A flashback to five years ago this summer, when the Boylans travelled to Wyoming.
Like most Mainers, we draw courage in the face of adversity from the idea of a perfect, invincible summer. No matter what else befalls us during the year, we know that by mid-June we will be among the most blessed people on Earth. Which partly explains why, a few days after our children finished up at Belgrade Elementary, our family packed up the car and headed to–Wyoming.
Wyoming (State motto: Our Bears Think YOU Taste Best!) is a state a few miles south of Kennebunkport and well to the west of New Hampshire. For the last year or two—while our boys are still young– we’ve been hauling them off to national parks in June, hoping to do as much traveling as a family as we can before adolescence kicks in and they go over “to the dark side.” It was this philosophy that led us to Arizona last year, to a tour that included not only the Grand Canyon but also the Boot Hill cemetery in Tombstone, the only graveyard I know of that has its own gift shop.
Wyoming, of course, is the home of Yellowstone National Park, a thermomagmatic anomaly best know for its fumeroles, mudpots, and geysers. Maine, for its part, has no geysers, although Waterville has an abundance of a thermomagmatic property called “geezers” which erupt, approximately every thirty days, during meetings of the Colby College Faculty. These geezers go off like clockwork, usually starting off with a simple phrase like, “I’d like to suggest we change some of the language in this amendment” and winding up a few minutes later spewing and covered with delectable froth. They’re like a mug of cappuccino, only smarter.
We began our adventure in the Grand Teton National Park. (“Teton” is one of those vague French words which roughly translates as “gazunga.”) After that, we strapped the whole family into a perfectly safe inflatable raft and sailed off of a waterfall in the Snake River. We all agreed that this was fun, but that it might have been more efficient to simply spray the whole family with a fire hose.
The next night it was on to Yellowstone, where we stood around with our fellow nature-loving Americans and watched the earth spew out nasty-smelling glup. We were also lucky enough to spot one of our nation’s endangered species, the Winnebago. One evening we saw a whole family of Winnebagos grazing by the side of the road. We would have taken some pictures of them, but we’d been warned by park officials that when they’re taken by surprise, they can charge (usually with a MasterCard or Visa, but sometimes the more dangerous ones have American Express).
At Yellowstone Lake we engaged a small watercraft and trolled for trout. My older boy Zach caught himself a very impressive three-pound fish with the relaxing name of “cut-throat.” My younger boy, Sean, sat in the front cabin playing Gameboy, and enjoying the violent motion of the boat, which shook him up like a martini. Later, he said that this was the “high moment” of the vacation.
Finally, we headed over to Cody, Wyoming, where we endured a rodeo. Late in the evening, every human younger than twelve years old was invited into the ring for the “calf scramble,” an arcane activity that involved a fifty dollar bill attached with masking tape to the rear end of a very small Holstein. This animal was then chased by two hundred or so greed-crazed children, as loudspeakers overhead played the theme from “Saturday Night Fever.”
Our boys returned from the ring empty handed, covered in dirt, discouraged. “That was no calf-scramble,” Zach muttered. “That was just a mob scene.”
It was hard to argue with this, and as we drove back to the Bill Cody ranch, we fell into silence, each of us thinking longingly of our home back in Maine.
We woke up in our own house on the Fourth of July. We all got out of bed, walked down to the lake, and stood there watching the loons. “I liked America,” said Sean. “But I’m glad we’re back.”