Monday, January 2, 2012

Cooke City

Happy New Year, history buffs! I hope your holiday celebrations were as memorable as Mrs. Ingeborg Reeb's.

Some years ago, eighty-eight-year-old Mrs. Ingeborg Reeb recalled life in the camp at Cooke City where her husband was a silver miner. She fondly remembered that even in the coldest, deepest winter, parties were frequent. Miners would come by the Reebs’ place and each would take one of the Reebs’ eight children under his arm—with legs dangling out the back—and head for the designated saloon. Pool tables pushed into the corners made comfortable and safe beds for the children. While they slept, the grownups danced. There was always plenty of coffee and wonderful food. Sometimes deep snow forced residents to move to lower elevations and the Reebs would winter in Joliet. One spring as they returned to Cooke City, they traveled from Gardiner through Yellowstone and stopped to rest at Soda Butte.  A troublesome rogue buffalo from the park’s herd, dubbed “Old Johnson” in honor of the park superintendent, loved to terrorize humans. As the Reebs all jumped down from the buckboard, a man ran toward them shouting, “Get the children on the barn roof. Hurry. Old Johnson is coming!” Everyone raced to climb to the roof. Old Johnson came charging and buffaloed the family for two hours before finally giving up and wandering off. Sometimes, though, isolation in winter was grim. In 1914, the roads to Cooke City were impassable and snow melt washed out the Lamar River Bridge. With no way in or out, a severe food shortage forced the community to survive on oatmeal for six weeks. But Mrs. Reeb recalled with nostalgia that despite bad times, the warmth of good neighbors bred the sweetest lifetime memories.

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