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The Witches of Yellowstone

Story ID:2510
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Writers Conference:$500 2007 Family Memories Writing Project
Location:Yellowstone Park Wy. USA
Year:1965
Person:The Campbells
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The Witches of Yellowstone

The Witches of Yellowstone

The Witches of Yellowstone

The Witches of Yellowstone

The Witches of Yellowstone
by Kathe Campbell

Witches have fascinated and horrified many in our culture for centuries. From Shakespeare’s three witches brooding over a bubbling cauldron in Macbeth to the Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West, the old hag of “Double, double toil and trouble." Her face green and hagged, and her pointed hat trailing a black veil, she flew across the sky on her broomstick, cackling and shrieking her terrifying threats. "Fire burn, and cauldron bubble” is still alive and well in movies, television and in Halloween’s trick-or-treating neighborhoods.

Eventually, witches fled their hollow mountain to find a place within our own family. "Please, Mom, please," begged Katie, our four-year-old, "read us The Wizard of Oz at bedtime." Frank Baum's turn of the century children's classic had been my mother's with it's scuffed cover and crimped pages, and I was tickled my little one had asked.

"Sounds like fun, but only a chapter or two each night," I happily agreed. "Jump in beside Katie and you can listen too, Molly. Lights out by nine-thirty though."

Both girls sat mesmerized as I animated the words with dramatic flair, then allowed my voice to drop and soften in all the right places. The munchkin's high-pitched monotones kept the girls in stitches as did my impression of the whizgagging and screeching witches. I awoke many a morning with a sore throat after dubbing them all, including the Wizard and Dorothy's assortment of tag along compatriots.

On Easter Sunday, one of the major television networks touted The Wizard of Oz, perfect for an early evening popcorn movie. The opening scenes recanted a wondrous time when my own parents took me to see the popular film when it first opened in theaters. Now I was enthralled again, glued to each familiar character, wrapped in the arms of a nostalgia I hoped to never forget.

My poor Ken somehow missed seeing the movie, his family no doubt too poor to cough up the change as the nation's depression ended. We viewed every electrifying scene, enrapt and full of emotion, while Tim and the girls sprawled on the floor adding their own brand of sound effects. I was glad we girls had read the book together that winter.

Pure déjà vu emerged that July as Tim and his sisters toured the thermal water features at Yellowstone Park. Six years older, he held their hands tight, reading the signs out loud as they traveled along the terraces and boardwalks. We stood paralized as the geysers unleashed whooshing, scalding reservoirs gushing skyward, then slowly dying, leaving rushing rivulets in their wake.

As the boiling aqua hot pools, fumaroles, and mud pots spat and steamed, Tim delivered his witching imitations, chanting the legendary toils and troubles. Molly and Katie decided to mimic the fun to a higher plane as fellow sight-seers giggled at their Oz antics.

"Look here at this mud pot you guys," grinned Tim. "All that yucky smelly rotten egg stuff is what the mean Wicked Witch of The West stirs in her cauldron."

"Oh, Timmy, there were no rotten eggs in The Wizard of Oz," as Molly dampened the fun and Katie went along with Tim's satirical joshing.

The day had been long and we had reservations for Saturday night dinner at the Old Faithful Lodge. Another few minutes and the renowned Old Faithful Geyser would rumble and spurt, then spew her mighty surges of water towering into the air. Tourists, cameras, and camcorders were alert and ready, everyone talking excitedly up and down the decked concourse.

Suddenly, Katie spied a group of habited nuns sightseeing along the boardwalks. She yanked on Tim's hand and shrieked in deafening curiosity . . . "What are those witches doing here, Timmy?"

Tim motioned for her to shush, Molly muzzled her mouth, Ken brandished an irritable grin, and I wanted to die. And with that, uproarious laughter emanated from what seemed a thousand onlookers. My consternation turned to utter relief when the nuns stopped and chuckled politely at my husband's precocious child.

"Katie," scolded Tim, "those are not witches, they are nuns from the Catholic Church. You've seen nuns before."

"No I haven't, Tim. I've never seen nuns all dressed up like witches before. These must be the good witches from the north, so next Halloween, I'm going to be a good witch. They have such nice faces."

*****************

Morning Glory Pool
Imperial Spits
Castle Geyser
Old Faithful