Amanda Campbell went to the Fishtail General Store last Saturday in search of mealworm for a sick duck.
She found something considerably more — Vice President Mike Pence standing at the register buying a Mother’s Day card.
She had learned the day prior that Pence was in the area as he had been campaining for Republican United States House Candidate Greg Gianforte. When she pulled into Fisthtail and saw several black SUVs, she figured he must be nearby.
After making her purchase, Campbell walked outside and saw Pence talking to a man sitting down. After working up her courage, the Absarokee mother approached Pence for a photo and was met by a Secret Service agent with an outstretched hand shaking his head no.
Pence over-ruled the agent and motioned for Campbell to come join him for quick selfie shot.
“He was super nice…a super likable guy,” said Campbell, adding that the vice president told her to have a good weekend.
Making the event even more special was that it was the birthday of her son, Chance, who was killed in a traffic accident about a year ago. He would have been 20 on Saturday, and someone told her Chance would make sure she smiled on that day. And she did.
“HI. I'M MIKE PENCE.”
Fishtail General Store owner Katy Martin didn’t recognize Pence until she was face to face with him Saturday at her front register.
“He said ‘Hi, I’m Mike Pence’,” said Martin.
“I said ‘I thought you looked familiar’,” Martin recalled Monday morning laughing.
It was by chance that she even got to meet him.
A handful of Secret Service agents had come in asking where the cards were. Martin pointed them in the right direction, then walked out the door. Then, she thought, there was just one employee working and “those guys looked like they might need some help” so she walked back in, got behind the register and there was Pence.
“It was pretty neat,” said Martin. “He was very humble.”
Martin was also thrilled to hear him say “this is my kind of store.”
Secret Service agents ate at the store multiple times and Martin said they were “very polite and friendly” and she relayed that to Pence.
Kerry Cunningham, who co-owns the Cowboy Supper Club with her mom, Jackie Walker, said her friend Mark Jones got to have a brief conversation with Pence outside the Fishtail General Store. Jones, who lives outside of Billings, has a cabin in Fishtail.
Cunningham saw — and heard — Pence’s motorcade come through Fishtail on Friday night, which she said consisted of about 15 vehicles, three black SUVs and at least two helicopters. When it left Sunday, there were two helicopters accompanying the motorcade.
“We were hooting and hollering,” said Cunningham. “He rolled down the window and said ‘hi everyone’ and waved.”
Approximately a week prior to Pence’s visit, law enforcement and Columbus Fire Rescue began working with the White House and Secret Service on the logistics. The first official confirmation that Pence was in fact in Stillwater County during the weekend came Monday morning by Sheriff Cliff Brophy who said “I can confirm VP Pence was in our county and we provided special detail.”
Deputies from Stillwater, Carbon and Sweet Grass counties, the Columbus Police Department, as well as reserve deputies, Search and Rescue, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the U.S. Forest Service were also involved.
Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger also confirmed Monday that two paramedics and an ambulance were part of the motorcade and were also assigned to be close to Pence at all times in the event of an emergency.
The secret got out of the bag when Pence arrived Friday night after speaking in Billings, with his motorcade and three helicopters that were seen by News staff turning off I-90 into Columbus.