‘Yellowstone Has Teeth’ gives readers insight to iconic park
Yellowstone National Park has two faces, according to author Marjane Ambler.
One clearly exists as a tourist destination point in the summer, when thousands of visitors descend on the park daily and it becomes “Yellowstone City.”
A second is a dangerous, beguiling place, especially in the winter, where inattention to weather or bison herds would result in deadly consequences.
Hence the book’s tittle, “Yellowstone Has Teeth.”
Husband Terry Wehrman, a Marshalltown native and a member of the Marshalltown High School class of 1958, helped Ambler research and interview subjects.
The book is not written from the vantage point of a couple who lived in the park briefly in pre or post tourism seasons.
She and Wehrman lived in Yellowstone year ’round for nine years from 1984-1993.
Ambler and Wehrman knew the park intimately.
There, deep in the park near the shores of Lake Yellowstone, they experienced the long, sub-zero winters in an isolated community of about a dozen neighbors.
Wehrman was a full-time maintenance worker and Ambler, between writing projects, worked as a seasonal interpretive ranger with the National Park Service for four seasons.
As author, Ambler also considers herself partly a myth-buster she said.
“The public assumes all of Yellowstone’s employees are rangers and only men,” she said. “Rangers, both men and women, provide a valuable service, but away from the public eye are the hundreds of park maintenance workers, both men and women, who, with the rangers, make the park work.”
Winter brought a natural beauty which was magnificent, but it also brought peril.
“Mother nature makes the rules,” Ambler said. “Sometimes the temperature would get to -40 below.”
Snowmobiles and a deadly mountain pass provided the only way in and out of their home when the snows came.
“We learned the hard way how to pack groceries (which were placed in a snow trailer) for the long trip home,” she said. “After a few trips of having broken eggs and smashed groceries, we learned how to do it correctly.”
After nine years in the park it was time for the couple to move on.
Having to plow a mountainous pass after a snowstorm on July 4 was but one of the factors that made Wehrman transfer to another park in Wyoming, Ambler said.
The couple now reside in Atlantic City, Wyo.
“We go back to the park at least once a year to visit friends and former co-workers,” she said.
Ambler and Wehrman will be in Marshalltown Aug. 11 and 12, visiting family and will return Sept. 13-16 for a reunion.
Ambler has been a journalist since 1968. She was associated editor for High Country News from 1974-1980.
From 1995 until 2006, she served as the editor of Tribal College Journal, a national quarterly magazine. She also was editor of a rural newspaper in Steward, Neb. for 2.5 years.
For more information about Ambler and “Yellowstone” visit marjaneambler.com