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Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.

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    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    2007 Yellowstone employee experiences

    I worked in Yellowstone during the beginnings of the internet in mainstream culture, from 1993-1996 and 1998. Of course, during those years, we didn't have any internet access at all. Except for 1998, we did not have any television access (simply a TV in the dorm that played video tapes - we watched the Olympics in Atlanta on tapes, each tape a few days late.) Our only phones were pay phones in the dorms, and we'd walk through a feet of snow just to get to work - that was before global warming melted all of Yellowstone's snow (forgive my sense of humor). In any event, our biggest connection to the outside world was the mail. In most cases, letters from friends and family at home took five or six days to arrive. In 1997, when I began writing a draft of my autobiography of my summers in Yellowstone, internet accounts of worker experiences were relatively rare.

    Today, several Yellowstone employees are regularly blogging their experiences working in the park. The perspective you get from a worker is often quite distinct in many respects from what you get from the casual tourist. It is also quite different from the writings of those of us who pay close attention to issues facing Yellowstone. Some are more reflective than others, but many of them share common traits. They all to some degree speak to their experience working in the park, which is not something you ever see in a nature show on or photograph of Yellowstone. Often, they speak to the differences in their experience to those around them, either co-workers or other people. Many notice things that others would probably not write about. They often have great information about hiking; in some cases, they can even seem reckless.

    All that said, very few people of the thousands who work in Yellowstone actually write publicly about their experiences. In many respects, the uniqueness of the individual Yellowstone worker experience is lost. While technology has made instant communication possible, there isn't a huge amount out there. I look at every blog that mentions "Yellowstone" every single day, and you would be shocked how little there is in original material being produced. While not all of it ends up in the Yellowstone Newspaper because not all of it is newsworthy, there isn't so much that I cannot fairly easily scan it all every day. To do the research adequately, one would probably need access to volumes of personal emails that are currently being sent. Even then, I get the haunting sense that a lot of people are not sharing their stories except perhaps in the most trivial way. I will wonder long and hard about why we seem to be so silent about experience even when that experience is undeniably overwhelming. Perhaps, getting at that riddle will be part of the people's history of Yellowstone National Park project I continue to contemplate.

    In any event, I want to point you to 2007 Yellowstone workers I know about who are blogging about their time in Wonderland. If I have left you out, please comment and post a link to your blog. There are undoubtedly more, especially on Myspace; so please fill me in.

    Wandering Through the Woods by Jacob A. Clere. Jacob works at the Lake Hotel and already has had some harrowing experiences.

    A Little Eccentric ... goes to Yellowstone by Molly Jo. Molly Jo also works at the Lake Hotel. She's from Wyoming and has a very unique and articulate expression of her experience.

    Yellowstone 2007 by Cory St. Esprit. Cory is working at the Old Faithful Lodge and is already sick of Old Faithful's eruptions.

    Fotogal in Yellowstone by Joanne. Joanne is working as a desk clerk in my hometown of Grant Village.

    My Life in Yellowstone by Carrie McClane. Carrie works up in Mammoth Hot Springs. You should read "Gonna be a bear."

    the memoir by zhiying and yordia. These two are from Singapore and working at Old Faithful. The foreign worker experience is becoming more and more the norm, and I hope we see more blogs like this sharing that experience.

    We're On The Road: Two Cheeseheads, an RV, and a Yorkie by Garry and Jenny Summers. Jenny is a registration clerk at the Fishing Bridge RV park, and Garry is working maintenance at Lake.

    Goats and Barley by Michael Morgan. Michael, a student from Georgia, is doing "mission work" this summer; he'll probably have a wage job in the park for Xanterra, Delaware North, or YPSS (if his experience is like others). He shared a series of stories from the previous summer on his blog.

    As a side note, you might consider reading a couple posts by someone traveling through the area who did write about some of the products sold in the area. Laura Moncur wrote this month about huckleberries (you see "Made in Montana" products everywhere, especially huckleberry products) as well as on cowboy hats made in China. What does she think - that they make cowboy hats in Yellowstone? Where's that factory? The authentic Wild West is in large part the consumption of the myth. That consumption calls for workers; nice side effects of which are the stories I am having the pleasure to read.


    Blogger Laura Moncur said...

    Thanks for the links to my entries about Yellowstone.

    Yeah, I kind of thought there were people making cowboy hats in the western U.S. I imagined grizzled old men weaving them while sitting on porches. Maybe some of them were whittling flutes, too.

    I would have paid ten times as much to get a cowboy hat made in Montana...

    5/23/07, 10:06 AM  
    Anonymous nicole said...

    I am traveling from missiouri to yellowstone for the summer and I would really like to know how conditions are going to be. I don't even know the size of the dorm and what I should and shouldn't bring.

    5/10/10, 12:54 PM  

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