TODAY | December 12, 2011
>>> "today's" american story with bob dodson comes from hyde mountain valley in montana where people are surviving on hard times without federal aid or giant corporations. instead, they have found an antique solution. bob, good morning.
>> good morning. you know, this is one of those moments that you're going to be feeling a little bit like you're homesick for a place you've probably never met. phillipsburg , montana is a pioneer town. it's filled with people who have that old spirit that built this country. forget for a moment that there are fewer than two people per mile in the county, bigger than rhode island . consider what they already have. two original live theater productions each year. a hospital bank rolled, in part, by more than $1 million, raised in a thrift store selling hand-me-down clothes.
>> we need all your money.
>> reporter: folks in the county seat tax themselves a bundle -- $2,500 a piece to restore their old schoolhouse. students are learning how to pay that back. this high school shop class is building rooms for the volunteer fire department . local hunters paid for the project with a sense of urgency. 29 ghost towns sound phillipsburg . deb, why is it that this town exists when other towns have disappeared in the county?
>> if somebody needs help, everybody jumps in.
>> reporter: neighbors saved the superintendent mike cutler's life when he was diagnosed with cancer, leukemia, and needed a costly stem cell transplant. cooks donated meals. raised nearly $40,000 in one day.
>> the folks who helped, were they all just rich?
>> oh, no. no.
>> reporter: they simply value the town's survival more than personal gain.
>> it's tough around here just like it is anywhere else in this country. but people support each other. you know? it takes a community to keep the community.
>> reporter: a few years later in the depths of the recession, the neighbors rallied again. the handful of folks in granite county came up with another $100,000 for mike cutler. this time his daughter needed surgery. for brain cancer .
>> i had to learn how to walk again. i had to learn how to see again. yeah.
>> it's way easier being a patient. i know that. than the parent of a little girl or little boy , whoever it may be, that's fighting for their life.
>> reporter: fortunately, sidney cutler lives in a place that nourishes hope.
>> people that i know, they've helped me so much and helping me overcome my disabilities.
>> people took care of our animals. took care of our yard.
>> reporter: for months at a time. after each trip to the hospital, sidney 's mom found --
>> there were groceries in the fridge when we would get home.
>> reporter: how can a county with more cows than people come up with 100 grand in the midst of a recession.
>> they gave from their hearts an they gave from their souls.
>> reporter: more than that. they donated things others needed to buy anyway. ranch manager bill shields put a cattle chute up for auction. most folks figured --
>> if there was no town, there would be no people. so they saved themselves is what they did.
>> reporter: like they saved the cutlers. sidney and mike are now cancer-free.
>> all i can say is thank you and i'm so glad that i knew you.
>> reporter: out here, far from the rest of us, america is at its very best.
>> this is the last best lace. it really is.
>> reporter: where people can survive even in hard times with the help of their neighbors. folks in phillipsburg didn't stop with the cutlers. they're doing the same for others in need. ann?
>> bob, thanks for sharing this. it was great and what's the best about america . because when you show us that, you show us what's possible all over america .
>> you know, out west we think of the rugged individuals. but the truth of the matter is, it is the rugged town that's the amazing part that makes this work.
>> bob dotson , thank you so