THE DIAMOND K RANCH: A HALF CENTURY LATER

by michael on January 14, 2011

It was the fall of 2008 when my brother Rob and I met at Yellowstone Park.  The purpose of the visit was to tour this great, national phenomenon for the benefit of our families. We stayed in a luxurious log home in Island Park, Idaho about 30 miles from West Yellowstone, Montana.

Early one morning after breakfast I suggested that we drive to the Diamond K site located half way between Irwin, Idaho and Alpine, Wyoming.  The Diamond K was the Keyser family ranch.  Rob agreed, but somewhat reluctantly as he was thinking about the Yellowstone tour.

We anticipated from previous camping trips in the late 60’s to find most of the ranch, including the cluster of buildings, under Palisades Lake which was created from the Snake River dammed up at Irwin.  We expected that some of the ranch—northwest of the new road—would be out of the water.  The natural landmark here would be an outcropping we called White Cliffs.

We drove over the dam at Irwin and turned east.  After five miles the road swung left and I stopped and with excitement declared, “It’s gone.  There’s no more lake.”

In the distance the sun was flashing off the Snake River moving lazily  through its old course.  In the foreground was a plain of grey muddy lake bottom.

Rob inquired, “Does this mean that the whole ranch is out of the water?”

“Must be, let’s make tracks.”

We lost our bearings since White Cliffs was replicated many times along Idaho SR 25.  We passed a sign indicating Indian Creek which was the eastern boundary of the ranch.  We turned around and with four wheel drive and dead reckoning located the foundations of the ranch buildings.  Our vista was from the Bachelor Shack—a converted granary—where Rob and I stayed on our many visits to this special place.

Rob had just visited the family burial site Mt. Olivet in Salt Lake.  He had noted that Grandfather’s second wife was buried next to him and that Grandmother Florence was no where to be found.  He was very upset.

While looking at the hills behind ranch compound, Rob asked with urgency, “Where is Grandmother buried?”

“Well, Rob, she’s not buried.  In 1950 we scattered her ashes into the wind at Teton Grove.  You know, the small canyon in back of the ranch house.  We used to hike up there for picnics and the great view of the Tetons.”

Rob turned and started to cry.  I comforted him with a hug and  my own tears.

We gave closer inspection to the detritus of the Shack’s foundation.  We found a wood stove lid and attendant lifter.  This was on the floor of the back room which served as the kitchen.  The most moving view was from the back porch where some workman had tossed our two metal cots into the alfalfa field.  There was no rust and after a half century they still worked.  With those cots memories nurtured over a life time came rolling forward.

We formed a prayer circle to thank the Almighty for this remarkable experience.

That night I wrote down that incredible afternoon and it became the chapter “Journey of Remembrance” in my novel  “Tales of the Circle P.”  There still are no words to describe this emotion of discovery and memory.

Michael J. Keyser


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