Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Great grandparents - Arthur and Lily McCain

Jackson, Wyoming plays a big role in our family history. Here, my great-great grandparents Simpson homesteaded large tracts of land that are now part of the town. Here, my great-grandparents Redmond homesteaded the Spring Gulch Ranch, which they sold to a member of Butch Cassidy's gang, reportedly for cash. They used the proceeds to buy the Red Rock Ranch at Kelly, which they turned into a dude ranch that is still in operation today. Here, my great-grandfather Arthur Clinton 'Mac' McCain, was the Supervisor of the Teton National Forest from 1918 - 1936.

Because we lived in a different town, and since Mac died when I was six,  I know him only from photos and written documents in my possession. Fortunately, he left his descendants with an account of his life, focusing on his Forest Service experiences. Written in 1929, it reveals to me that he was a man of bravery, wit and humor. Some of the experiences he describes are harrowing, like being trapped on a ledge for 2 days and nights by a forest fire. Some are humorous, like the chicken stories. Some are filled with pathos, like the time he read in a newspaper the tragic account of the drowning of a woman and her two children, "describing to a tee my Guards buckboard and horses, my wife and kiddies, the ford where they would cross to town". When he finally read the names of the unfortunate, he "almost shouted for joy, but was soon depressed with sorrow and sympathy for my oldtime cowpuncher friend" whose wife and children were the victims. 

After Mac retired in 1936, he and Lily purchased a travel trailer  so that they could be mobile. His wit is palpable as he explains:

A picture worth a thousand words
I love this photo of my great-grandparents. Two happy people sitting outside their home on wheels with the curtains on the window and the vintage automobile out front. It probably seemed like a palace in comparison to the one room log shack where Mac started his Forest Service career with Lily and their two "kiddies". 

Mac's account

This map of Montana provides us with some perspective on the rugged area where Mac and Lily lived in their first assignment at Hannan Gulch. The red pin is on the South Fork of the Sun River. Miles City, their next assignment, is in the bottom right corner of the map, and Ashland, where Mac said he moved them because there was no forest at Miles City, is about half-way between Miles City and Billings, probably about one hundred miles south of I94.

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