Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West greets The Land of Wonders
A very responsive audience, essentially all of whom indicated they had visited Yellowstone some time in their lives, listened to Suzanne Cane and me this past Monday at the Bill Lane Center. We read them some of our translations of Jules Leclercq’s well-crafted paragraphs and showed engravings from his 1886 book, La Terre des Merveilles, and contemporary photos of Yellowstone scenes.
Created and endowed by long-time publisher of Sunset magazine Bill Lane, the BLC’s goal is to advance “scholarly and public understanding of the past, present, and future of western North America.” With Yellowstone and all 400 of the other National Park Service units temporarily closed due to the government shutdown, everyone there enjoyed reminiscing about visits to the park and hearing Leclercq’s words, such as these that show his sensitivity to preservation of the wonders of the park:
The crater of Old Faithful is already covered with hundreds of names carved by visitors on the smooth surface of the rock. In a few hours the inscriptions are covered with a siliceous coating, which preserves the most insignificant names.
The crude hand of vandals does not stop there; it is truly revolting to see them taking the brutal ax to the fragile and delicate concretions under the pretext of searching for specimens of geyserite.
In building these admirable monuments, in artistically fashioning them, in sculpting and ornamenting them, nature has employed a slowness, a meticulousness, a patience of which men would not be capable, and it takes but one minute for irreverent hands to disfigure the work of thousands of years. There are few craters that have not been damaged by ax and spade, and, if care is not taken, they will gradually crumble to pieces under the attacks of these ruthless destroyers.
It is the duty of the American government to halt these devastations, to prevent the criminal profanations of a sanctuary wherein no mortal should enter without a religious feeling of respect.
I got a hearty laugh here when I interspersed, “And it is the duty of the American government to reopen the parks!”