A Montana ‘mountain man’ goes to court to protect his property rights

Wil Wilkins of Ravalli County, Mont., acknowledges he’s a bit of a throwback. Growing up in West Virginia, he says his mother used to tell him, “You was born a hundred years too late, boy.”

It’s an apt description of this self-described “mountain man.” Wilkins is a dedicated practitioner of traditional crafts such as stone masonry, blacksmithing and timber framing — what he calls “the forgotten arts.” He has old-school ideas about patriotism and service, which led him to enlist in the military during the Vietnam era, and he is an ardent conservationist. He’s committed to a traditional ethical code of honor under which, when making an agreement, you keep your word and do what you say you’re going to do.