Five Characters

We spent a few days at Grand Teton National Park, before saying “meh, let’s go to Yellowstone.”

It’s still fresh in my mind, so the vacation I went on a few weeks ago is the most memorable vacation I’ve ever experienced. I visited Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. These are two of the most beautiful parks in our country, possessing a profound pulchritude that is hard to forget.

But even more beautiful were the characters who accompanied me on my peregrination through these natural wonders. Of course my wife, Kay Yak Gnu, was by my side, as usual. But we also had a family reunion with my brother, Rowan Waters Gnu, his wife Connie Tipples Gnu, and my grand nephew, Wiley Cody Gnu, Jr.

Yellowstone is just a hop, skip, and a jump north of Grand Teton. Of course, one of the first sights we had to see after we hopped over was Old Fuckin’ Faithful. How could we go to Yellowstone without visiting this, the most famous geyser in the world? True to form, it shot off its wad on time, inspiring lots of oohs and awes from us.

We formed a jolly group of five, and I’m planning some posts about our fun times, touring these parks. So I think it’s only polite that I introduce you to each one of the unforgettable characters that helped make my vacation so memorable.

First I’ll introduce you to my wife, Kay. But if you’ve been following my blog for awhile, an introduction is probably not necessary, since I have a tendency to mention her now and then.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Yep, Yellowstone has its own Grand Canyon. We discovered there’s a sampling of a wide variety of natural wonders at this park.

I’ve loved Kay for about 28 years now. If you see Kay, you’d know why. She’s a beauty, of Mongolian ancestry. She can be sweet as a deep-fried dumpling, and as sour as plain yogurt. And she keeps me in line. Or at least, she tries.

Kay observing the Midway Geyser Basin, from a safe distance. Yellowstone is an active supervolcano that could erupt at any time. And even though it last erupted more than 600,000 years ago, we still felt a little nervous.

Kay is a guilt queen with a long memory. She remembers all the awful things I’ve done, going back decades ago. Shit I’ve forgotten about long past, until she stimulates my engrams with an unflattering anecdote. She frequently uses these memories like arrows in a quiver, to shoot me down and remind me and the rest of the world what a total asshole I am.

My wife, Kay, observing a hot spring at the Black Sand Basin of Yellowstone. That’s my brother, Rowan, in the orange shirt to her right. Notice his coffee mug? Sadly, he’s a damned addict, just like my wife.

And now, meet my brother Rowan. He’s a tax professional, who owns a big tax preparation firm in a middle-sized city. Growing up, he always struggled in school, and finally dropped out of the 11th grade. But now this dipwad is an Enrolled Agent who can represent clients before the IRS, whenever they are audited. Kind of scary, huh?

Rowan may be a tax pro by trade, but he’s a standup comedian by habit. He thinks quick on his feet, and constantly bombards everyone with rapid-fire quips and hilarities.

I’m the opposite. I think on my ass, and after much reflection, pondering, and pounding my forehead with my fist, I hesitatingly peck something out on my keyboard that I think might be humorous. If my brother sees it and agrees that it’s funny, he shamelessly steals it. Just like you’d expect from a typical comedian.

Rowan on the left, and me on the right, on rocks in Lewis Lake. He’s trying to steal some jokes I have hidden in my pocket, and I can’t get away from the bastard.

But Rowan can’t write worth a damn. I’m not even sure he can spell the word “spell”. I was the scholastic one. He was the fucking flunky who couldn’t make it through school. And now he’s a rich-assed tax pro. How the hell he ever found himself in this lucrative position still bewilders me. But I suspect he may have gotten some persistent coaching and help from Connie.

Connie is my sister-in-law. And just like my wife Kay, she’s the conscience of her family, who uses guilt to try to keep Rowan in line and save my brother from perdition.

There were lots of these big, hairy creatures in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone. I understand they’re temperamental, and you shouldn’t mess with them. But they didn’t seem to mind my zoom lens.

She and my brother have four grown, adult kids. And she makes sure they do everything they can for these grown adults. Rowan and Connie are wealthy from their tax business, yet Connie may just drive their finances to the point of bankruptcy, with all the cossetting and handouts that go to their children.

Connie manages the tax office, and is my brother’s boss. But he makes more money than she, and constantly reminds her of that fact. But no matter. Their grown, adult kids are getting it all.

Wiley Jr. is on the left, trying to take a picture of Lewis Lake with his big, fancy camera, that I’ll bet his grandparents paid for. His grandmother, Connie, is on the right.

Wiley Jr. is the son of my nephew, Wiley Sr. And Wiley Sr. is my brother’s youngest son. Senior went through medical school, partly with help from his parents and wife. After Senior completed his residency and became a full-fledged doctor, he promptly got a divorce. After eight years, he’s now on his third wife.

But Wiley Jr. is the one who accompanied me on this vacation, having been flown out special by his doting grandparents, so that he could experience Yellowstone. After all, no child should be deprived of the experience of Yellowstone.

The Grand Prismatic Spring, in the Midway Geyser Basin of Yellowstone. This is the third largest hot spring in the world, and my camera lens wasn’t wide enough to capture it all. Just believe me. It’s big.

Junior takes after his father. He is smart, well-mannered, and cunning as a coyote. He works as a barista for Starbucks, pushing the coffee poison on people. That alone should tell you something about his character.

Right now he’s in his third year of college, studying to be a CPA. After he graduates, my brother and sister-in-law are contemplating retiring, and giving the tax business to him. The same tax business that cost them $600,000 to buy. Because grandchildren are just as special and needy as regular children.

I shot this bull elk during a hunting trip along the Madison River, in Yellowstone. Don’t worry, I only hunt with my camera. It’s rutting season, and this guy is acting horny as hell, so it’s a good thing I have a zoom lens.

These four characters, Kay, Rowan, Connie, and Wiley Jr., shared the adventure of Yellowstone and Grand Teton with me. You may have made your own judgments about them, based upon my descriptions. I know I have my own judgments. But I love them, even for all the flaws I perceive.

Everyone is their own unique character. Each person must be met on their own terms. Because we can’t change them, and to try only stirs up hostility and throws a wet blanket on a fun party.

Mammoth Hot Springs, in the northwestern corner of Yellowstone. This is probably the most spectacular and popular of all the hot springs in the park. We got lucky and found a parking spot, or we would have had to get up real early in the morning to see this wonder.

The best we can do is tolerate the flaws of the characters we know, and admire and enjoy their good qualities. But even in admiration, we must avoid trying to be like them. We must make them meet us on our own terms, and embrace our own uniqueness, as we embrace theirs.

When no one tries to change each other, a good time can be had by all. And a good time is what we five characters had, deep in America’s wilderness.

We stopped and ate lunch near Soda Butte Creek, after driving through the Lamar Valley, in northeastern Yellowstone. From left to right sits Kay, Rowan, Connie, and Wiley, Jr. But I’m sure you can recognize them by now.


  • Honestly I think you have a cast of characters there that should be written into a long story. I got a “The Corrections” vibe there. The awesome photos certainly helped. I’ve never been to Yellowstone. I think I would laugh endlessly when the geyser blew, largely because I’m stupid.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Maybe there will be a long story one day. There were plenty of geysers in Yellowstone, so I think you’d get a lot of good laughs if you ever visit the place. And when it comes to nature, it makes us all stupid.


  • Wow, what a trip. Such beautiful places (and people, from your description). One of my goals is to visit more national parks.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I want to congratulate you on your open-minded acceptance of others, TG.

    Not everyone would be willing to tour two national parks with coffee addicts (and dealers) in tow. It’s great that you let bygones be bygones (and coffee beans be coffee beans) for this trip.

    Your brother is a tax professional. Maybe he wants to give the business away to avoid paying taxes on it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I had to bite my tongue a lot when it came to these coffee addicts. Nothing makes an addict angry like preachments from a temperate puritan.

      My brother will give the business away only because his wife tells him to. Until then, he has to keep working and building that equity up for his future gift.


  • Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Very nice that you got to travel with fun family and as Nancy said, that you learned to put up with coffee addicts. Did you feel slightly outnumbered. 🙂
    I thought perhaps in that water picture that you were trying to walk on the water! 🙂
    Great pics, and anxious to hear more about your adventures. My family needs to see Yellowstone sometime, they have been deprived and I would love to see the Grand Tetons too!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I did feel slightly outnumbered by the coffee addicts. But that helped me to feel slightly superior, too. And because of that, I tried to walk on water. So grateful the stones were there.

      Stop depriving your family, and go see these natural wonders. But be warned. It’s very crowded. Too many people keep going there. So go see them before it gets crowded out.


  • Congratulations on having a family that lets you write about them, and even post photos of them! When I write, I often have to pretend I don’t have a family lest I accidentally upset someone. And you were able to travel together! That’s even better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. But perhaps what you should really be congratulating me on, is my success at keeping this blog a secret from my family. My wife knows about it, but she doesn’t care. I don’t think I want anyone else to know about it. They might misunderstand and take something the wrong way.


  • This was pretty damn funny, TG. Which makes me think either your family doesn’t read your blog. Or they have really great senses of humour. Which is it?


    Liked by 1 person

  • Spoiling children is an age-old side effect of tax preparation. It’s to make up for the guilt of stealing from the government.

    Liked by 1 person

  • This was fantastic! Thank you for introducing me to your family. I smiled the entire read. I have a Connie in my family as well. Hell, I wish I was a favorite of our “Connie”

    Liked by 1 person

  • Damn – I’m reading these posts all out of order and I missed the get-to-know-you party.

    Loved your intros to the cast and I want to be one of Connie’s favourites too!

    Liked by 1 person

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