Dan Maroney on what makes Montana – and its people – special
Dan Maroney represents the Montana mindset to the nth degree – deals sealed with a handshake, respect and appreciation for the outdoor world, a love of family and a deep belief in the importance of self sufficiency.
His life is largely intertwined with the land, having spent his youth working on a potato farm and working cattle on the family ranch. Sunday drives after church usually meant an old car would be secured for his dad to tinker around on and resell.
Born on the highline in Malta, he moved around a fair amount as a kid since his father worked for the Farm- ers Home Administration. His dad eventually became a loan officer at the bank in Fairfield. He was one of the deeply respected members of the old school banking world – when the quality of a person’s handshake and respect in their eye stood in place of a credit score. Maroney said his dad really helped people.
Still, the family was anxious to return to the valley, where Maroney’s parents grew up and his grandparents grew up before them. When they returned, his dad worked on a ranch before transitioning to the world of cars. His grandfather owned Ross Peak Ranch, which sat right below the Sacajawea saddle. Four hundred ninety prime acres and the perfect place for a Montana kid to learn life lessons from the seasoned generations who came before him. “I climbed to the top of Ross Peak with my grandfather when I was in the 6th grade,” he said.
He attributes what he does today – fixing cars – to his learned usefulness on the ranch.
“On the ranch, when anything broke, you fixed it. You didn’t take it to somebody to get it repaired, you took care of it yourself,” he said.
He started driving on the ranch when he was six or seven, perched on the edge of the seat working the clutch and the gas. He drove while his dad loaded up hay – because they didn’t have a bailer.
When he hit high school, he began feeding the cattle using a ranching trick known to the Maroney men.
After securing a bungee cord on the steering wheel, he would climb out on top of the truck to spread the feed. It was a method “passed down from generation to generation on how to do it by yourself – be self-sufficient.”
“My brother and sister were more book smart and I was more street smart. So, it was easier to have me take care of it. Not that they couldn’t, they just didn’t want to,” he said.
His work progressed from the potato farm to Butler Creek Corps, to Ressler Auto. He worked for Ressler for 19 years – in the parts department, collision repair and management.
“When Dave Ressler passed away I decided it was time to do something else, because I couldn’t imagine working for someone other than Dave. He was a great human being. I miss him,” he said. Maroney and Jon Brokke, also a Ressler employee at the time, decided they wanted to venture out on their own. Then, Hugh “Hughy” Spraggins started spreading the word that he wanted to sell his shop and retire. Advanced Automotive Repair was sold. The deal was made with a handshake – that was the only contract any of them needed.
Maroney’s children have stayed in the area and his youngest works in the shop alongside him. The kids hunt, fish, camp and hike. Maroney said his oldest is often up on the top of the Bridgers with the mountain goats. Three good kids, he said, and the product of a blind date he and his wife shared 31 years ago.
“We’ve been together ever since,” he said, noting that he just knew she was the one when they met.
“We embrace Montana – that Montana spirit – I could never live anywhere else. I’ve been to other places, there are other areas that are really nice, but I always love being back in Montana. The mountains, the people – nothing compares,” he said.