This year in Yellowstone we returned to Stephens creek buffalo ranch and had no shortage of work to be done but we did have a great time working along side new folks and meeting the new faces of Yellowstone forever. Yellowstone forever is the only official non profit of Yellowstone and provides some very critical funding and services to the park that would otherwise no get funded or completed. Yellowstone Forever is the product of a recent merger between the Yellowstone park foundation and the Yellowstone association. Yellowstone forever brought out a small army of volunteers to help us with the project demo on the first day and returned again to help with the last days worth of work on the corrals.
We had disabled veterans come from all over the country this year to get the job done and by no means was it an easy task. This year we constructed of feet of paneled buffalo fence. The job required a fence frame made from steel pipe casing with H braces and gates and then welding on the steel panels that would contain the bison. It was a very labor intensive job considering every single joint had to be cut, coped, grinded, fitted and welded before moving on to the next piece. Since everything was made of steel it had to be moved and lifted with machinery such as skidsteers and tractors. I am sure the job site looked like chaos from afar. Dustin Sene, the ranch Forman told us that there was no way he and his small crew would be able to even touch the amount of progress we made in one week compared to a year with his crew.
In the midst of the working chaos there were new friends made and new bonds that would have an everlasting effect. Not just with the veterans but with the park, its employees and the families of the folks we worked with. On Wednesday night the folks at Stephens creek buffalo ranch put on a spread for us in the barn with the help of their spouses and family serving home cooked meals and conversation. That night each veteran stood and personally thanked everyone and shared their personal story in the barn for the experience the helped create.
We ended up doing demolition and rebuilding about 2700′ of fence in the week we were there. A bit over a half mile of post pounding, noticing and welding in the heat, wind and even cold rain blowing sideways. Most would think of these conditions as miserable and grueling but the vets just chuckled and continued on with a smile because they have seen the worst that life has to offer and this little working vacay was far from it.
Knowing that our major job was to help out the rangers and the folks that work in the park they all knew that the job took priority so no feelings were hurt when we decided to skip the sight seeing and fishing inside the park in order to complete the task at hand.
I really have to congratulate the folks that we worked along side this year since the going was tough and the job was intense but they all held in their and gave it their best. And that is all anyone could ask for.
I am putting together a video when I get home that recaps the trip and also shares some insight into the week of work and friendship in a very secluded place from the public eye. As for now I am typing this post from the iPad in the truck on the way back from Yellowstone.
Warfighter alumni and volunteers having a post work day toast before dinner in the barn served by park employees and families.