A Tale: Stampeded by an Umbrella — Wingate, 1885

General George W. Wingate, a wealthy New Yorker, took his wife and 17-year-old daughter to Yellowstone Park in 1885. Although there were roads by then, the Wingates decided to travel on horseback and the women rode sidesaddle. Here’s General Wingate’s description of an incident that occurred while the ladies were riding through the Paradise Valley north of Yellowstone Park.


Hemmed in on every side by high mountains every breath of air was excluded, while the sun beat into it like a furnace; consequently the ride was very hot and tiresome. The heat was so great that the ladies got out their umbrellas from the wagon and raised them, but slowly with great care, for fear of stampeding the ponies who were not familiar with those refinements. The horses, however, were tired and languid from the heat and paid no attention to them so the rode forward in comfort.

As we reached the end of the valley, where the Park branch of the Northern Pacific terminates, a dashing young ranchman rode out from behind some buildings. He had a spirited horse and rode well—and he knew it. Ladies were scarce in the valley, and the opportunity to display his horsemanship and personal graces to two at once was not to be thrown away. So he swung his horse around and rode towards us, making his steed curvet and prance, while he swayed to the motion as easily and gracefully as if in an armchair.

While we were admiring him, a sudden gust of wind came whirling out of a canyon. It caught my daughter’s umbrella and instantly turned it inside out, with a loud “crack.” At the unwonted sight and sound, our horses roused from their lethargy, simultaneously reared, snorted and bolted in different directions, and at their top speed.

The steed of our gallant ranchman was even more frightened that ours. It ran half a mile with him, and as we last saw him he had all he could do to keep it from dashing into a barbed wire fence. The change from his jaunty air to that of anxiety to keep the horse out of the fence was sudden and ludicrous. I fear his pride had a sad fall.

We could do nothing with the horses until May threw away her unbrella, and even then none of our steeds would approach it.  As [our guide] Fisher said, “umbrellas and cayuses don’t agree.”


— Text adapted from Through Yellowstone on Horsback by George W. Wingate, 1886

— Detail from illustration in Wingate’s book.

— You also might enjoy “Little Invulnerable,” N.P. Langford’s description of the antics of an undersized horse.

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