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  Field Notes From
Yellowstone and the Tetons



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Yellowstone and the Tetons On AssignmentArrows

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From Author

Alexandra Fuller



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Peg Bonner 


 

Yellowstone and the Tetons

Field Notes From Author
Alexandra Fuller
Best Worst Quirkiest
    At first I was utterly paralyzed by the idea of writing about something that is such an icon for the people of America, especially since I'm not a born and bred American. Then one morning I went out into a cold March wind to feed my horses, and a blue heron flew up out of the meadow. I suddenly realized that what made this region miraculous was right in front of me: the rebirth of the world every 12 months, every time spring comes rolling around. I was struck by the fact that I was living in the heart of this phenomenally beautiful process. I had been agonizing over something that I thought had to be so great and momentous until I sat down at my computer and realized that I was really living it. It made me take a good, long, hard, objective look at what a precious area of the world this is—and I didn't have to leave home to write about it.

    On the coldest day of the year, I trailed biologist Joel Berger in Grand Teton National Park while he set out to collect moose droppings from a female. We tromped across the snow, and when we were within a few feet of the target, Joel suddenly started screaming like a raven and howling like a wolf. The cow reacted with an almost comically bored expression. (The best way to get the cow's droppings is to get her on her feet and moving, invariably resulting in the delivery of a sample.) After much yelling and clapping, we headed back to the road victorious.
    Now winter is a deadly quiet time, and sound travels enormously. Upon reaching the road, we found a couple of startled looking tourists and a biologist friend of mine. Just a week or so earlier, I had interviewed this man about how people ruin the experience for everyone by behaving inappropriately with wildlife. Here we were, two locals, in front of these tourists behaving like utter twits with the wildlife. The biologist knew exactly what we were doing, but the tourists were a bit taken aback. We didn't exactly feel as though we were setting a good example.

    I actually met Joel Berger five years ago by accident—all because of a spooked moose. I was living in a cabin in Grand Teton National Park and had taken my infant son out one frosty February morning. I was about a mile or two up an icy forest road when suddenly a moose came charging down the road followed by what I took at first to be the alarming prospect of a complete madman waving a radio antenna. Needless to say, with my infant son asleep on my back, I scrambled to safety up a steep snow bank. There I was, perched up on the snow and glaring down at this wretched maniac until he introduced himself as Joel Berger. I then had to try hard not to look too starstruck. Joel and his wife had been rhino researchers in Namibia, and I'd read their book about the experience. Coming from Africa myself, I knew what an incredible adventure it must have been for them, and I admired their hard work and dedication.



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