There I was in the beautiful lobby of Aspen Pointe, an independent living facility run by Deaconess Hospital in Bozeman. I looked out over a sea of women’s faces — and they were all looking back at me. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
Indeed, the audience was filled with “Smart Women.” They cringed when I told them about Emma Cowan’s chilling account of watching an Indian hold a pistol to her husband’s head and pull the trigger. And they laughed when I read Eleanor Corthell’s hilarious story about her husband getting arrested for letting their horse graze too close to Old Faithful and sweet talking his way into a $2 fine.
I knew that Eleanor’s granddaughter, Phoebe Montagne, lives at Aspen Pointe, and I hoped she would be in the audience, but I wasn’t that lucky. After signing copies of my book, I asked to be shown to Phoebe’s room.
After my escort introduced us, I gave Phoebe a copy of my book and showed her the chapter containing Eleanor Corthell’s account of her trip to Yellowstone Park in 1903. While Eleanor’s husband stayed home in Laramie, she took their seven children clear across Wyoming in a horse-drawn wagon to see the wonders of the park. Eleanor told wonderful stories about fording a flooded river, chasing a bear out of camp, and counting heads at a geyser basin to make sure none of her children had fallen in.
When I asked Phoebe what she remembered about her grandmother, her eye twinkled and a smile slid across her face.
“I remember Grandmother surrounded by us grandchildren sitting on the floor,” she said. “She would read us books like David Copperfield.”
I’m sure a smile slid across my face too while I listened to Phoebe reminisce. As much as I enjoyed talking with 75 smart women, that was the highlight of the day.
— You can read Eleanor Corthell’s story of her trip to Yellowstone Park in my book, Adventures in Yellowstone.