Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Meeting Ladybird Johnson

In June, 1976, when my elder son Jeremy had just graduated from Berkeley High School at the age of 17, we celebrated by taking a camping trip together.. We shared the driving, and covered a lot of ground. It was an exciting trip, because as we left Craters of the Moon National Monument, we began hearing reports that the Teton Dam had ruptured, causing widespread flooding.near Rexburg, Idaho. This was on our route to Teton National Park!

We found a camping spot, and spent a short night there in our sleeping bags. (We had no tent) It was in late June, and we were north and east of Berkeley, so our watches (not yet reset to Mountain Time) told us that it it was only about 4 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time when I awoke at dawn, and told a reluctant Jeremy that we should be on our way.

We were able to drive into Rexburg without difficulty, and soon found a diner, where we had a good breakfast, and checked for local news. We found that we could drive past what was left of the dam, toward Grand Teton National Park. That's a very beautiful area, but this isn't a detailed account of our trip, so i'll move along to our visit to nearby Yellowstone.National Park, which we eagerly explored, seeing all the variety of wildlife.and other features, such as Old Faithful.

We drove up to a viewpoint, where a river runs far below. We were almost alone, but I soon recognized Lady Bird Johnson, the widow of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who had died three and a half years earlier. Ladybird was accompanied by just one staff person, who didn't intercept us, as moved forward to introduce ourselves. There was no-one else in the immediate vicinity, and Ladybird was friendly and welcoming. We chatted with her for a few minutes, probably talking about the dam break and the beauty of our surroundings. I don't recall Jeremy's reaction: I'll send him a copy of this, and see what he remembers. To me, it was a highlight: one doesn't often get to chat to a former First Lady. I'll always remember her gracious Texan manner to a pair of Californians, met in a corner of Wyoming.. .

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