Chili cheese fries

Delectable chili cheese fries from Big B’s Delicious Orchards.

Whoa, talk about No. 2 in your mess kit.

Merissa Underwood, a 27-year-old journalism and law student, wasted no time after being crowned Miss USA Montana before trashing the No. 1 ag business in the state.

“Animal agriculture is the most destructive industry facing our planet today,” was one of her Instagram posts right after being crowned in September. Miss Underwood thinks that cattle are responsible for deforestation, climate change, species extinction, fisheries degradation, waste, and, I’m guessing, acne.

She knows this because she watched “Cowspiracy,” a roundly debunked documentary by filmmaker/environmentalist Kip Anderson. The whole show is basically a regurgitation of “facts” that are not facts at all. One whopper in the film is the claim that cows are responsible for 51% of the Greenhouse Gases (GHG) on the planet, against 13% for transportation. The generally accepted level of GHG attributed to cattle is about 15%, and there is a dispute about that number being too high.

The film is a simplistic, cherry picking, vegan-promoting work, that even vegans say is shortcoming on truth. On the Quora website, people like A.O. Reid Marr, a self avowed vegan, challenges the films numbers. “I found the film to be very misleading, and generally inaccurate,” says Reid-Marr. In the two dozen or so responses to the question of the film’s accuracy, the majority thought it was way off base.

So did the cattle growers of Montana who recently penned an open letter response to Underwood’s comments, which appeared on Instagram as well as elsewhere in both mass and social media. The cowboys were polite, if not direct, in their admonition to Miss Underwood.

“We think it is vital to use your platform to represent Montana and the things that are important to our beloved state,” they began. “While we appreciate your passion, we are disappointed in the misleading and inaccurate information you shared.” With that they calmly posted their response to the vegan talking points in her screed.

Actually, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a pageant contestant like Underwood does not reflect the values of the state in which they were crowned. She is no more “Montana” then palm trees and ocean water. Checking her background, we find that she is a Southern California post-grad student. She lived in Montana only long enough to fulfill the residency requirement of the Miss USA pageant promoters.

The whole episode brought back to mind an experience of my own some years back. It was a surprise to me when a young model from Southern California won the same contest Miss Underwood did — Miss Montana. I had written scripts and ad copy and directed several photo and video shoots for a client, in which she was one of the models. She was a California girl, as well.

I suspect the polite cowboys’ message will have little impact on the carpetbagger beauty queen. But we can hope.

Marlboro Man

finally passes

Robert Norris, the original, and one of several men, who played the Marlboro Man, passed last week in Colorado Springs at age 90. Norris was a real cattleman — the boss of the T-Cross brand near Colorado Springs. It was his long-time friendship with John Wayne and his rugged good looks that snagged him a 14-year deal with the tobacco company.

As the time went by, Norris lectured his own children about smoking and how they should not do it. One day, one of them finally asked him why he did cigarette commercials if he didn’t want them to smoke. Norris called Phillip Morris the next day and quit.

Although at least three of the Marlboro Cowboys did die of lung issues, Norris did not. In fact he never smoked.

Back on the chili-cheese fries trail

While up in Paonia for the Living Farm story seen elsewhere on this page, I decided to get back to my vital chili-cheese fries research. After leaving the farm, we headed back down the North Fork Valley and stopped in at Big B’s Delicious Orchards. The orchard is apples, and they sell all things apple, including several varieties of hard cider.

They also serve food, from a super clean and well organized little kitchen. The kitchen was operated by a couple of sharp young men who are not exactly short order cooks. The burgers, sandwiches and other plates are several steps up from the pub grub we expected. The menu included, you know it, chili-cheese fries.

It is going to be hard for anyone to beat the presentation (see the picture nearby) of this entry. The dish is a whole, oval dinner plate covered with about 14 ounces of fries (the fries could have stayed in the oil another 40 seconds), dressed in cheese and house-made green chili, and topped with tomatoes and onions. The whole plate is artfully drizzled with sour cream.

This one must be shared unless you are an NFL lineman. Two of us, pro-level chili-cheese-fries lovers, didn’t finish it.

Is there a Big B? Actually there are two. First, there is Bernie Heideman. He started the juice company in 1973. He used the fruits from another Big B, Bob Kokes, whose apple orchard supplied the main ingredient for Bernie’s juice and hard ciders.

Michael A. Cox is a Montrose-based content provider. He may be reached at

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