Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yellowstone Lake

Stacey and I drove down to Lake yesterday morning to attend the Employee Safety Committee.  We really enjoy these trips because it gets us into the park and we laugh the entire way there and back.  Yesterday, the bison were in rut in Hayden Valley.  There was traffic backed up for miles in the afternoon, but wasn't too bad in the morning.

The bison rut is fun to see because the females pretty much go about, business as usual.  But the males!  Oh, they're in a tizzy.  They fight.  They pee on the ground and then roll in it.  They grunt and bellow and run around after the females with a noticeable intensity.  All this is happening close to, or on, the road so it's a great opportunity to observe wildlife behavior, up close and personal-like.

The rest of the drive was really nice.  Lots of fireweed over Dunraven and near Tower.  The sun was shining and it was good to be on the road. 

In other news, Kelli came down to see the baby squirrel yesterday, so she, Manda, Tom, and Bonnie & I went to the Sport for dinner last night and then sat on the porch for a bit.  Kelli really liked my house!

Today's my "Friday" since I work 4-10's, although I'll be putting in a full day tomorrow in Bozeman.  I hope to get the living room painted in the house this weekend, and more of the kitchen cupboards.  I want to get more settled since next weekend I leave on vacation!  Yahoo!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Smokin Rockets

This morning outside the building, looking NE

This has been one crazy week.  Smokin rockets.  And in about 1/2 an hour, I'm off to Lake to attend the Employee Safety Committee meeting.  I'm the recorder.  Love it.  Luckily, my friend Safety Stace and I solve all the park's problems during our monthly drives to these meetings, which is an added bonus.  Happily, besides the true importance of safety in the park, we get to drive through the Hayden Valley bison rut, which should be quite a spectacle.  I hope to get some good pictures as we get stuck in bison jams!  And of course, other than the ranch, Lake is my favorite place in the world.

So last night after work I went over to Manda's to see her new pet--a 5 week old baby squirrel!!!!  Oh my gosh.  That thing is adorable.  It crawled all over me.  She rescued it from Aggie the dog on Sunday and it has imprinted on her--she never tried to catch it; it just came running up her leg all the way to her shoulder and went to sleep under her hair on the back of her neck!  What a crazy little fella!  Actually, that's his name--"Little Fella."  So anyway, he's adorable and Aggie is freaking out because now that squirrel's actually in the house.  The sky is falling in Aggie's world.

10 Days til Vacation; Emily, Jessi, and I are going to the ranch and the Central States Fair in Rapid City.  We'll be gone a whole week.  YES!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

From the Archives...

I still haven't found my this is another picture from earlier this summer.  This is one of the three great horned owlets born about 100 feet from my office window here in Mammoth this spring.  Here, he or she has just learned to fly and is hanging out in a nearby tree, finally away from the nest.


The Yellowstone/Gardiner community has given me a lot.  They've welcomed me with the tolerant smiles of those who've seen people come and go in this transient Park Service life but are still willing to give someone a shot if they make an effort.  I appreciate that--I've lived in transient communities for a long time and know the dangers of investing too much in people who leave just when you get to know and like them.  So, in an effort to make myself useful around here, I've volunteered at music festivals, baked cakes for auctions and cakewalks, bought I-don't-know-how-many raffle tickets, and supported the local boy scouts and 4-H in various ways.  Also, I've volunteered to help organize the Park 2 Paradise triathalon, which occurs on the 21st of this month. 

Now, I've never even been to a triathalon.  I originally signed up just to be a timer for the bike portion.  I figured, hey, how hard can it be to hit a stop watch every once in a while?  Well, now, because of a perfect storm of events, Emily and I are in charge of organizing all the timers.  Uh huh.  We have a lunch meeting today to find out more details, but we're drastically short on timers and I'm starting to panic a little bit.  I'm sure it'll all work out...right?!

Meanwhile, in my new community, I'll be volunteering for the Western Sustainability Exchange.  This organization works with local farmers and ranchers to get their products to local markets, thus making agriculture more sustainable and thus keeping more ranches in families as open land rather than subdivisions.  It's a combination of ranching values and conservation ethics, which are sometimes two seperate islands here in the West.  I'm pleased to be working on the bridge.  And to start setting down more permanent roots through service to my new community.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Build a Better Wilsall

Wilsall Grain Elevator, picture from (I can't find my camera in the chaos that is my house!)

Amanda, Lil and I went and supported Build a Better Wilsall, in Wilsall, Montana, over the weekend.  Wilsall is a small community about 30 miles north of Livingston, made up almost entirely of ranching families.  The town itself has a reportedly fabulous cafe and several bars...and that's about it.  But it's at the foothills of the Crazy Mountains and is really an idyllic setting for a small western wide spot in the road.  The fundraiser was Dinner and a Movie; they served a prime rib dinner and then showed Destry Rides Again starring James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich.  All this took place at the rodeo grounds, so watching the movie on a temporary screen as the stars came out was really kind of special.

The event also brought home to me how much I appreciate small towns and ranching communities like Wilsall.  Here are a bunch of people who have a narrow profit margin at the best of times, but things are even tougher during this recession.  Still, they gave of their time and pocketbooks to come out for this event.  Community members spent quite a bit of money at the live and silent auctions, on stuff that was a luxury.  Who really needs yet another ornamental duck decoy?  Yet, it went for over $100.  The generosity of those people was amazing.

Another thing that really touched me was their Gold in the Valley segment.  The Ringling 5, a local band made up entirely of ranchers in the Shields Valley, recorded a song about the Wilsall cemetary, which is where they "keep all the gold in their valley".  At the event on Saturday, they played that song and had a slideshow of everyone from the community who died in the last year.  It was enough to make the strongest of the crowd tear up a bit.  Almost all the people who died were elderly...which highlighted another noticeable aspect of the evening.  There were few if any children there.  Ranching communities thrive on the younger generation--they're the ones who will take over the ranches and do a lot of the work even before that.  There should have been children and people my age all over the place this weekend.  Unfortunately, people my age or younger were pretty scarce.  What will Wilsall be like in another 10 years?  Who will run those ranches and continue to Build a Better Wilsall?