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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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    Thursday, July 12, 2007

    Forthcoming Yellowstone essays

    It's been relatively quiet from the standpoint of my prolific keyboard. Besides a busy load at my real job and the endless preparations for the upcoming birth of my son, frankly the Yellowstone Newspaper has taken a great deal of my time to compile. It takes me 1 to 2 hours a day to keep it updated to my satisfaction.

    Anyhow, when I get some spare moments, I wanted to let you in on a couple essays I hope to write here. At some point in the not-so-distant future, I hope I can also contribute to the effort Mike Tercek has to get exposure to some writers on Yellowstone (see Yellowstone Spectator).

    In the near future, though, I expect to write a post inspired by the endlessly perpetuated and erroneous myth that Teddy Roosevelt founded Yellowstone National Park. I am not by any means the first person to be annoyed or to write about this (see this one), but I want to write about it and about myths in general. Some will argue that myths can serve a very good purpose, and I don't deny that. I deny that some of the myths that have been perpetuated about Yellowstone actually do serve a good purpose. The Teddy myth is among them, and I would also like to argue that the creation myth (namely that the Yellowstone National Park idea originated along the Madison River during the 1870 Washburn Expedition) is worth resisting as well, though Yellowstone's historian Lee Whittlesey - despite his great work in helping us to understand the history of the myth - has taken a far gentler view toward the myth itself.

    One really can't write about the West without coming to terms with the mythology of the West. I don't think we are after the "real" West as opposed to the "mythical" West; we are after trying to understand our reasoning about things today and how the interpretation of history and myth alike works in our reasoning.

    The other essay I would like to write has a very narrow focus and requires me to compile the available research. There are a lot of foreign seasonal workers in Greater Yellowstone. I think they are fantastic. However, I'm not so keen on the companies they work for, and I've been very curious for some time why the workforce in Yellowstone has shifted from large numbers of young domestic workers to large numbers of young foreign workers, often from a distinct set of countries. I do not plan to go at the entire question, but I want to focus on one claim. That claim is that the workforce has changed in part because the length of the season has changed due to changing visitation patterns. That claim is made by Xanterra in this article by Brodie Farquhar. I have a strong hunch that that is false, but I want to do the research and see for myself. Overall, visitation hasn't changed much in Yellowstone in the decade since the number of foreign workers has risen dramatically. However, have visitation patterns put more strain on the beginning and end of the summer season? Anecdotally, I can say that mid-to-late August looked about the same as I remember it - plenty of camping spots, lower number of tourists, and workers happy that the traditional peak of August 15 had passed. The year before in mid-May, Yellowstone also felt relatively empty. Experience with the Yellowstone Newspaper and blog traffic also sees mid-summer as being much more robust as far as blog traffic than the ends of the seasons.

    However, perhaps, I'm wrong. It won't settle the issue on foreign workers either way, but it is one of many points of curiosity.

    Anyhow, that's what I think will be coming, if life slows down enough to let it come. I think I hope writing it down publicly will commit me to the end product.

    Jim Macdonald


    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hey Jim,

    Thanks for checking out our blog and enjoying the post we wrote about Yellowstone. I like your site as well and will keep an eye on it. Anything Yellowstone is now extremely interesting to us. We really loved the park.


    7/13/07, 9:26 AM  

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