Daddy inspired lifelong wanderlust

Published 9:33 pm Friday, June 3, 2011

About this time every year, I get the wanderlust.

There’s just something inside me that says “get up and go.”

The wanderlust first came upon me when I was 11 years old. Daddy, not Mama, said that I could go to Camp Grandview for a whole week. I had never been anywhere much and just the thought of going was so exciting that I couldn’t get it out of my head.

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I had a wonderful time swimming, hiking, making crafts and sleeping on the top bunk and being sung to sleep by crickets and frogs while gazing at the moon and stars through the screened cabin wall.

The wanderlust kind of left me for a while when I got home and Mama saw that I hadn’t made good use of the bar of soap that she had sent with me or the Days-of-the Week panties.

Mama said I got my going from my grandmother, Mugi. When somebody said, “go,” she didn’t ask where. She just got up and went.

Mama didn’t want dark to catch her away from home and Daddy had been in the Air Corps. He said that he had been everywhere he wanted to go and seen everything he wanted to see.

So, I was like Mugi. I was always sittin’ on ready.

Although Daddy had settled comfortably into his imitation leather recliner, he was the one who inspired me to “Go West!” and go now.

Daddy had a picture album filled with photographs of Montana that he had taken of the mountains, rivers and valleys. I thought Montana must be the most beautiful place in the world. That’s where I was born.I had no memory of it but longed for it.

So, when I graduated from high school, I headed West. Mama said I was taking 10 years off her life. Daddy said I was adding 10 to his.

An appointment from a U.S. Congressman was required to get a job at Yellowstone National Park. Sen. Lister Hill appointed me and I was hired by Hamilton Stores to be a clerk at Fishing Bridge. I would have cleaned toilets to get to go.

The pay was $50 a month plus room and board and it was the best paying job I’ve ever had.

Having never been anywhere except the fringes of Georgia and Florida and way over to Louisiana once, I was like a big-eyed gal at the fair when I boarded the train at Union Station in Montgomery for the Great Wide Open West.

I’ll admit that I’d shed a few salty tears before I boarded the train but they dried before I got all the way down the aisle.

I don’t know what I expected of that summer. But whatever it was, I got much more than I could have ever imagined.

The summer was filled with adventures and misadventures, new friends with new ideas.

We were dumb and daring. We were invincible.

We hiked off the beaten paths and slept under the stars. We rafted the raging rivers, climbed the tallest mountains and scaled the rocks to feel the spray of Lower Falls on our faces.

We partied in the hot pots where the boiling mineral springs merged with the icy river waters and on the distant island shore. We went deep into the wilderness on horseback.

We hitched rides to places afar and hopped trains, ate trout roasted over an open fire and swam in a lake so cold that you turned blue.

It was a wonderful summer, that first summer at Yellowstone.

But of all the memories, the one that stands clear is of the night several of us “pooled” down to the Grand Teton National Park.

It was as pitch dark when we got there. We could hear the raging of the Snake River and glimpse the whitecaps. We tossed our sleeping bags on the ground and zipped up head and all to keep out the icy night.

At sunup, I heard the awakening of the world and looked out to see the Grand Teton Mountains in all of their splendor bathed in the morning sunlight.

Their beauty took my breath away.

I sat in the stillness in awe of beauty before me. I couldn’t help but cry for the wonder of the moment that was brought to me by Daddy and Sen. Lister Hill.