My dad came from Salt Lake City

... every other year, we drove out West

by Betty Rossi

When I was young, my family and I drove out to Salt Lake City to see my Dad's family. Every other year, we switched our travels. One year, my Grandma and "Pop" would come to Melrose and the next year, we'd go "out west". Our going "out west" was not by airplane. We drove. All of us, plus my Uncle Ed in one car. If you know that Norman Rockwell painting of the family heading out on vacation and the eager looks on all of their faces, well, that was us for about a half a day. Our trip took us about two weeks. One summer, we'd go the northern route, through the Badlands of the Dakotas, through Montana, Washington and Idaho and coming home, we'd take the southern route. Our next trip out, we would reverse the direction of travel. Starting with the southern route and coming home by the northern route, visiting relatives along the way.

Oh joy, oh joy. We stopped at every National State Park and walked through every cave and cavern. I don't know if the cars were larger in those days because we had our suitcases and trunks filled with our clothes, things that we would need for the summer and trinkets and mementos that we would find along the way. We were squished to the maximum and believe me, even if we wanted to, we wouldn't dare complain. I can remember my brother Skip and I pinching each other or poking each other in the back seat and my Dad would tell us to "quit clowning around back there". There weren't seat belts in those days, so we'd fight to see who could stand up in the front seat or lay across the back seat under the window.

I can remember driving through the giant red woods. Imagine being able to drive a car through a hole in a huge tree! I also remember the smell of Old Faithful Geyser, driving through the Bad Lands while thinking that we would be attacked by bad people. I can still see my Uncle Ed taking a picture of a giant black bear in Yellowstone that kept coming closer and closer to him. We were screaming for my Uncle to get back into the car as all of the posted signs said "Don't feed the bears". He had one of those accordion lens type cameras that you really had to look down into to adjust and then take the picture and he was determined to get a picture of that huge bear. Even though the signs said "Stay in your car" and "Do not feed the bears", what they should have said was, "Be afraid. Be very afraid. The bears are really, really big and they will bite you".  My Uncle Ed did get the picture of that huge bear. He might have taken the picture, but I can remember he and my Dad arguing because of it.

I can remember sitting under my Aunt's cherry tree. I believe we were either in Sunnyside or in Yakima, Washington. We ate so many cherries, we got sick. My Auntie Dorothy grew asparagus. They put it in everything! Omelets plain, with butter, without butter, with cheese, without cheese, you get the picture. My brother Skip ate so many strawberries one year, he broke out in the hives. He didn't eat strawberries for about thirty years. (At my birthday party this year, I brought him a Trifle with strawberries. He said, "Betty, tell everyone why you brought the Strawberry Trifle. I said, "so that I can see you break out in hives!" We both laughed and laughed as we reminisced.)

I was given my own horse to ride through the summer. I had to take full responsibility for it. The feeding, grooming, saddling, pitching hay in the stall and yes, cleaning up the mess. I remember feeding them carrots and oats, but for the life of me, I don't remember one of their names. I had a Pinto one summer, I do remember that. I can remember being at a round-up and crying when they roped and branded the calves. The smell of branding stays with you for life! The Utes, Cheyenne, Pueblo and Navaho would all go to the rodeos and round-ups, some in full costume and headdress. I can remember receiving a beaded pair of moccasins that I treasured for years.

When we were in school, I knew the difference between Stalagtites and Stalagmites because we saw them. The Grand Canyon is beautiful at any time of the day and so are the caves and caverns of America, the Trading Post at Yellowstone, the log steps of Yosemite and the magnificent Salt Lake. My Grandma and "Pop" are gone but some day, I'd like to go back for a visit. I might even drive.

I love the West!

September 7, 2012

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