The Tetons and Small Towns

August 23, 2017

We were somewhat frosty this morning. No elk or bisons to greet us so we packed up and headed south from Yellowstone. We were soon in one of America’s outstanding examples of public benevolence by a rich family. The Rockefellers semi-secretly bought up a good portion of the land known as Jackson Hole in the early 1920s. The local ranchers were happy to sell their land until they found that the buyers were rich enough to pay far more. The state of Wyoming fought the creation of a national park from land donated by the Rockefellers. Despite their concern about a negative effect on the local economy, things worked out. Reminds me of a similar present day situation in Southern Utah with the Bear’s Ears Monument. 

Like Yellowstone, the park was packed. We managed to complete the driving tour without mishap. The mountains were named by French fur trappers who were reminded of things that they missed. Since this is G rated, you can figure it out. The views were extraordinary but could change from moment to moment. We managed to find cloud free places moats of the time. The mountains are stupendous in their rising straight up out of a plain. They are even more dramatic than the Eastern Sierra but they are concentrated over a relatively short distance. There are no easy trails through those hills. I am sure trappers and other went around.

We were done with national park traffic and headed east and stopped in the small town of Dubois near the Wind River Shoshone Imdian Reservation. French fur trappers reached the Wimd River Valley by the 1740’s. The Shoshone would travel over the Rockies on a regular basis. Sakajawea was Shoshone and her relatives helped the Lewis and Clark exploration successfully reach Oregon. John Colter got permission to explore the area on his own in 1807 after leaving the Corps of Discovery. Other Mountain Men soon followed. White settlers waited until the 1870’s to settle here. The most famous settler was Leroy Parker who is better known as Butch Cassidy. 

Small towns thrive on a famous former resident. Welty’s is the local general store. Butch shopped there according to the sign. Since it was the only store in 1890, it was probably true. Butch also agreed to not rob the local bank as that would ruin neighborhood relationships. Other banks in the area, not that many, bore the brunt of Butch’s efforts. Not sure about the Sundance Kid. Anyway, as small towns go, Dubois was cute. Plenty of log store fronts and saloons. The world’s largest Jackalope sits out front of the world’s largest collection of jackalopes. The town celebrates the local Big Horn Sheep and just finished feasting on tourists who could see the total eclipse in Dubois. The shopkeeper in Butch’s old store showed us the few remaining Eclipse Glass Paperweights made from Mt.St. Helens sand. Slightly tempted but our rule of non-trinket souvenirs is that they must be functional. Being an ex-teacher, I don’t need any paper weights. We found necessities and spent the night in a warm tiny Mom and Pop hotel. 

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