Bechler Meadows Memory

Yellowstone River
Pictured is the Yellowstone River in Montana. (Julie Geiss photo)

August and September reminds me of when I was a teen. We’d be
loading horses tight without a smidgen in between.

The horses filled our 69 cornbinder to the gills, while roaring with each shift
of gears and heading for the hills.

Bechler Meadows campground in the hills of Yellowstone is where we’d set
up camp and for a week we’d be alone.

We saddled well broke geldings for the fishermen to ride. Pack horses
carried gear in canvas bags hung from their side.

Dad would ride old Shortcut as the lead to set the pace. We’d be scattered
hell to breakfast if a horse should break to race.

I’d be riding Stretch, and always bringing up the rear, while leading three
pack horses with the fish and camping gear.

We’d cross the Bechler River then our campsite came to view. There
weren’t a soul for miles. ‘Twas a campers’ dream come true.

The cook tent wasn’t spacious, but was large enough to fit a wood stove
and the campsite table big enough for six.

The horses would be grazing on their Bechler Meadows food. While the
cook tent would be wafting smells to get you in the mood.

That night around the table we’d have steak and spuds to eat, with
homemade butter slathered on the hand-picked corn so sweet.

The men all played Gin Rummy and while adding up the points would
share Kentucky Bourbon just to “loosen up their joints.”

We’d talk about the River, how their fishing trip came true. I’d warn about
the bear sign that we’d seen while packing through.

The risk of seeing grizzlies wouldn’t keep the men away. I could see
excitement in their eyes. Then off to hit the hay.

I’d make a final check on horses’ halters tied up tight. And pray that not a
hungry bear would visit in the night.

An old bull elk would sound his bugle. Others chimed on in. They’d bugle
into daylight making sleep a might too thin.

I’d stoke the stove with split pinewood. Then hit the Coleman light. And try
to sleep while listening to the Bechler Meadows night.


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Bryce Angell’s father was an outfitter and guide for 35 years, and Bryce was there to shoe and care for the horses and help him do the cooking. Bryce is from Idaho and still rides into the Tetons, Yellowstone and surrounding areas. His poems are mostly of personal experience.



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