In 1962 my brother Skippy asked me if I wanted to help him build a motel in West Yellowstone. The question was funny and we both started laughing. I wanted to shake my head yes and no at the same time but I didn't know how to do it. So I did. We brought our good friend Donnie Joe Heath into the deal mostly I think, because that's what guys in their thirty-somethings did in those days. We were all stars in the movies that played in our minds.

Donnie's mother Bam Hanson was the post mistress in town and his step-father, Pete, made rifles in the winter, and hunted a lot. They were really good people and I remember that Bam had the second go-away toilet in town. I forgot who had the first.

Anyway, those two guys didn't have any money but Skippy would build the thing almost single handed because he could do anything. And DonnieŠ.well, I guess he saw himself as the ultimate supervisor. On cold mornings he would order a cup of coffee just to keep his hands warm. I don't remember seeing him drink any of it but he probably did.

The problem was that I was still in the Air Force teaching the fighter gunnery school in Arizona with eight more years before retirement. Forget that I had a wife and two small daughters. The thought occurred to me that Skippy wanted me to be his partner because I had about $20,000 that I had saved over many years by buying Savings Stamps for ten cents or a quarter. I remember so many times, going to the post office wherever I was, buying a couple of stamps and pasting them in a little book that they provided.  Sometimes I was able to buy a Savings Bond, which cost $18.75 and if I held it for ten years to maturity, it would be worth $25. I had a lot of those because I was very patriotic.

So we built a sixteen-room motel on the south corner of Boundary and Madison and named it The Dude.  We ordered a huge neon Cowboy sign to put out front because we wanted the tourists to see us from blocks away. Everyone was so proud, and we decided to be the most expensive motel in town. Donnie went around to the better places and discovered that the best room to be had was $15 a night. So of course we charged $16.

One summer a governor's conference was held in West and Ronald Reagan, then the governor of California, checked into our motel. We gave him room #4. That night, when he came in late, he couldn't find his key and no one was in the office. The Los Angeles Times reported that “Our governor went around back and climbed in through the bathroom window.” We were famous.

I have fond memories of West Yellowstone and try to stay at The Dude when I come to town. I always ask for room #4.

ffenn@earthlink.net