Glacial Peaks, Alpine Creeks, Gunslingers and Gold Miners: How the West Was Lost Part 1

Editor’s note: Guest contributor Chris Capolino regularly shares her family adventures with us. As a homeschooler who loves to travel, she brings a fun, family-oriented perspective with her trips! Lisa

These hushed woods once echoed with the rumble of rickety wagons chock full of gold ore. Mining towns, never built to last, set as stunning jewels in precarious mountain slopes, endure. Just as the spirit of the rugged individuals who carved communities in the wilderness, endures.

Tilted rock formed deep within the earth eons ago, panoramic and picturesque. Landscapes of granite. Postcards of stone.

By day, the Yellowstone River’s mist on our skin. Bugling elk, mountain goats wary of our intrusion.

By night, glittering constellations over velvety backdrop.

Dipping our feet in an icy alpine creek after a long arduous climb. And down, we still must traverse. Brief respite by a hidden glacial waterfall; we must be the first, ever to have found this slice of heaven on Earth. We must.

Motoring from sea to shining sea. Mapping out the adventures, the sites, the magnificence. It is breathtaking and we have a sense of can-we-really-be-here about the whole adventure.

Snapping picture after picture. Until our memory card is filled with nearly eight hundred of them. Holding and immortalizing the hikes, the sites, the signs, the history, the starts, the stops.

The drenching rain on an Old Faithful evening, the sun illuminating Abe’s face on a Mt Rushmore afternoon, the playful splashing on a rocky Pacific morning. And, oh yeah: The rocks. When your hubby is a rock hound, a geologist through and through, the roadside outcroppings are a marvel. We take it in too, as well as the sometimes lengthy science lessons. We learn and we love.

The Moments.

Building campfires, creating marshmallow s’more concoctions. In these eight thousand miles and seventeen states. Collages of morning dew in West Glacier, mundane interstate stops in Idaho, creekside tent pitching in the Dakotas and the just-being-togetherness on the journey.

And the stories. The hardiness of the pioneer spirit back then. And now? Life on the range and the farm? It is a world away and out of our realm. Those quintessential cowboys and cowhands? They’re not just of song and story. Their work is hard and honest, and quite cerebral. And the children of the range? They don’t play little league; rather, they aspire to score high roping a calf or guiding their stallions around a haybale obstacle course in Cody Wyoming. Rodeo capital of the world.

The human drama unfolding on the prairie a century and a half ago? Across the mighty Mississippi to the Rockies. Triumph? Or tragedy? Yes, this then one hundred year old country of ours wrote a sad chapter in our history.

Tolerance, virtuous behavior and grace demonstrated toward our fellow man? Not terribly much of that witnessed on the western frontier.

What about our American “heroes?” The Son of the Morning Star epitomized underhandedness; he was no hero. Truth: Custer earned this Lakota nickname, silently attacking at dawn, decimating villages of unsuspecting, sleeping, peacful people. Mothers, babies, elderly.

What’s that, some may say? He was only following orders? Decades later, my Dad heard those echoes too, as an Army Infantryman in the Pacific Theater. In quiet, humble villages throughout the Philippines in the 1940s, those under the flag of the rising sun were only following orders to overtake peaceful Manila. It was heard too, throughout Europe. Those who donned the swastikas were carrying out instructions. Nothing more. I suppose this is how some justify man’s inhumanity to man two generations removed?

For you have been called to live in freedom,
not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature,
but freedom to serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13

The Lakota Sioux have a saying: “There is no death. There is only a change in worlds.”

Are we truly t-h-a-t different from those called ‘savages’ by the white man? By those who wished to own the land? By those who wished to rule and change? By those who thought themselves quite superior? Who came to this new land to escape brutality and suppression themselves?

Copyright 2014 Christine Capolino

About Chris Capolino

Chris Capolino loves her life as a homeschooling, work-at-home Mom! Chris, her husband and their lively, lovable boys are native New Yorkers and lifelong residents of The Empire State, but love the adventure of travel across our great nation. Chris is a regular contributor to Catholic Mom whose essays have appeared in numerous homeschool magazines and book collections. Please stop by her home on the web for a visit! Campfires and Cleats