Erin O’Connor

Erin O'Connor_On the Surface

Boyle’s Hill was one of my first favorite painting spots in Jackson Hole.  Just far enough out of town, narrow dirt roads laced around the green ponds, and wise outstretched cottonwoods offered respite from the summer sun.  Every vantage held artistic merit.  This was an idyllic local secret – all-American really – a place for family picnics, the Mountain Man Rendezvous, and kids to hang out the way kids do.  Some nights, yeah, there were parties.  Some days were sweetly quiet, the breeze rustling through the trees, dragonflies buzzing above the water, and just me painting.

Trumpeter swans were one of my first favorite birds.  In the 1966 edition of ‘Birds Of North America, A Guide To Field Identification’ (the very book I used as a child and still treasure today), it said this:  “This largest swan, recently close to extinction, is now increasing in Yellowstone Park, Wyoming…  Very rare outside it’s breeding range.”   My father, who knew of such things, said that fewer than 100 remained in the wild here.  I worried terribly about the extinction of swans.

A few years back, my father and I stopped at Boyle’s Hill.  There are only two small parking areas now, the ponds fenced off, the inner dirt roads grown over, all traces of its previous use gone.  Trumpeter swans crowd the banks, loud and raucous in their success.  They glide across the green water in a riotous cacophony of gleaming white.  Dad was thrilled, taking photos, and I was thinking about the next time I’d come out to paint.  Neither of us mentioned how easily this might not have happened.

This idyllic spot is still something of a local secret, and that’s okay.  When preservation fails, conservation can make the difference.   The Jackson Hole Land Trust has, in no small way, assured vital habitat for wildlife.  One acre, and one crucial pond at a time.

– Erin O’Connor