Girls Now Carry Mail on Route Once Held as Worst in West
There was a time when the postal route from Gardiner to Cooke City was considered one of the most dangerous and expensive in the entire postal system.
Until three years ago the path, even with improved Yellowstone park roads was no summer tour. Drifts blocked the highways and many a car was jammed. In the earlier years, times without number, the horseback route ended at Mammoth and from there the mail went on to Cooke City carried by a man wearing snowshoes.
Today, however, two girls handle the route. For three years they never have been late. They are Marcia Bean and her sister, Mrs. Doris Rice, both of Gardiner. Neither weighs more than 100 pounds and each is proud of her share in carrying the mail.
Reason for the change in conditions is the appropriation three years ago of $3,000 annually for keeping the highway from town to town, through Yellowstone park, clear.
In the first place, officials say, keeping the road clear is an economy. There were times in earlier years when it cost $5,800 a year to maintain service on the route.
In the second place, opening the 60 miles of highway has thrown Yellowstone park open to winter travel in that section and has created a winter resort where only summer travel existed before.
It was a lonely task to carry the mail in the old days. Cooke City then was an isolated town. The giant mountains filled the skies and drew the snow. Sheer inability to conquer those mountains has resulted in little more than prospecting in the district which is considered very rich in mineral deposits. Proof of this is shown in the payment recently to Pete Branser of Gardiner of $35,000 for rights to his claims in the district. Branser, Gardiner folk will tell you, wanted a million or nothing for those claims. He held out for it stubbornly for years but finally, when he was 90 years old, he gave up the dream of millions and took the $35,000 cash to insure his comfort in his old age.
It was into these lonely distances that the old mail carriers had to go. Most of them were proud of their jobs and, the mail went through, storms and snows to the contrary.
Today, however, the young women step into their light truck and take off down the highway. They go in through the Gardiner Gate and check at the ranger station where hundreds of antelope graze.
They travel on to Mammoth where they turn off to Tower Junction where the great northern herd of Yellowstone elk, estimated at some 14,000 animals, comes for winter feeding. They speed on to Soda Butte and then up the narrow Lamar canyon to Silver Gate postoffice, a little way beyond the park boundaries. From here they mark the sharp climb into Cooke City.
It used to take days for this run when the storms were bad. Now, even in the worst weather, it takes a little more than three hours.
After a rest in Cooke City the girls pick up the mail there and start the return run over the same route. It is downhill most of the way back but the schedule is held and it takes a complete day for the trip.
The Helena Independent, March 18, 1893
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