Our Attempted Yellowstone Trip

Cami writing here… Last summer we had planned for a quick little trip to Yellowstone. I don’t think I have ever been and Lamoni went when he was 14 years old with his Scouts. We had planned a 3-4 day trip to go camping in Yellowstone National Park.

We left in the afternoon of June 20, 2016. We loaded all six kids in the Excursion (Milo, the baby, was just 3 months old) and hitched up our trusty old 1968 Aristocrat Lo Liner trailer to camp in. Well, mostly camp in – the Aristocrat doesn’t fit our whole family so we usually end up pitching a tent for the older kids. The Aristocrat was filled to the brim with our camping gear, tent, bikes, stroller, suitcases and various camping gear. Off we went! We have never been North through Wyoming and I have to say, it is beautiful! Star Valley was breathtaking and I fell in love with the landscape. Our navigation said that Yellowstone was 8-ish hours from our house and we were scheduled to arrive at our campsite a little after 10pm.

We were high up in the mountains about 2o miles south of Jackson Hole around 9pm when our trip took a nasty turn. With the Snake river on our right we heard a very loud POP! Flat tire on the trailer. Bummer! So, Lamoni pulled over as far as he could, but there was a guard rail on the right so we were sticking out a little in the road. The flat was on the driver side of the trailer. Lamoni went back to change the tire. I rolled the window down and immediately smelled something burning. “Whew!” I thought, “That tire must really be in bad shape.” Lamoni then comes running back to the truck saying “I need water!”

I remember thinking, “Why does he need water? He’s just changing a flat tire.” But I also recognized a small panic in his voice. So I got out of the truck to go see what was going on. He was grabbing water bottles and throwing the water on a small fire that had started up under the tire of the trailer. It was a small fire. But it was in a bad place. It was hard to get to it. We were throwing water from the bottle up and around the tire. We couldn’t get to the fire to make a difference. We had some people stop and help us. There was a guy who unhitched the truck and drove forward for safety. Lamoni was unscrewing the propane tanks from the front of the trailer while other helpers were using fire extinguishers to try to put the fire out.

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Lamoni decided to try and save some of our belongings when we knew things weren’t looking good. Since we were snug right up against the guard rail it was hard to open the door to the trailer. We were bending the frame of the door to get it open enough so Lamoni could squeeze through and start throwing stuff out. He first threw out a bunch of firewood that was in the way,(because that wasn’t going to help our situation in any way!) he then got to two bikes which happened to be Lamoni’s nice mountain bike and our oldest son’s bike. The bikes were strapped in pretty tight and Lamoni just cut the strap with his knife and threw out the first two bikes in the line-up. Then he threw out two suitcases, a coat, and one sleeping bag. By then the trailer was too smokey to see so we were yelling at him to just get out. I think we knew at that point it was gone. The nice guy who unhitched us moved our vehicle to the other side of the road and we watched it burn.

Why am I recording this? It didn’t cross my mind, my mind was full of emotions and disbelief of what was happening. At one point Lamoni looked back at me (while he was still fighting the fire) and said, “Why don’t you record this for us?” I was seriously flabbergasted. “WHY??” I answered. Lamoni shrugged and with a slight chuckle he said to me, “What else are you going to do?” Well, I guess he’s right! So I started to record. Why not!?!

 

One reason it was a total loss was because we were up in the mountains with no cell service. I remember one guy telling us, “We sent someone to call 911, but they won’t have cell service for 15 minutes or so until they come out of the canyon.” – Bummer.

The firetrucks and police finally came and helped to direct traffic. It was quite the site. They Highway Patrol Officers were very kind and helpful. They found a hotel for us in Afton, Wyoming and got us a discount.

It was amazing to see how fire can damage things in such a short period of time.

They called a tow truck to come and tow the remains into Jackson Wyoming. We headed back the other way to Afton, WY to get our hotel room. Just as we came out of the canyon after a 15 minute twisty road Lamoni gasped. We were sitting at a stoplight and he exclaimed, “MY FOOT!” Um, what about your foot? — “My Spongebob foot was in the trailer! We have to go back right now.” And with that, we turned around and headed back up the canyon to the burn site. That was the longest 15 minute drive we have ever taken. With every turn of the road we kept saying, “It’s got to be close, why aren’t we there yet?”

Lamoni couldn’t believe it took him 2.5 hours to remember that his prosthetic foot was in the trailer. It was just sitting on the bed in the back. It wasn’t buried, it would have been easy enough to get to. But for some reason he didn’t remember about it for a long time. He made the remark, “I would have saved my foot 100-times over before I saved my nice mountain bike… why didn’t I remember?” *** I have an idea of why he didn’t remember. I believe the Lord didn’t allow him to remember his foot for the safety of his life. I know Lamoni, and I know that if he would have remembered his foot at any time during the fire he would have risked anything to go in and try to save it. And Lamoni agrees with me.

We arrived at the site just when the tow truck was pulling the camper up onto his bed. Most of the firemen and policemen were still there. Lamoni jumped out and ran up to see if he could get a glimpse of his Spongebob foot. He knew it was a goner, but he had to try. The only thing he found that night was the socket part lying in the road. It was blackened carbon fiber.img_4423

It was very sad. That foot was the worst thing we lost in the fire. As Lamoni put it, “You just can’t go down to the store and buy these things. Even if you had the money, they aren’t on store shelves to easy-peasy walk out with. They take a lot of time to get the fit just right.”

The next day we went to the tow yard to see the trailer in daylight.

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It was sad to see it all clumped in a pile. We just couldn’t believe it still.

Since the kids didn’t have any clothes we decided to hit up a thrift store in Jackson Hole to get them one extra pair of clothes for the day. We also ended up buying a stroller at the thrift store. I had mentioned that maybe we should just head home. But Lamoni wouldn’t let this experience defeat us. “We’ve come this far, we have to at least go see Old Faithful! Let’s go and enjoy a few hours in Yellowstone. We will not be defeated!” The kids and I all agreed so we headed to Yellowstone through the Grand Teton’s.

We saw these two items below in the Historic Old Faithful Inn and couldn’t help to snap a picture…

We returned home the next day. Lamoni left the following day to go back to Jackson Hole and retrieve our trailer. (All in one day, it was a long trip for him!) He took his brothers flatbed trailer and brought back the burned trailer so we could go through it.

Our oldest son was the winner and found the bottom part of the Spongebob foot in the rubble. Hooray! There is nothing much we can do with it… we’ve thought about making it a planter. Why not?

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We’ve talked a lot about this experience. It has been 8 months since the fire and we’ve had some time to reflect. We talked right away with the kids about how the things we lost were just “things”. We knew how blessed we were that no one was hurt. It could have been so much worse. We thank our Heavenly Father for watching over us and giving us this experience to learn and grow from. We want to thank the many “helpers” who stopped and helped us on the side of the road that day. The kindness of the strangers and the law enforcement/fire fighters really touched me. I don’t know any of your names but I think about your service often. May God bless you.

One of the sweetest things was a few days later our 8-year-old brought Lamoni this picture she drew. She knew how important this foot was to Lamoni and wanted to draw this for him. img_4439

Rest in peace Spongebob foot…. You were an excellent foot.

And Hey, Yellowstone, we’ll try again another day.

The kids are going to stare . . . might as well make them smile.

When Lamoni was fixin’ to get a new foot a few months ago, we started the usual “fabric search”. We were scanning the Internet for a small amount of cool, fun, amazing fabric that his prosthetic guy would use to cover the carbon fiber socket of his new leg. (Technology is so amazing!) Why search the Internet you may ask? Because we live in a small, middle-of-nowhere town, and Walmart’s fabric section can be somewhat lacking in “coolness”.

Lamoni narrowed his search down to two fabric patterns: sharks, with blood in their teeth, and a SpongeBob SquarePants pattern. We couldn’t choose, so we ordered both! When he returned from his prosthetic appointment in the city I asked him what fabric he chose to leave with them. He replied, “The SpongeBob one.”  I asked him why he chose that fabric and he answered, “For the kids.” Now, as much as I knew he meant it was for our kids, I also knew it was for ALL kids.

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Kids stare. Heck, even some adults stare. And that is totally normal. When they see someone, or something that is “different” than what they are accustomed to they will stare out of curiosity. That’s usually what it is – just plain curiosity. There is no harm in that.

When Lamoni and I were first married I noticed the stares a lot. When we would walk the mall, I would notice the extra attention he would bring. This never bothered me, but I did find it curious. It was something I never thought of before. I mentioned the “extra attention” to Lamoni and he just shrugged and almost laughed with a half-smile, “I don’t notice it anymore.” He had grown up being the “different” one and he was no stranger to stares. It doesn’t bother him, and after so many years it just slips through his filter and is a normal part of life.

I will tell you this: When a child stares or points with an exclamation of “Look Mommy!”, the situation only gets awkward when the adult tries their hardest to “shush” the child, tells them to not stare, or tries to ignore the whole “embarrassing” encounter. We have an idea . . .teach the children that it’s okay to be curious about something that seems different. It’s okay to ask questions.  Knowledge will eliminate any fear of the new and unknown to the child. Yes, I understand that most adults are worried about the child’s “manners” but shushing the child and telling them not to stare can plant a small seed of fear, fear of the different and unknown.  If they point and exclaim “Look Mommy!” gently acknowledge the new discovery and explain that people are all different and different is okay. It’s as simple as that! No need to go deep into a discussion on differences and shapes, sizes, yadda yadda. Simply have a small conversation with your child about the situation they are pointing to and move on. (Unless you are fortunate enough to stop and have a chat with the “different” person. What a great experience for your child!) Don’t try to hush your child and push away/ignore the whole encounter – this only teaches your child that “different” is bad and not to be talked about. It all comes down to being an example to the children.

Now I’m not saying that you should take your child and approach every amputee (or handicapped person) and ask them about their life and experiences. I cannot speak for every amputee and not all are ready to share their story. The best advice is to pay attention to their body language; you will be able to tell if they want to share their story and ease the child’s curiosity.

Lamoni loves to talk to kids. If we have time and he sees that the child is willing and interested, he will answer any questions that are asked and he might even take his foot off and let the child touch the prosthetic foot. Now reading body language goes both ways because Lamoni will only go as far as he senses the child is comfortable with.

The child’s smile and amazement that this “man with a SpongeBob foot” is normal, not scary, and can do everything they can do is a great reward to witness. Just for fun, Lamoni will sometimes tell the child that a shark bit off his foot while he was surfing. A quick back-story: when I met Lamoni, he was a bushy-blond Southern Oregonian who surfed the California/Oregon coast, so this story is very believable. (But not true of course!) When he laughs and tells them that the real story of how he lost his foot was because of a faulty lawnmower, I tell you almost every time­ the mother (Yes, it’s always the mother) gets huge eyes and enthusiastically points to Lamoni’s leg and says, “See! See! I told you kids, this is why you should never play outside when so-and-so is mowing the lawn!” *Sigh* If only we had a dollar every time this was said.  The mother’s rant quickly turns Lamoni into the poster boy of why the kids should not play around lawnmowers. But again, he is used to this. Then the mother will usually ask if he uses riding lawnmowers himself. Almost expecting him to say “No I don’t use them, didn’t you just see how dangerous they can be?”. Instead he surprises them with this comment, “Yep I sure do! I even started a lawn care business once. It was great!”

Why not work on the cycle of “good manners” and of hushing the curious child. Lamoni hopes to “break the ice” with children and help them not to be afraid of something, or someone, different.  So, with his SpongeBob foot on Lamoni knows that the kids are going to stare . . .  might as well make them smile.