2017 Summer Games Yellowstone National Park

Billy Lightpaw Middle weight contender for the Broad-jump – Summer Games Yellowstone National Park.


As long time readers of the BigShotsNow blog you know that every 4 years Yellowstone National Park holds the Summer Games in preparation for the Wildlife Olympics with entrants from around the globe. This year the games are being held in Yellowstone once again with venues at Gibbons Meadows, the Madison river, Hayden Valley, the LeHardy Rapids, the Lamar valley and the Blacktail Flats area.

This is always an incredible experience with visitors attending from all over the world. As usual most of the events are standing room only as tickets have been sold out for many of the big events for the last two years. However most events have roadside observation areas set up to accommodate the overflow crowds. Be prepared for Bear Jams, Wolf Jams, Buffalo Jams, Otter Jams and every other jam you can think of as the various contestants make their way to the different events, while those attending Yellowstone for the first time slam on their brakes, throw open all four doors where  applicable, and race out to greet and get their first up-close view of the different contestants, leaving their vehicles unattended and blocking the roadway. This impacts traffic bringing it to a standstill for hours. As this also usually results in the arrival of the First Responders stationed throughout the park to take care of the maimed and wounded that occur from way too close encounters with animals that are wild and have never heard of Disney, it takes awhile before the visitors cars can be impounded and hauled off to be shredded. Prepare for long waits depending on the popularity of the contestant being viewed.

This years games are truly spectacular with many new participants such as one of the real contenders in the light heavy-weight broad jump, Mr. Billy Lightpaw, here shown settling into his patented “Squat and Jump” starting position. Mr. Lightpaw also known as Billy the Bumper to his friends ,currently holds the amateur broad jumping record of 32′ 8″ set last fall at the pre-hibernation games outside of Ottawa and is considered to be a gold medal frontrunner. Notice the coiled spring like action of tucking his head in and rolling back on his powerful haunches prior to his launch. Simply incredible. This is why he’s a crowd favorite. This event has plenty of accessibility due to the wide open Hayden valley floor. Binoculars are highly recommended.

The Madison river will have a new event this year, in fact it’s the first time this event has been offered in the summer games and it is likely to be a huge crowd pleaser. It is the “Calf Drop” and it’s a doozy. There are no front-runners in this event due to the fact that only first time Buffalo mothers can enter. Those due to drop their calves during  the week of August 11th and August 22nd are automatically entered. As mentioned before there are no front-runners yet but the likelihood of twins and even in the rarest of circumstances triggering an automatic Gold medal, triplets, might be expected. There is a lot of interest in this event by the press and mothers around the world.

Another fun event for the whole family is being held at LeHardy Rapids this year. It’s the “Otter Fish Off'” and this event is one that ESPN has scheduled for prime time coverage. As you know from previous games this one is fast paced and exciting. Upstream at the top of the rapids, barrels of trout averaging 26″ to 41″ inches long and weighing up to 96 lbs.each are released to streak down the rapids where the contestants wait at the bottom. The Otter that gets the biggest fish with the least amount of personal  injury is scored on tenacity, conviviality, ferocity and good manners. This is a high interest event for the entire family and you may want to arrive a few days early to get a good seat.

The “Wolf Run” or “Elk Calf Take Down” is an event that is best watched on TV or the various Jumbo-trons set up along the highway as much of the action is out of sight due to the rugged terrain through the ponds and small streams in the heavily brushed area that is Blacktail Flats. This year we’ll have extra coverage as the various networks are employing their new “Wolf Drone” cameras which are able to follow the wolves as they run down the elk calves and drag them out of the buck brush where they like to hide. Odds on favorite this year is of course the Blacktail Flats Pack for their intimate knowledge of the area.

Gibbon meadows will again be the site of the contestants housing area, media outlets, Torch lighting, and the entrance and closing parades. A Special “I Paid A Lot Because I’m Special” Pass is needed to access this area. If you don’t already have one you might as well forget about it. There’s none left. Sorry. Seems like everybody is Special.

The Lamar valley is again host to one of the all time favorite events, “Buffalo Herding”. This event has been a staple of the Summer Games for as long as I have been making them up. It is not someone herding the Buffalo but instead the Buffalo proudly showing off their skill at being a herd member, their ability to ‘herd’ as it  were. There are synchronized marching exhibitions, where the different herds show off their ability to walk together with all four legs synchronized, which if you’ve never seen it before is mesmerizing. There is a herd bull “Bellowing” event where the different herd bulls get on opposite sides of the valley and bellow at each other until one runs away in shame. There is a new event this year where the herds travel along the valley floor with the newborns running alongside ( the little orange ones ) to see how long they can run with their tongues out. And last but not least the contest that pits the different herds against each other to show who can make the trip up the Gibbons Narrows to the meadows above the slowest. The resulting length of the traffic tie up from the buffalo jam decides the winner. Last years numbers to beat are eleven and a half miles and five hours to make the six-mile trek up from the bottom of the falls to the summer grazing. Everyone travels at Buffalo speed for this one.

These are just the highlights of the summer games there’s plenty more so start packing and head on up to Yellowstone for another amazing year of the Summer Games at Yellowstone National Park. We’ll look for you there.

And So It Continues

Back in the far distant past the First People began leaving marks on the walls around them. Simple designs, sometimes no more than a scratch, perhaps signifying that they were there. We call these marks petroglyphs.

As time went on the marks grew more sophisticated, representing more elaborate concepts. Animals, human shapes odd to our eyes, strange swirls or repetitive parallel lines in a group perhaps indicating a river or stream. These were just a few of the shapes amongst thousands left on canyon walls, along stream beds, in caves, anywhere the people went.

The most important of the images they placed on the surface of their surroundings was the shape of the human hand, their hands, the hand of the individual making the drawing. This mark said here I am. I am a person. I am important. Know all of you that I have been here. These are known as pictographs if they are painted onto the surface of the rock.

Usually the images created were chiseled into the surface of the stone by hammering the design into the surface of the rock by striking it with another sharper more pointed stone, chipping away the dark patina of the rock leaving an indelible lighter contrasting representation of the design, a petroglyph. But occasionally a simpler more direct method was used. By simply placing their hands into a medium such as paint or even mud and pressing their palms against the stones surface they achieved the same result although a much more impermanent one, but the meaning was the same, a pictograph. Here I am, I leave my mark for you to see.

That type of image creating usually did not stand the ravages of time, especially if it was left exposed to the elements, but they are found in caves and other protected places looking much as they did when they were created.

We think of these kinds of images as something out of history. An art that served its purpose but has been replaced by newer forms of image creating. Yet it appears that is not totally the case. These handprints on the metal in the image above were left by the direct descendants of those First People just a few days ago at a place that is itself historically significant.

Every year along the banks of the Little Bighorn river there is a reenactment of a famous battle called the Battle of the Little Bighorn where General George Armstrong Custer and all the men of the 7th cavalry under his command were engaged by a superior group of Indians including chiefs Sitting bull, Crazy horse, Gall and others. The result is well-known as it was a critical victory for the tribes fighting to remain independent and self-sufficient. Custer and his men were decimated to the last man.

This year the reenactment of that fateful battle took place on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th of June, on the Real Bird ranch adjacent to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument near Crow Agency, Montana and included members of the Crow tribe and various groups representing the cavalry. Each side took great pains to be as true to the period as is possible today, with the cavalry in full uniform and equipment and the Indians in full regalia and paint with even their horses painted for battle.

So it was not surprising to see these modern pictographs placed at the site where the warriors of today watered their ponies and waited for the fighting to commence along the Little Bighorn river, near the ford in the river that led to that fateful battle site.  Somehow it’s comforting to see the continuation of these same handprints used today as they were millennia ago. Young men partaking in a mock battle yet still requiring their total participation both mentally, physically and spiritually. By creating these new pictographs they are saying, I too, am here. I am a Man. I am important. History and tradition is moving on through this time period as it has since the beginning. And so it continues.


Blue Side of Nowhere Pt. 2

On a recent trip to Pawnee National Grasslands looking for early migrating raptors and antelope herds moving north through the short-cropped grass, we were on the lookout for anything moving. The land was empty to the horizon with nothing stirring but tufts of last years golden grass waving in the fitful wind.

Pawnee National grasslands is located 40 miles west of nowhere and 61 miles east of too far. This makes it hard to find unless you really want to get there. We did so we persevered. Not really lost but unsure of where we were we would drive into little towns like Grover, population less than you’d expect and ask “Where are we?”. One reticent local we spoke to answered with gestures more than words, saying we were here pointing downwards, and we should go that way indicated with outstretched arm, and then with a flick of his thumb indicated we should then go that way, which may have been to the right. It was clear as mud but helped us on our way.

There are two large monolithic limestone buttes that rise several hundred feet into the air, sort of like a miniature Ayers Rock, or Uluru as the natives musically call it but doubled, that tell you have reached the virtual center of the Pawnee National grasslands. The full view of these is best obtained by climbing up a steep rutted dirt road that you thought when you turned onto it from another steep rutted dirt road, might take you to the Buttes as they’re called. And the joy and relief you feel that you were right adds to the enjoyment of seeing them, standing there in all their glory, just where the rumors had it they’d be.

Since we were high up on a neighboring ridge with the buttes and half the world at our feet we felt like it was a good place to stop and consider. Much time was spent watching the buttes, waiting to see it they’d move, they didn’t, but the wind through the grass did. The occasional bird flying overhead did, the sun did, but not us. We stayed as still as the buttes and had lunch. Beauty doesn’t negate hungry. All your senses must be fed.

It wasn’t long before the sun had made its relentless journey to the West and threatened to dive behind the blue wall of mountains ending another day. The sky turned an even deeper shade of blue and the realization that we were on a ridge in the middle of nowhere and had many miles to go before we saw civilization again made the decision to leave for us. We began the bumpy jolting journey down towards blacktop and waiting modern life.

The lights jumped crazily over the two ruts that were the road and darkness raced towards us at the speed of light. The hundreds and thousands of miles it felt like we had traveled, although the speedometer said much less, seemed even longer in the encroaching darkness and it was a small relief to suddenly top out and find smooth blacktop under our wheels again. We were on a low ridge forming one side of a wide flat valley that the magic began to happen.

Fog, or mist, no it was fog, much much thicker than mist, substantial and definite as it began to form what looked like, from a distance, impenetrable clouds of pale blue light rising out of the valley floor. At first it was just wispy and directionless. Then as if deciding it was its time to become alive it rapidly formed into opaque fingers that quickly stretched across the valley seemingly barring all access to the outside world. Strangely beautiful it wasn’t long before the entire valley was engulfed in it’s eerie luminescence. It seemed slightly intimidating in its ghostly beauty but if we wanted to get home and at that moment home seemed like a welcome place to be, we entered the valley and trusted to the fates that our journey would be a safe one. Entering the blue side of nowhere had its risks but what doesn’t these days.

The odyssey to Pawnee Buttes National grasslands was a unique experience. Meeting strangers who became helpful, finding lost roads and quirky little side trips, locating the buttes and watching them turn from pure white sandstone to the golden colors of end of day on its smooth-sided walls made every moment one that will be permanently etched into our memory. But what made this a truly meaningful and unforgettable experience was the pale blue fog of the high plains grasslands. What we now call the Blue Side of Nowhere.

The Yellowstone Zephyr


It’s 3:17 in the afternoon at the pull out close to the northeastern end of the Lamar valley and everyone is in place waiting for the daily arrival of the Yellowstone Zephyr. Just like the trainspotters of days gone by who would wait at their favorite vantage point to see the Wabash Cannonball zoom by, smoke belching from its magnificent smokestack, cinders flying, huge steel wheels spinning, their spokes a solid whirling gray mass in the center of the rims, its side rods a furious blur of impossible action, every part of it screaming noise and fury and action we wait for the arrival of the golden eagle named the Yellowstone Zephyr.

Off in the distance way down where the Lamar river makes the wide slow bend around that rocky point, over the beaver pond with its chewed trees and flat water there is a dark speck and some ones cries “There it is. It’s coming!” and everyone shades their eyes frantic to pick up its image. Cameras are readied and held up to eager eyes, fingers flying over last-minute settings. You only get a few scant seconds to take your shots as the Zephyr screams by. You hear the sound of wind rushing through its primaries and speeding across the top surface of its wings as it gets closer and louder until all you can hear is the whistling boiling sound of the turbulence behind it as it comes racing over the sage and rabbit brush. You struggle to keep it in your viewfinder and hope for the best as you fire off a burst of images hoping that one of them will be in focus and clear enough to use. Then it’s gone.

If you did your best and were prepared you might get one good shot for your time and effort. If you didn’t and missed the opportunity there’s always tomorrow. Be there, find a good spot to stand, have your camera set and your nerves in check and watch the countdown on your watch. When it  hits 3:17 be ready. Maybe today you’ll get  lucky and get that shot you’ve been dreaming of. But pay attention, the Yellowstone Zephyr waits for no one.

Broken Ground

2016-10-25broken-ground9967Canyonlands: Right Click on Image, Choose Open Image in New Tab for larger view


Broken ground is just what the words imply. Be careful, that ground is broken. Don’t go falling in there. If you go up to that edge because you want to look down and see what’s down there, don’t lean way out and start flailing around with your arms and yelling “Hey I’m falling here.” and expect a lot of sympathy from anybody when you do. If you got two eyes and a brain in your head you should have noticed that that is broken ground and not got up so close and act stupid because your goofy friends think it’s funny. Remember, after you fall in they’re just going to laugh and say how dumb that was and drink the rest of your beer. Plus your cousin, the one you didn’t want to come along on this trip anyway, will probably be putting the moves on your girl before you even hit bottom.

If you did kind of winkle up to the edge and kind of lay down on your stomach several yards from the drop-off so you could crawl up there and hang your head over the edge and look, you’ll notice that the only bodies down there are ones with a camera strapped around their necks or maybe an iPad laying next to them all busted up. That’s because   the locals and others that are familiar with the West and places you can fall into, don’t do that. They right away recognize broken ground and back up real quick. Lots of them will just sit in their pickups and drink coffee out of a thermos and watch the entertainment.

It needs to be said that there is one local and his horse down there. But it was a freak accident, he didn’t mean it. He doesn’t even own a camera. He had ridden up to tell someone not to get that close to the edge and a rattlesnake laying there looking like a cow pie, bit his horse in the leg right above the hoof and that caused no end of trouble. Horses after getting bit by things often don’t know if they’ve been snake-bit or struck by lightning so they’re apt to do unusual things. Having said that, what with the horse jumping around and trying to stomp on the snake and then rearing up and falling over backward into the abyss, it was just a colossal blunder.

Unfortunately that was really a bonehead play because as they were going over they snagged the poor, sort of innocent tourist who was trying to back up and took him along for the ride. So we can’t really hold that one responsible for his sudden demise. I guess the moral of that story is watch out for locals on horseback trying to tell you stuff, or check out the area for snakes before engaging in any meaningful dialogue with anyone, a quick motion with your hand and the simple phrase “Hey, Stay back there a minute. Looking for snakes.” will work, they’ll understand, or just stay back a ways. You can see enough from twenty feet back. You don’t need to get up there and act like some kind of nutball, all you’re going to see is dead bodies anyway.

We only bring this up to help. It’s not like we’re trying to tell you what to do or anything. It’s just the neighborly thing to do. Around here we don’t want you falling in places. It’s bad for business. OK then, remember, watch out for broken ground.

P.S. and for locals on horseback.

Wings In The Sunrise


The time is 7:48:47 am, February 9th of a year gone past. It is bitter, bitterly cold. And it is the exact moment that the conditions are just right for the thousands of Snow Geese wintering here at Bosque del Apache to lift into the air en masse. The rushing noise of their wings punctuated by their coarse honking calls creates a sound unique to this moment. As they lift and try for altitude they will pass overhead so closely you can feel the downward force of the wind from their wings, perhaps only a dozen feet or more over your head.

It is a mesmerizing sight to see, with sometimes 30,000 birds clustered together on long rafts that nearly fill the ponds they spend the night in suddenly, at some unknown cue explode into the air. They rarely circle the pond as they ascend, instead the various family groups, or tribes, or however they relate to each other begin to separate and choose the course to their day’s feeding area. Soon in mere seconds it seems, the pond is empty and quiet. Perhaps there may be one or two stragglers left on the ponds flat surface, those who have decided that they’re going to take the day off today, or perhaps the floating bodies of a few who have given up the ghost during the night, due to age or injury or just plain fatigue, but quiet. The silence is deafening.

This event takes place every morning the Snow geese are here at Bosque del Apache until one morning, again on some unknown cue,  they rise once more but instead of returning they head North to their summer range and the ponds are quiet and still until the coming Fall. Then each morning without fail you can take part in the wings in the sunrise experience. It is truly an unforgettable moment.




We here at *The Institute know from the many cards and letters we get, that many if not all of you out there wake up nearly every morning with one word in your mind. And Yes, that word is Transmogrification.

Transmogrification as I don’t have to tell you, means to Transform in a surprising or magical manner. So here’s the deal. It seems a lot of you wake up to the following scenario or something like it regularly. You overslept so you didn’t hear Cantu, your piebald Great Dane, whining to go out and now you have a large, gently smoking pile of Cantu’s delight that he off-loaded onto the rug next to your bed and casually spilled over the top of your left slipper so that now you have to take him out in the freaking cold with one bare foot. The toaster oven welded your bagel to its surface and in trying to scrape it off with the butcher knife you didn’t put away last night, you inadvertently touched something in there that carries a large amount of electricity, and now you have cut great huge rents in the kitchen curtains and several of the cabinet doors while in your electrically induced Gran Mal seizure.

You look out of the window and see that someone has stolen the windshield and back seat out of your Prius and spilled those little batteries it uses all over your lawn. This of course caused you to take a cab to the Emergency Room because the Samsung 7 you tried to call the police on, went off in a glorious fireball and now you need an ear graft and one new finger.

There is more but you get the picture. Some of you will have less or greater amounts of these events dependent on how you got along in your past life. You have only yourself to blame for that. However, the one saving grace in the midst of this vale of tears we call our life, is the ability to draw on, you guessed it, Transmogrification. By uttering this word over and over in a clear but steady voice what you see around you will slowly turn itself into the exact image of the picture above and you can draw on its soothing colors and quiet stillness until your life matches the calmness and serenity you see above.

This is a proven and effective technique used daily here at The Institute as the scenarios mentioned above are like the calmness of the surface of Walden’s Pond compared to what goes on here every moment of our day. So use it, use it whenever you feel the need and your day will change we guarantee it. And try and live a better life as this will greatly help you in the next one.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind.