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Old Faithful Inn

By Jean Southworth

June 2003

 Somehow it channels the Titanic and the elegance of a bygone era.  Vacationers gaping.  Lights twinkling.  Piano keys plinking.  Yet no sea-sickness or disasters lurk aboard this century-old structure, Old Faithful Inn. 

 Three years ago, we visited Yellowstone’s Old Faithful as part of our whirlwind family “Heritage Tour” of places our grandparents lived and loved.  We saw folks on cabin porches, sitting, doing little else.  We wanted that.  Today we have our own stay of days at an Old Faithful cabin; we’ve hardly left the area.   

 Last night I lay claim to mission rockers in a corner of the Inn lobby and began my long-awaited journey with Stephen Ambrose and his “Undaunted Courage” account of Lewis and Clark.  It seemed appropriate for this place.  Tonight, Jim and Annie play “Palace” on an antique illuminated card table on the second floor balcony while I sink into a cushy armchair on the main level.  The chair doesn’t rock but makes up for it geographically:  I can see just about everything.  The scale, extravagance, and bustle of this log cabin interior demand my full attention.  Surely, my book will keep a while. 

 Upstairs the piano sings Fur Elise, then Chopin’s Nocturne.  Eventually, a violin joins in.  They play “What Child Is This?”  Today is June 20th.  I am enchanted.   

 Late arrivals pull bags inside and stare upwards.  A young man motors his elderly grandmother across the lobby.  A ten year-old boy rolls a large suitcase to the center of the room, pauses, and sets it flat.  Something’s wrong.  What is he forgetting?  He unzips the bag.  Out pops his younger brother, who bolts off.  The older brother lays chase, suitcase in tow. 

 I set my book on the floor.  This is better than television. 

 I spot a middle-aged man wearing a red t-shirt bearing the words, “Bauer Family Roadtrip 2003.”  (Why didn’t I think of that for the Heritage Tour, I wonder?)  Once I take notice, these red-t-shirts are everywhere.  A teenage boy covers his with a less conspicuous sweatshirt.  Wheelchair Grandma spins by again; she wears one beneath her white cardigan and black lap blanket. 

 A family poses nearby, unencumbered by wheels or matching clothing.  They have three cameras, infinite group combinations, and unsurpassed photo opportunities.  The mom and teenage daughter laugh and tango to the Christmas music.  They are unembarrassed.  My heart warms for my Annie upstairs:  that is us.  Pretty soon the family looks for a willing photographer to shoot them all together.  I volunteer—this is right up my alley, and besides, I have been enjoying their show.  As I snap the pictures (on rotating cameras) someone taps my shoulder.  Would I like to get in the photo, too?  I consider it. 

Outside the geyser’s set to erupt again at any moment, but I’ve already witnessed it multiple times, hanging out in the neighborhood so much.  Instead, I’m ready for a hot shower and a date with Meriwether Lewis.  Jim walks me back to our Snow Lodge Cabin, but he and Annie can’t seem to leave the Inn lobby quite yet this evening.  I understand.