Mary Beth Writes


Back in February I asked you to give me topics to write about that would correspond to the alphabet. Sometimes several of you sent ideas for one letter and sometimes I wrote about all of them (I’s and S’s) Here we are at letter Y for which your suggestions are Yummy Food and Yawns. The word yawn absolutely makes me yawn; no way I could write about that - I would yawn for hours. I worked on Yummy Food but could only find a scolding voice about Americans eating too much sugar. Bah. True but not interesting.

So, I gave Y a go again. Y is for?

My brain immediately zipped to - Y is for Yellowstone National Park.

First, why did it take our nation seventy years to officially notice this incredible place? The Lewis and Clark Voyage of Discovery was 1804-1806. When they were in what is now Idaho and Montana, native people said that if their goal was to explore they should really go south a hundred or so miles to see a place like no other.

Lewis and Clark said, “Nah, we’re good.”

Over the next seven decades a handful or mountain men, explorers, and military scouts contacted American officials to report a crazy gorgeous place. The officials all said “Yeah, sure. Boiling mud and fountains that shoot up out of the earth. Yep, nope. We’re busy right now.”

It wasn’t until 1870 that the Washburn Expedition explored the region that two years later became Yellowstone National Park. 

The Louisiana Purchase was completed in 1803. That was how the US obtained much of “the west” including Yellowstone. Native people talked about it to white explorers in 1804. We got around to officially checking it out in 1870.

This is nuts.

My family went through Yellowstone in 1962 on our way to the Seattle World’s Fair. We camped one night in Yellowstone where I was too scared to sleep because of howling wolves. My dad, thinking I was asleep, whispered to my mom, “I don’t like this.” My dad had bivouacked for a year during WWII, following the front line up through Italy. And Yellowstone at night made him nervous.

People have lived in the region for 11,000 years. Yellowstone National Park was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. Yellowstone was the first national park in the U.S. and also in the world.

Local settlers hated and ignored the park designation. Poaching was rampant, tens of thousands of animals continued to be hunted each year. People tried to build mines and exploit the land in all the ways European settlers do. In the 1880s and 90’s railroads began bringing some tourists. In 1894 Theodore Roosevelt and some other rich, powerful guys hiked and camped in Yellowstone. After they experienced its wild beauty, they lobbied for salaried rangers plus an army fort to provide more protection and infrastructure. During the Depression the Civil Conservation Corps built and rebuilt most of the camping grounds, roads, and buildings in the park.

In 1974 Len drove himself in his 1966 Mustang to the University of Calgary. Being Len, he detoured several hundred miles out of his way to hike for three days by himself in Yellowstone’s backcountry. I did not know this until this morning. Yellowstone offers many surprises.

The Yellowstone Caldera is the second largest volcanic system on earth. The only bigger caldera (the underground source of a volcano) is on Sumatra. The boiling magma under the park is estimated to be in a single chamber 37 miles long, 18 miles wide, and 3-7 miles deep. The current caldera was created by a cataclysm 640,000 years ago which was more than 1,000 times larger than the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Will it erupt again soon? Probably not. But if you don’t have enough to worry about today, feel free to think about it.


Len and I tried to take our kids on vacations every year. Not all those vacations worked out super well. I may have already mentioned the time we took them to southern Illinois. We got lost occasionally and may have slightly quarreled. Our station wagon broke and we lost a day getting it fixed. It was July in southern Illinois. When we finally made our way to a quaint old town along the Ohio River it was a morass of poverty where there wasn’t even a gas station to buy a candy bar. I could go on but you get the picture.

A few years later we took the kids to Yellowstone. We saw a lot of cool stuff along the way. We had a bit more money. After we finally made our way into Yellowstone we drove on the beautiful CCC highways that wend their way through the mountains and vistas of the park. We stopped at boiling mud pots. We saw Old Faithful. We saw cars pulled over along the Yellowstone River so we stopped, too, and got out to see what everyone was looking at.

A bear was swimming across the river.

One of our beloved but snarky kids commented, “Wow, this trip is working out for us!”

That night we stayed in a nice motel just outside the park. We left our windows open a crack. I was in bed reading when I heard wolves howling. I woke up Len because Yellowstone is just that wild and crazy and good.

Have you been to Yellowstone National Park? Did it work out for you?

Kinda slow webcams from around the park:

This looks like a boring photo of boiling mud but it burbles so loudly that guys on the river a mile away heard it and came over to see what it was.


Interesting. Yellowstone is in our bucket list! Didn’t one of your vacations involve going out west and there was a Harley Davison convention and you couldn’t get a room?
Mary Beth's picture

Yes, that was the trip. Left Wyoming in the morning, planned to stay in western South Dakota that evening - but Sturgis was happening and there wasn't a motel room until we got to the middle of Minnesota. That was a long long drive.

Bob and I stopped in Yellowstone on our way moving out to Bellingham WA in 1975. We were in my old navy VW square back with my sewing machine on top. We saw some meeses and lots of peepses. There were no campsites available in the park, so we just drove outside the park and slept in the back of the car. I think we will have to check it out again — maybe for our 50 year memories trip!
Mary Beth's picture

I remember from the trip when i was a kid - stopping the car among many parked cars to watch bears eat garbage at a garbage site. Plus some of the bears would come up to car windows to eat snacks people offered. People were nuts!
Mary Beth's picture

The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone were at least yearly visits, when I lived in Casper. Cross country skiing was amazing and beautiful. Len had a 1966 Mustang?!! I loved that car for years! More practical, now, unfortunately...

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About My Memorial Day Story


Today my story ‘Memorial Day’ is posted at Substack. Read it here. 

Courage, Big & Little



I’m writing fiction this week. I started a story in December that, along the way, turned into a Memorial Day story. It will be my Substack story this Saturday.

This morning I looked for an old newspaper column to rerun and found this one about a time when one of our kids needed to have four teeth pulled.

Cholesterol Numbers & Squirrels


Years ago I was out to dinner with friends. We were all just entering our 40’s and thus were all beginning to get the fun medical tests about this and that and cholesterol. I said, to a friend next to me, that I’d started eating oatmeal everyday for breakfast and my cholesterol had dropped …..

The room went silent.

Everyone heard “cholesterol dropped” and stopped speaking. Everyone wanted to hear how much it had dropped – which was about 8 points. In our twenties the conversation stopper was gossip about sex. Now the secret sauce was HDL and LDL

Hum & Read


First of all, the Cute and Curious. Apparently we humans can’t worry while we hum - because humming requires too much bandwidth. When we hum, we don’t have enough power left in our head engines to think about other stuff. I don’t know if I believe this is always true but I’m sharing it in case it is.

I read a lot this week. It’s what I do when there is way to much to think about and I don’t know where to start. Read or eat. I haven’t gained any weight so you know it was a heavy reading week.

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Mahsood 

Three Things


Three Things except it’s really more than that.

1. Earlier this year I read these two books by Palestinian writers and I recommend both. If you’ve read good books by Palestinian writers, maybe tell us about them in the comments?

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