Visitors descending by rope into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on Uncle Tom’s Trail. Photographer unknown; Prior to 1905. [NPS Photo]

I’ve been getting ready to present “Sidesaddles and Geysers: Women’s Adventures in Early Yellowstone” on Thursday, Nov. 5, at 6:30 in the Park County Senior Center, 206 South Main, Livingston. The program, sponsored by Humanities Montana, is free and open to the public.

I always enjoy getting ready for my presentations because it gives me a chance to review my collection of more than 300 stories about early travel to Yellowstone Park. That way I can be sure that I’m choosing the very best ones.

I also review and refine the slide show that accompanies my presentation. I’m always looking for dramatic photos to go with the stories I’m going to read like the one above. It does a great job of illustrating a 1911 tale about a near tragedy at the Lower Fall of the Yellowstone.

I’ll begin my presentation, as a usually do, by describing the stories my grandmother used to tell about her trip to the Park in 1909. Grandma made herself a split riding skit for the trip in an era when most women rode horses sidesaddle—or not at all. Her tales about such things as cooking bread in a hot spring and tossing red flannel underwear in geysers to tint their next eruptions pink inspired my interest in Yellowstone Park.

Whenever I can, I read stories written by the women who lived the adventures because people’s personalities and emotions shine through the words they choose. On Thursday I’ll read one of the best: Emma Cowan’s chilling account of watching Indians shoot her husband in the head during her trip to Yellowstone in 1877. The Nez Perce took Emma and her 14-year-old sister captive and held them for two days.

I’ll also read some lighter stuff like Eleanor Corthell’s description of leaving her husband at home and hauling her seven children to Yellowstone Park with a horse and wagon in 1903. Eleanor fretted about her children dashing around boiling geysers and chased a bear away from a pot of beans she was cooking.

The evening will provide a good mix of high adventure and humorous anecdotes.

Of course, after the presentation I’ll answer questions and sign copies of my books.

I hope to see you there.

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