This is off-topic, but hits upon a topic very important to me: Safety. In my previous post, I mentioned that I thought those long-distance family vacations were going to become rarer as gas prices cut deeply into budgets. But Yellowstone National Park will remain a popular destination as families do venture out on the road.
Having lived in the shadow of Yellowstone for a few years, you hear a lot about the tragedies that happen there every year. It seems that people will go to Yellowstone and act as if they are at an amusement park or a zoo. I could list case after case of stupidity that has gotten people either injured or killed in Yellowstone. It is a real pet peeve of mine that people go there and don’t take basic precautions. So when I read this story yesterday, I just had to shake my head:
A 12-year-old Pennsylvania boy was flipped in the air by a bison near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Friday morning. A mature bull bison, apparently annoyed at the close proximity of the boy, tossed him approximately 10 feet in the air.
Witnesses said the boy was posing with members of his family within 1-2 feet of the animal despite repeated warnings from other visitors.
I have a 12-year-old son as well, I couldn’t help but think of him in that position. I don’t fault the boy here, and I certainly wish him a speedy recovery. Fortunately, he lived and has learned his lesson the hard way. But I do fault the parents, who should know better than this.
The other incident in recent years that really got to me was the fatality of a Michigan woman that happened right in front of her husband and two children:
(AP) A Michigan woman who stepped over a retaining wall to take a photograph lost her footing and fell 500 feet to her death, park officials said.
The Chamberlins and their two children had stopped their vehicle at an overlook along the road about three-quarters of a mile north of the Tower Fall area about noon EDT Saturday.
Chamberlin stepped over a low rock retaining wall to take a photo when she lost her footing, slipped down an embankment and went over a cliff. She fell about 500 feet, coming to rest near the Yellowstone River, park officials said.
I visited that exact location shortly after the incident. There is a guard rail there, and it is there for that very reason. Imagine the drive back to Michigan for that man and his children.
But this story wouldn’t be complete without sharing my own story of stupidity. I visited the park in the winter of 2006 with my two oldest kids. We rented a snowmobile, and were riding it around. It was built for three, but very difficult to steer with that many people on it. I was taking it up a hill that was steeper than I should have, and it stalled out near the top of the hill. The front end tipped over, and my son and I jumped off on the uphill side. My daughter went off the downhill side, and I watched as this 700-lb snowmobile rolled directly over her.
It took me about 20 (endless) seconds to get to her, and during that time I was certain that she was at least seriously injured. Fortunately for us, the snow was deep, and it crushed her into the snow. It knocked the breath out of her, and scared her badly. But she wasn’t hurt. I consider this the luckiest day of my life: The day I almost lost my daughter, but was instead given a terrifying reminder of just how quickly a life could be snatched away.
So, please be careful, especially with your children. Don’t put them into dangerous situations. Stop, take a minute, and evaluate the situation. Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen, and then presume that it will. Remember, the world can be a dangerous place, and a life can be snatched away with just a moment of carelessness.