I’ve been getting ready to present my Humanities Montana program “Sidesaddles and Geysers” on Tuesday, March 6, at the Danforth Gallery in Livingston. I’ll be at the gallery at 106 North Main beginning at 6:30 p.m. under the sponsorship of the Park County Friends of the Arts.
I always tailor my presentation to the local audience. That lets people see me more than once without a lot of repetition. It also motivates me to re-examine my collection of more than 300 first-person accounts of early travel to Yellowstone Park. I always find something new.
I’ll open with Hester Henshall’s description of taking the train from Bozeman to Livingston in 1903. Hester does a nice job of describing the railroad depot and town. I’ll provide a bit of history of Livingston, which was a point where early Yellowstone travelers switched from the Northern Pacific main line to the Park Branch.
Then I’ll note that the first Yellowstone tourists went to the park by Trail Creek Pass and didn’t go to Livingston at all. That’ll let me segue into stories about Emma Stone, who in 1872, became the first woman to take a complete tour of Yellowstone Park, and Sarah Tracy, who wrote a charming diary of her trip there in 1874.
From there, I’ll read a few other stories. Probably one will be a well-tested tale like Emma Cowan’s chilling story of watching Indians shoot her husband in 1877. And, I’ll include as story I’ve never read to an audience before, perhaps Mary Townsend’s description of fishing the Firehole River in 1897.
I’ll be ready with a couple more stories if time allows: maybe Henry Merry’s hilarious story of trying to race his Winton car past park rangers in 1902 when automobiles were forbidden there, or Louise Elliott’s tale of a camp tender taking revenge on a supercilious guest by letting the air out of her mattress.
I’ll finish by returning to Hester Henshall’s story. Hester and her husband befriended an elderly lady during the trip, and when they got back to Livingston, all the hotels in town were full. Hester’s husband found the lady some locals to stay with. That anecdote will bookend the presentation with Henshall stories and leave the audience with a warm feeling.
Of course, I’ll hang around afterward to sign copies of my book, Adventures in Yellowstone: Early Travelers Tell Their Tales.
— You might be interested in Hester Henshall’s story, “Cruising Laking Yellowstone.”