People Who Do Stupid Things

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:

Boy Injured By Yellowstone Bison

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:

Tourist Dies From Fall At Yellowstone

(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.

13 thoughts on “People Who Do Stupid Things”

  1. Wow, two more candidates for the Darwin awards.

    One of our friends was gored by a domestic bison that he raised from a calf. He nearly died. At a distance these animals appear to be docile, but if angered or startled they can turn on you pretty fast.

    On my first car trip through Yellowstone there was a massive traffic jam. Two large black bears were by the side of the road and everyone was slowing down to take pictures. Two young females in a VW Beetle got the bright idea to crack a window and try to hand feed one of the bears. The bear jumped up on his hind feet and put his front paws on the roof of the car and leaned on it until two of the wheels were off the ground. When the girls ran out of food the bear started rocking the car until other motorists intervened to chase the bears away. That was nearly 40 years ago. Seems people haven’t gotten any smarter.

  2. RR- great post. I too failed as parent once, and got away with it.
    Every day I lokk at my son, and the great luck he is there, in one piece.

  3. RR-
    check out US oil demand–down 800,000 bpd in April y-o-y.
    Huge drop, and still not relecting latest round of prices….

  4. Almost lost my brother in a bubbling pool at Yellowstone.

    Mom Dad brother and I were all standing next to a pool and leaning on the fence. Meanwhile unnoticed brother had crawled under the fence.

    The fence was probably four feet from the pool edge with a drop of a couple feet. At a certain point brother slipped. Part of his slip down into the pool included an arm flying up. That arm caught Dad’s eye. Dad’s stance was close enough that with a stabbing grab he got a hold on brother’s arm.

    Since then I’ve wondered what happens to human flesh in one of those pools.


  5. I’ve only been to Yellowstone twice, but both times I’ve been witness to some astonishing stupidity.

    The last time was in the summer of ’88, right before the fires really got going in earnest. We were driving along a stretch of road which paralleled the Yellowstone River (hundreds of feet below), and traffic up ahead was blocked by something. As we neared the obstruction, we realized that many people had stopped their cars to hop out and take pictures of a large bull elk which was occupying a position on a small peninsula of land which jutted out into the river canyon. This bull was completely trapped, with cliff walls dropping away on three sides and a ring of photographers flashing away on the fourth. He was visibly agitated, pacing back and forth, snorting, and eyeing up the folks blocking his escape.

    We drove on, so I don’t know to this day if that particular scene ended badly or not. In my opinion, it’s remarkable that more people aren’t hurt every year.

  6. As always, great post.

    I grew up in NE Kansas. When I was a boy we would travel out west on vacation with our pop-up camper in tow.

    We were checking out the buffalo herd at the Custer Battlefield N.M. when a car pulled up. This family got out of their rambler wagon for a photo op. The dad motioned the mom and the two kids over in front of the biggest bull in the herd. Well, the bull eventually charged them. They managed to get in their car, but the buffalo did ram their car.

    The interesting thing is that the buffalo encounter we witnessed wasn’t an isolated incident. We saw a lot of wacky human behavior on those travels.

  7. One of the dumbest things I’ve seen is on a video clip someone sent me called “Man v. Lion.”

    It’s in French and two French families are in their little Renault 5 station wagons somewhere in Africa at a wild animal park. They pull up to a group of lions laying under the bushes and start taking pictures out the car windows. For some reason, one of the men decides to step out of the car to get a close-up photo of one of the female lions. He takes several photos and starts to walk around the female lion for a better angle.

    All of a sudden a male lion hiding in the bushes jumps on him from the back. The people in the cars try to shoo the male lion away, but with no luck, as the male lion dismembers and eats the guy who got out of the car while his family watches. (All on video shot by someone in the second car.)

    All rather gruesome, especially watching the kids in the car watch their father being killed by a lion.

    I’ve got it as .mwv file, but have been unable to find the Internet site it came from.

  8. An energy related take on national parks. My mother got tired of park rangers stopping and asking whether her car had broken down when she was enjoying a walk. Shows how deeply the automobile is ingrained in the North American psyche when it is assumed you are walking because you are unable to drive.

    Alternative Energy Blog

  9. Robert,

    Interisting twist to your blog. I do enjoy it though. All to often we hear about children being hurt due to the negligence of their parents. I took my son to Disney World last summer. At the resort we stayed at there was a pond close to our room. One night I was standing on the balcony with my 7 year old son. Near the shore of the pond you could see about a 5 foot aligator in the water. On the land near it was a boy, probably about 14 years old poking at it with a stick while his family looked on. I looked at my son and pointed at the boy and asked if he knew what the 14 year old boy was. He told me, “He’s really stupid daddy.” That’s right son, just remember that.

  10. Hey Scott! Thanks for dropping by. Just got the family settled in Texas, but today I had to fly back to the Netherlands. You will have to come up and see us when you get a chance.

    Cheers, Robert

  11. Hey Robert,

    I know this is probably not the rigt bloc to discuss this, but did you see your favorite O-State’s Patriarch’s plans for renewable energy and annoucement on CNN?

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