valley near the Musselshell River a convenient place to roundup there cattle.
Roundup is the county seat for Musselshell County.
The nearby countryside is busy with ancient rim rock formations and broken land. Scattered pine, cattle, and game animals are found throughout. Thick green grass thrives in the winding river and creek bottoms and climbs up into the nearby timber. The Musselshell River swashbuckles right in next to Roundup and then drifts off again. The town feels like the Old West for no reason that comes to mind immediately.
Both Roundup and Musselshell County at large have seen constant cycles of boom and bust. Irrigation projects helped convey water to the dry lands. The Homestead Act of 1920 beckoned people to the remote lands. The dustbowl era drought that soon followed saw them leave again. Coal mines have opened and closed. The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad came, bringing people and jobs, but left in the 1970s.
Today, the population of Musselshell County is something near 5,000. That is down substantially from a population of about 9,000 shortly after Montana Governor Edwin Norris officially created the county in 1911.
By the way, I do have a reason for being in Roundup on this soon-to-be sunny day. I have a solar PV instructing gig here. A local area electrical shop is installing an 8,000 watt ground-mount system today and I am involved with that.