May 14, 2009
Grand Teton National Park will host a fireside chat with author Renee Howard Smelker at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 18, in the lobby of the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Smelker has just completed a book titled, The Bar BC Chronicle, Jackson Hole Dude and Cattle Ranching, that portrays life on the historic Bar BC Dude Ranch from the 1920s through early 1940s. The program is free to the public, and a book signing will immediately follow the informal discussion at the Grand Teton Association bookstore, also in the Discovery Center.
Smelker uses letters written between her father Bill Howard, wrangler and long-time foreman of the Bar BC Ranch, and ranch owner Irving Corse to capture a sense of what life was like on one of Jackson Hole’s best known and beloved dude ranches. Smelker, who lived at the ranch until she was sixteen-years-old, brings the place, indeed the whole valley, to life through the correspondence that passed between her father and Mr. Corse, co-owner of the ranch with Struthers Burt. Their letters, dating from March 20, 1929 through February 19, 1942, depict the day to day operations on the ranch and reveal the very different personalities and backgrounds of these two men. The letters are also supplemented with notes to explain meanings and provide historical context and relevant background information. Throughout the book, Smelker provides an engaging commentary, blending first-hand experiences with the history of this distinctive place and unique era.
“The history of Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park is closely entwined. Because Grand Teton was established on February 26, 1929, Renee Smelker’s descriptions of life on the Bar BC Ranch from 1929 through 1942 are especially relevant to us,” said Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott. “Renee has provided an interesting look at our mutual past, and having her as a guest author during the park’s 80th anniversary year is especially fitting.”