Camping In Wyoming: A 1910 wedding trip to Yellowstone National Park Blue Creek Press Author
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Sometimes, gifts come in strange packages. This one arrived in my life wrapped in a green 1960s-era Crescent department store paper shopping bag, handed to me by our mother Elinor Compton some years ago. In the bag was an embossed black Victor two-ring loose-leaf binder, vintage 1920, perhaps, tied up with red thread; and inside of that was a scrap book strung together with lavender ribbons. This was our grandmother Mariam Lawton Clayton's hand-written account and pages of kodacs of her honeymoon trip with Grandpa Earl to western Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park in the year 1910. Grandma's penmanship was stellar. Her cursive was laid down in black ink using a fountain pen with a fine nib. Her spelling and grammar were very good, though not perfect. I have left them as I found them. In the text of the book, you will find crossed-out and italicized words, where I have tried to approximate her own edits. The italicized words are those she added later; some much later, I believe. The photos in the scrap book had been glued to the pages. Most were faded and some nearly ruined, but inside the Victor cover with the manuscript were two other groups of pictures. One was in an envelope inscribed in the familiar hand of the old woman we knew as Grandma Mary: Extra prints of the 1910 Yellowstone Trip. If you were one of her progeny, you knew how fitting it was that the envelope was one recycled from the University of Idaho Agricultural Extension Service, addressed to her at the house in Sandpoint, Idaho, she shared with us after Grandpa Earl died in 1966. The other batch of pictures was tucked into a Northern Pacific ticket folder, circa 1955. These were the best, a true treasure. Grandma used a Kodak bellows camera that shot two-and-a-quarter-inch film, and many of the prints from the Northern Pacific folder, all developed by Grandpa Earl, are contact prints, made when the negative was laid directly on the photographic paper and exposed, making them as sharp as Grandma's focus was with the camera. This does not mean they are all good. The rigors of being an amateur photographer in 1910 are apparent in many of her pictures. Light leaks show in some, and a few have splotches where moisture intruded on the exposed film. Some of them are just plain badly exposed. But they and the writing are a fine record of an adventure of great proportions undertaken at the cusp of modern times; a journey that, were it attempted today, might be accompanied by a support van, cell phones, contingent emergency procedures, months of planning and pounds and pounds of freeze-dried food. But, to use her own words, Mariam and Earl simply ... loaded camp-kit and grub-box also a limited supply of clothing and started. We had no definite idea of distance or trail, but we planned to live in the open and take what came. I believe she must have written this account within a year of returning from that trip, perhaps during the Kansas winter months after their return from the West. I don't think when she wrote it that she knew one day she and her family would move away from Kansas and to what she called the great Columbia River basin. But I suspect this trip was what gave her and Grandpa Earl the kernel of thought that would lead them to Montana and Blue Creek on Clark's Fork of the Columbia some six and a half years after they began in July of 1910 from Rock Springs, Wyoming for our brother's cabin in Boulder and the adventure of a lifetime. It is apparent that Grandma Mary revisited this account many times over the years. I feel that some of the edits might have been done as late as the last decade of her life. It was, I believe, one of her dearest things. It is my privilege to share it with you here. Sandy Compton Blue Creek Press Heron, Montana


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