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November 1, 2012

An America often taken for granted

(Continued)

His traveling entourage was involved in a train wreck in Lowell in 1911. They tell us it was the most spectacular railroading mishap to ever hit the east, as elephants and buffalo stampeded, running wild as if Noah’s Ark suddenly went out of control on Mount Ararat after the Great Flood.

The show did go on. Cowboys lassoed the free-wheeling animals over the roads and fields and got them back into the strangest caravan that ever met mortal eyes.

In a place called Deadwood, South Dakota, I discovered that a prospector could find $25 worth of gold in one day, only to lose it in the saloons and brothels. Signs bore words like: “Horse-stealing is OK here but stealing a parking place will get you hung.”

I was fascinated to learn that Yellowstone was the world’s first national park, created in 1872 — 18 years before Wyoming became a state. As for the Old Faithful geyser, it erupts every 77 minutes, give or take a few.

Over the course of a day and a half, I encountered such big game as elk, moose, bison, deer antelope, bald eagles, owls, osprey and a host of other rare birds. Bison have the right of way and you were told to keep your distance or else answer to a $125 fine imposed by the rangers.

We learned a smallpox epidemic hit the Black Hills in 1878. Among the brave people treating the afflicted was Calamity Jane.

Our journey also took us through the Grand Tetons, Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon. We explored these territories by van once the bus tour ended in Salt Lake City, eventually coming to a close in Las Vegas.

Strolling along the Rim Trail at Bryce with my wife and another couple while gazing across the canyon left me overwhelmed with peace and wonder. Compared to the real thing, pictures don’t do it justice. Fiery colors and endless vistas give way to a dreamy landscape with its castle-like rock formations known as Hoodoos.

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