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Old Yellowstone Days

More than thirty years after its original publication, Old Yellowstone Days—Paul Schullery's first book—continues to entertain and delight readers. This collection of classic early accounts of the park by such luminaries and literary masters as John Muir, Rudyard Kipling, Owen Wister, Frederic Remington, Theodore Roosevelt, John Burroughs, Charles Dudley Warner, and others revives and celebrates the mood of those pioneering early tourists and naturalists whose writings did so much to shape the public perception of the world's first national park back when the idea of national parks was new. This new edition is updated with an expanded introduction by Paul Schullery and a thoughtful foreword by long-time Yellowstone Park Historian Lee Whittlesey.

"For nearly a century and a half, Yellowstone, the world's first national park, has been an irresistible magnet for travelers. In this wonderful book, Paul Schullery has collected the first-person stories of some of the most memorable visits. From pioneer conservationists like John Muir to a young, smart-aleck reporter named Rudyard Kipling; from Emma Cowan, improbably caught in a bloody Indian war during her honeymoon, to Theodore Roosevelt, who found momentary escape from the duties of president amongst the park’s wildlife, Old Yellowstone Days captures the look and feel of the park in its early years, through the words of a remarkable array of tourists. This is both fascinating history and a thoroughly enjoyable travelogue."—Dayton Duncan, author of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

Excerpt from Old Yellowstone Days: from Owen Wister's account of an 1887 visit to Yellowstone:

The hotel at the Upper Geyser Basin was chiefly of canvas, walls and roof; and to sleep there must have made you intimately acquainted with how your neighbors were passing the night. We didn’t sleep there, we camped within the trees a short ride away; but we rejoiced in the blackberry brandy we bought from the hotel clerk; it was provided to check disturbances which drinking queer water from highly chemical brooks often raised in human interiors. And we also rejoiced in a bath the soldiers had constructed in a cabin by the river. The cool river flowed into the wooden trough one way, and through another spout, which you let loose with a wooden peg astonishingly hot water poured from a little boiling hole in the formation above the cabin, and brought your bath to the temperature you desired. Both brandy and bath were a source of rejoicing; and after emerging clean and new from the latter the spectacle of a little gray bird, like a fat catbird, skimming along the river like a bullet and suddenly dropping below the surface where it was shallow, and walking along the bottom with its tail sticking out in the air, filled me with such elation that I forgot the geysers and watched him. Where it was deeper he would plunge wholly out of sight, run along submerged reach a shallow place, with his tail again sticking out. Then he would take it into his head to float on top and swim. I came to know him well. In 1896 I took his photograph high among the Teton range. I was washing at the creek before breakfast. He was sitting on a stone covered with snow in the middle of the creek, singing blithely: the water ouzel.

But I do not think that anybody there rejoiced quite as utterly as a boy employed in the hotel. He must have been somewhere in his ’teens; he was like the true love in “Twelfth Night” that could sing both high and low. In calm moments he would answer you in a deep bass. In excitement, into which he periodically fell, the bass cracked to a wild treble. He would be called a bell-hop to-day; in that day no bell was there, but the boy hopped a good deal. We would be sitting tilted back, reading our mail, the tourists would have ceased talking and be lounging drowsily, the boy would be at the door, motionless as a set steel trap. Suddenly the trap would spring, the boy would catapult into the door, and in his piping treble scream out:

“Beehive’s a-goin’ off!” at which every tourist instantly started from his chair, and a leaping crowd gushed out of the hotel and sprinted down over the formation to catch the Beehive at it. Beehive finally quiescent, they returned slowly, sank into chairs and exhausted silence; you could have heard a mosquito. But the steel trap was again set, sprang soon, and again the silence was pierced:

“There goes Old Faithful!”

Up and out they flew once more, watched Old Faithful, and came back to their chairs and to silence more exhausted.

Was the boy exhausted? Never. It might be the Castle, it might be the Grotto – whatever it might be, that pre-Ritz-Carlton bell-hop routed those torpid tourists from their repose to set them trooping across the formation to gape at some geyser in action, and again seek their chairs, feebler each time. Has he in his mature years ever known more joy? I doubt it.