My work does speak for itself. If you want to know more about my park journey, and the human obstacles that have presented themselves, read on. A bit long but I think it will make sense to you and you will like the ending.
The cold hung in the air like a thin veil of sheer curtain when the fox came back to visit the rocks for the first and only time I am aware of this year.
Yellowstone is a beautiful place and on good days can be a feast for photographers. From the time that I was a little girl, it was me running through the forest, out riding bikes and horses, skiing – water and snow — whatever the weather, I wanted to be outside. I wasn’t a TV junkie and we didn’t have computers and iPods, we just had real life.
After my injuries and serious illness of meningitis, which scrambled my brains a bit and dramatically changed my artistic eye, I sort of gave up and made a decision to learn photography and spend time in nature, once again. Trips back home to Coeur d’Alene always included time on Tubbs Hill, the lake, camping or just being outside. On the beach, oh how I loved the wildness of the ocean crashing against the sand and rocks, along with the surprises one might find. I tried working in the newspaper industry but I’d fought so hard for my life and some sort of recovery for my body, that I was just a fighter. Couldn’t stand crooked politicians, hypocrisy and lies. So, if someone put me on a story, I was a dog with a bone, seeking the truth. I feel certain that I had my share of hypocrisy as well – wanting so badly to be perfect, do things perfect, to be perfectly honest – and that is what made this so important to me. We hate what we are and instead of looking at ourselves, we project onto others and make ourselves look better. I’ve made many mistakes in my life and still do – things that I’m not proud of, things that I regret – but show me a human being and tell me that their story isn’t about the same. There are no perfect humans. Some of my mistakes have taught me big lessons and today I try harder to focus on my own actions and try hard to not judge others. I’m not perfect and never will be – but there are mistakes I am grateful for because the revamped version of me is not so bad. I like her – I don’t like what she is going through because she could do so much good if people would let her. Kind of weird to talk about myself in third person there. What I know is that we are all a work in progress and we get to continue refining our lives and our skills until the very end.
Yellowstone has been a hard place. Before ever meeting me a woman decided that I could not see the wolves and that she would run me out of the park. She had allies, in the form of other regular visitors and some park rangers. I didn’t ask her permission to be in the park and never will. What I believed is that if I worked really hard to do the right thing, follow the rules, show everyone that I was not a violent killer like she wanted everyone to believe, show everyone that I was on the side of the animals – maybe not the humans – then all would be fine. What I did not know at that time was the lies she was willing to tell in order to cause problems. It wasn’t only me but I got the brunt of it because of refusing to leave – because of standing up to her. I even tried to get along and because of that missed a lot of good wolf photography. But, nothing was good enough. Nothing would ever be right. So, I began the long hard road of learning to do what was right for me, regardless of the constant criticism and complaints to the park service. This really fueled things – when I began hiking like Yellowstone allows, right under their noses, they lost control. Up to that point they shamed people to behave as they wanted, not the park rules, but theirs. And, the lies continued.
And, I continued. I resolved to continue becoming a better photographer, to continue learning about and enjoying the park and wild animals, and OMG I got a permit for guiding people. The guide permit was really the last straw for these folks and here I thought that I was just leading my own life and doing the same as everyone else – making a living. But, the beating down became more intense and they began a concerted effort to get me in trouble with law enforcement. So, I fought back and that was the next last straw. I told the truth and some of it was on video. No one believed I had the right to stick up for myself with the truth, and the war raged on. Along the way they managed to get many others involved by the stories that they told. Can you imagine having a client with you when some big male wolf watcher accuses you of assaulting a ranger with a tripod? Yep, their accusations became more and more outrageous. And, they didn’t like it when I was able to show the truth.
Well, the park service showed everyone what was true by not taking away my guiding permit, not ticketing me for the many supposed offenses, and not running me out of the park. Moreover, the parked decided that they had no business trying to destroy people’s lives, all in the name of the wolves. And, big things changed in wolf world Yellowstone. There is no more daily, constant telemetry, which is huge for the wolves and the rest of the park’s resources. There are no special privileges – the park wants things to be fair and they want the war to end.
This was about the time that a long-time wolf watcher decided to retaliate with a website about me, containing one lie after another. They have worked hard to destroy my business and my credibility. Anyone with common sense knows that those things aren’t true or I wouldn’t be here. Anyone with common sense can come to the park and see that it is the very same people who are complaining about me breaking the rules, who are actually breaking rules. One nameless pathological liar posted a pic of a white car being driven by humans down the road and claimed it was mine, abandoned in the lane. Sheer desperation and out and out dishonesty. But then you can look through her scope at the log she is claiming to be a wolf. These folks would stop at nothing.
Yet, I continued on. A little worse for wear – no one gets through assaults like that unscathed or as the same person. Terribly angry and I had to work hard to put that aside and not treat everyone like they were the enemy. But, recently, I’ve been in the park a lot more and the hypocrisy is astounding – people are chasing the animals around with their cars, blocking their path and no one says anything about them. But, all eyes are on every move that I make. This one lady couldn’t get her eyes off of me the other day and I was remembering when streams of photographers were running to the creek to get the wolves, while I was quietly walking out of the forest where I’d stood and watched them go by, a couple of hundred yards away, with no commotion, and she came running to try and catch me in some act. She didn’t care about those that were actually running towards the wolves – in fact, in her pursuit of me, she was also running towards them, while I was walking away. These are just examples of what has gone on. But, yes, the hypocrisy is getting to me. What people do, is their business but they have no right to accuse me of what they are doing.
It seems that every time I post stories and pics of the wolves, or post about something cool that I’ve accomplished, the haters come out of the woodwork with their very strange accusations. I ran the Lamars out of the park – seriously? Moving carcasses, where did that come from? After looking at these people, I realized that they are scum and should not affect my life, no matter what they say. I mean, would I hang out with them ever, anyway? No, absolutely not. Since they aren’t here and have no clue, they must be speaking from jealousy. So, why am I worried? I want to move on with my life and enjoy whatever time is left.
So, I’ve been taking a hard look at things. My son, David, said that my work speaks for itself. So simple – guess he did not inherit my gift for a lot of words – and so true. My work is good and does speak for itself. I only care about the park and the animals and will never seek permission by other visitors to be here and speak for what I believe in. I wanted the park to be fair to everyone and they are really working on that – it will take awhile. The woman who started all of this is moving on, though still trying to run the show. The man who did the website had a stroke a few months later and has not been around for a long time. The park ranger retried. Rules have changed – rangers are allowing everyone to enjoy themselves. The park condition, itself, is better. I put everything on the line to fight for that. Everyone else is having a great time in the park, due to the many changes, so it is my turn as well. Get your eyes off of me and mind your own business. If you can’t do that, I’ll gladly call you out with video evidence of your own activities. But, leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone. It is a national park and we all deserve to enjoy ourselves. What happened in the past should never have taken place, there never should have been a group of people who thought that they owned the wolves in every way, and thought that they could run people out of the park with their lies and bullying. It is over.
I am going to let my work speak for itself. Thank you David, for those simple words. If you want to believe the lies about me, go ahead. But, I highly suggest that people look around at everyone before they single someone out – because there are no innocents. Just a bunch of people trying to enjoy one of the best places on earth.