Interview with an Artist: Mattie Booth

Mattie Booth, one of the speakers at the January 30th, 2012 Nerdnite, was nice enough to sit down with me and further discuss what it was like being a “Frontier Nerd” and relocating to Montana, what it’s like presenting at Nerdnite and why it was hard for her to kill a rooster.

JS: So, you went out to Montana to take a break.
MB: Yea, I kind of wanted to push the restart button a little bit; we’d been out here a long time.  I like Boston but it gets arduous and it gets really unfriendly sometimes.  My whole family lives there and I was born there and I just thought that it would be a nice kind of place to reset, and spent a large block of time there not just a vacation but one existence for a short period of time.

JS: When you wanted to go to the cabin ranch what did your family say?
MB: Well, I asked my Dad.  I said, I want to do this thing and he said, “sure.” So I just went.  I was there for four months or something.

JS: The rooster thing… was it hard?
MB: A little bit.  It only took a couple of hours but there was a lot of like anticipatory anxiety, like when you have to hold it still and do it.  There’s a number of ways you can kill a rooster.  You can swing it by it’s neck or hold it down and chop it’s head off or you can cut it’s throat.  I wasn’t comfortable swinging an axe in my hand while holding down this beast because I’m not very good with an axe and I’d never seen anyone do the twist the neck thing.  I think that swinging it is probably the easiest way to do it but I’d have to see somebody do it first.  But you kind of have to take a deep breath and just do it. And once I’d done it and it was over and it was  not … you know, it was fine.

JS: So, the build up was what caused your anxiety?
MB: Yea, taking it out of the cage, you know your like… the rooster doesn’t know what’s about to happen to him so it’s really not defensive.  But, I know whats about to happen so I’m projecting the rooster being defensive so I think that was probably part of it.  I’m about to kill you, so you’re probably angry.

JS: Now your mom was there right? Was she helpful?
MB: Yea, definitely.  I didn’t follow the book for the rooster. She knew all of the stuff so she kind of walked me through the whole thing.  And my mom is kind of badass, so when it comes down to having to do shit she’s just ready to do it.  You just do it and get it over with, and so when I was just a little bit timid about the whole thing she was just like, just do it.

JS: Where do you think she gets that from?
MB: I’m fifth generation Native Montanan so her parents are native Montanans and her grand parents and it’s the frontier so when she was a kid her grandmother killed chickens all of the time and she lived up here at the ranch in the 70’s and 80’s and they wouldn’t have running water and she would have to carry buckets from the stream a quarter of a mile and she had kids and farm animals and had to birth animals.  She did all that kind of stuff so she’s you know.

JS: Do people often say you’re not at all what they expect?
MB: Sometimes, and then if you say Montana, they automatically say Wyoming? After that Michigan or something.  Nobody actually knows where it is.  It’s a huge state but nobody knows where it is.  It’s like somewhere out there.

JS: What other kind of things do people ask you?
MB: They ask if you live in the mountains or do you see buffalo, is it mostly farming?  Sometimes people ask about Native Americans.  Some people but not often.  Sometimes, I think they expect it to be more like the south.  The negative south stereotypes they sort of assume it’s like that.

JS: What did you expect going into the Nerdnite talk?
MB: I was nervous, about showing graphic pictures of dead animals because you know there are lots of vegans, and vegetarians and animal enthusiasts and I wasn’t sure how that was going to be received.   I kind of figured that I did it for a good reason you know it wasn’t for sport, it was for life experience.  I kid of figured that if I could convey it that way then people would be able to understand that.

JS: Do you feel that your experience at Nerdnite was good?
MB: I had a really good time. I really did. I was a little bit nervous because public speaking is not something I do in my daily life. I was a little bit nervous and then I decided that I wasn’t going to be nervous and kind of approached it like the people who were there were a bunch of my friends and I’m just going to talk to them like I would, you know, to my buddies.

JS: Now did you approach them with your talk subject, or did someone’s suggest you?
MB: Mary who is kind of the co-organizer, she’s a friend of ours, she works in an office with my husband.   After we got back,  we hadn’t seen her in a while and got to chatting and I was like… oh yea… and I went to Montana.  And she was like, oh my god.  You should give a Nerdnite talk.

JS: So, how did you prepare for the talk?
MB: It wasn’t too difficult because I had documented the process and it was a lot of just steps which I was grateful for so I kind of just went through the photographs of the experience and I picked out the steps of the activities first and then I filled in the other stuff after.

JS: What about the Q&A, what did you think when someone asked “What do people do with a Mountain Lion skull?”
MB: I kind of figure you answer what you can answer to the best of your ability.  I was just prepared to be like… I don’t know. (Laugh) But, the mountain lion skull, people like to collect that shit.

JS: I think it’s the idea of a trophy room that is weird for folks.
MB: Most people I know in Montana have some kind of animal head that they or a family member killed and had mounted.

JS: So, would you do it again?
MB: Sure, if I had a compelling subject.

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