I decided earlier this year I was going to take a big trip. Ireland came to mind first. Then I briefly toyed with Iceland. My focus later switched to Costa Rica, and I haven’t yet ruled out that trip. I did decide earlier this week, however, that I’m going to Butte, Montana, and I booked a June trip for myself and my son Jake.
When I tell people I booked a Montana trip, the first question I usually get is if I’m going there to hunt; no, not in June. Someone asked me if I was going to Glacier National Park; looks like Butte is more than a four-hour drive from there. No, I’m not going to Montana for any of the typical reasons, and I don’t think Butte is one of the most popular tourist destinations.
I’m going because I want to see the place my grandfather came from.
Cregg Coughlin grew up in Butte and worked as a miner there before going to college and later law school. He came to the Washington, DC area around the time of the Second World War.
I never knew him real well. He died when I was a senior in high school, and my dad said it would be best if I didn’t come to the funeral; still not sure what was going on there. But Cregg Coughlin was an interesting guy to say the least, and he’s not the only interesting person to ever come out of Butte.
Perhaps the best known Butte native of my youth was daredevil Evel Knievel. More recently, Butte native and former Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill became famous when he revealed his participation in the military operation that brought down terrorist Osama Bin Laden.
Butte was a mining town settled largely by Irish immigrants; I suppose my ancestors were among them. It’s been called Ireland’s Fifth Province and “the city the Irish would have built if the English would said build a city of your own design and consider money to be no object.”
My grandfather often spoke of a Butte neighborhood called Dublin Gulch.
So that’s why I’m going to Butte. We’ll do some fishing while we’re there and will definitely spend time in the mountains. As much as anything else though, I’m going to see a little bit of where I came from.