When Autumn Colours Called - By Dan MclLhenny 

Sally never swept her well-weathered front porch when Autumn colours called 

It wasn't some form of rebellion; she just really loved the Fall 

And all the leaves that touched down became her natural wall to wall patchwork 

Some nights she’d step outside stocking-clad or in bare feet 

There she’d push the leaves around and around with her toes in childish fun . . . 

Feeling, some were brittle, loaded with crackle while . . . others felt silky smooth 

She’d even bend sometime’s to collect them and carry each kind inside 

Under the light of a magnifying glass she’s study their structure well 

. . . Thinking what kind of story they'd tell! 

She’d sprinkle leaves over her sofa and maybe a few in her car 

And of course she’d create different designs and make her favorite a maple leaf star 

Her neighbors couldn’t wait to rake them away or bag them for the dump 

Another sack of sadness carelessly carried, burned and buried as rubbish lump 

Don’t they see the beauty here? Instead they make leaves disappear! 

So . . . Now we must wait yet another year to watch this leafy show. 

This seasons a marvel of magic, so fleeting we have just a smidgeon of days 

To witness the beauty unravel from whence a tree each came 

Ah the bold and beautiful presence when attached or sent in flight release 

Some go cartwheeling across the pavement finding a pleasant resting spot  

Sally never swept her well-weathered front porch when Autumn colours called.

The Place We All Try Once Again - By Dan'l MclLhenny 

Harry had an ache in his hands 

Where it had come from . . . 

He was not aware, it was just there 

Right now, holy cow, right now and how! 

The ache was in Harry’s hands 


A fiddler fiddles, a whittler whittles, 

A scribbler scribbles according to Muir 

Pure expression can pour out in passion 

Once all the practicing study is done 

One note follows another as . . . 

The knife to the wood makes the image appear 

Clear and concise inking a letter, better remember 

‘I’ve used glorious twice - Ahh, but . . . ‘tis such a nice word!’ 

Fiddlesticks, whittle chips and wadded-up paper 

Broken strings, dullish things and wordslinger flings 

Lead to the place we all try once again 

Until it becomes a gift for a friend 


Harry had an ache in his hands 

Where it had come from . . . 

He was not aware, it was just there 

Right now, holy cow, right now and how! 

The ache was in Harry’s hands

My Life Was Nothin' But Fun - By Dan MclLhenny 

Bought this cowboy hat back at age sixteen 

I’ve had it for the rest of my days 

Never the wind lifted it from me 

To set it flyin’ into the sea of sage 

It’s never fallen off in a barroom brawl 

‘Cuz I steer clear of those lively gents 

And arguments in general  

I reckon I’m that level headed that’s all 


Contentment is being up in the saddle 

Riddin’ my ‘ol tabbiano Tim 

Out for mornin’s sunbreak awakin’ 

When them rays come peekin’ through 

As shadows stretch wicked long and thin 

And coolness on Earth bites at my leathery skin  


Ya know . . . I’d do it all over again 

Everything I’ve ever done  

Yep, I’d do it all over again 

Ya see . . . the first time around 

My life was nothin’ but fun! 


Got me this harp when I turned twenty 

So we’ve been a trio forever of three  

It settles us down at our nightly campfires 

How it stays in tune is a mystery 

It sure is a goodin’ - a great compadre to my horse n me 

Where a cracklin’ fire and blanket of stars fit so perfectly  


Ya know . . . I’d do it all over again 

Everything I’ve ever done  

Yep, I’d do it all over again 

Ya see . . . the first time around 

My life was nothin’ but fun 


I may teach Tim how to whistle 

He’s the brightest horse I’ve known 

He’s really fond of my harmonica 

And the songs that yearn for home 

That would sure be somethin’ 

A whistlin’ steed and harp playin’ man 

We could tryout for the circus 

Or Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show 


Ya know . . . I’d do it all over again 

Everything I’ve ever done  

Yep, I’d do it all over again 

Ya see . . . the first time around 

My life was nothin’ but fun

Sharing stories of the Muries with the world - By Kylie Mohr 

‘Docent Dan’ is a natural fit for telling historical stories. 

By Kylie Mohr 


Each and every day Dan McIlhenny sat on the porch where the Wilderness Act of 1964 was envisioned. 

“My favorite picture growing up was the one that Ansel Adams took of the Snake River Overlook,” McIlhenny said. “As a little kid I saw that picture and I said, ‘God, I gotta go there.’ Those mountains just haunt me. So, in a way, I’ve been swooning all my life just like John D. Rockefeller Jr. was about how beautiful these mountains are.” 

As the wind ripples through the aspens and the Grand Teton peeks out from behind a tall forest, McIlhenny tells the stories of beloved conservationists Olaus and Mardy Murie to visitors from around the country, and the world, as the docent at Teton Science Schools’ Murie Ranch. 

“Docent Dan” shares the Muries’ history, and their achievements, all day long. But he’s more reserved when it comes to talking about himself. 

“A lot of people enjoy that, but I usually don’t talk about myself,” McIlhenny said. “I kind of feel like I’m a conduit here where I’m sharing this story.” 

McIlhenny, 67, always loved the mountains. 

“One of the reasons I’m here is because I love nature,” he said. “As a kid I grew up in the city in Southern California, but what I was longing for was to be in nature.” 

As a young man McIlhenny was a student of John Muir, a famous author, naturalist and conservationist whose writings contributed to the creation of many national parks, including Yosemite. 

“It’s like the Muries pick up where John Muir left off,” McIlhenny said. 

Every summer, McIlhenny said, his father took him out into the wilderness. 

“When you take a young person and you can give them the gift of going out into nature like that — the younger, the better — it really sticks with them,” McIlhenny said. 

But he didn’t make it to the Tetons until he was a grown man. After a four-year stint in the military, he saved enough money to put a down payment on property in the northern Sierras. He lived there for years. 

During that time he learned to be a singer and a songwriter. 

“I’ve been writing songs and singing for over 45 years,” McIlhenny said. “It’s been my passion. Even though I’ve had a lot of other jobs besides music during lean times, when other things had to be done to keep food on the table and so forth, music has always been a gift that I could give. I wrote a lot of songs about nature.” 

Like “Wyoming Why,” a song McIlhenny composed in 1982 when he and his wife traveled around the country — making it as close to Wyoming as Boise, Idaho. He 

Finally, in 2013, McIlhenny and his wife, Valerie Crawford, came to Jackson on a “dream vacation.” 

“We were just traveling around the park, and we came down here to the visitors center,” he recalled. “We just saw this gravel road, and my curiosity was peaked and I said, ‘What’s down at the end of this gravel road?’” 

The Murie Center was at the end of that gravel road, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of summer traffic. McIlhenny instantly recognized the house because of John Denver, a close friend of Mardy Murie who’d produced TV segments showing the house. 

“I said to my wife, ‘I know where I am,’” McIlhenny said. 

They sat on the porch for about an hour as the sun dipped low in the sky, coming back the next day for a tour. McIlhenny told the folks at the time that he’d love to get involved in doing fundraising through his music and signed up for a newsletter. 

Little did he know the impact that writing his name down on that mailing list would have. A year later his wife happened to see a job listing for an intern/docent. 

“And I thought immediately, ‘Intern — they probably want a young college person. They don’t want an old geezer,’ you know?” he recalled. 

Despite McIlhenny’s poo-pooing, he finally called at the urging of his wife. The director, Jon Mobeck, told McIlhenny the job was “not age-exclusive. We just need somebody who can tell the stories.” 

“And I said, ‘I think I could tell the story,’” McIlhenny said. “So in any case, when we hang up, he said to the staff — I learned this later on — ‘I think we’ve got our docent.’ So I’ve been here for five years since then.” 

In those five years McIlhenny has found his calling. 

“When you retire, sometimes you’re looking for some kind of purpose in your life,” McIlhenny said. “Personally, I feel like everything I did in my life before was a rehearsal for this.” 

He speaks with his hands, drawing in curious people of all ages from all around the world. 

“Had you come here when Mardy was alive she would have invited you into her home,” he tells visitors. “She’d connect with you in the heart.” 

Although McIlhenny never met either Murie in the flesh, he speaks lovingly of them. 

“She was as humble as the day is long,” he said of Mardy Murie. 

If you’d come to the Murie Ranch while she was there, he told a family congregated on the porch, she would’ve made a hot pot of tea for adults, lemonade for the children and her “secret weapon,” ginger “cry baby” cookies for all. 

Something McIlhenny loves about the legacy of the Muries is that people here in Jackson Hole knew them personally. 

“What I find that’s fun about this is that Mardy and Olaus lived in this community a long time, Mardy a lot more,” he said. 

“She only died in 2003. In reality, that’s not so long ago. So there’s many people in the community that knew her. And I keep getting these little tidbits of ways they crossed paths.” 

Near the end of Mardy Murie’s life, McIlhenny said, the community really rallied around her so she could die in her own home. 

“They volunteered their time or they brought money into the equation so that she could fulfill this wish,” he said. “It was a beautiful story of community outreach to her. It was kind of a returned favor, in a way.” 

Sometimes family members will translate McIlhenny’s stories for each other. This gets McIlhenny choked up. 

“To see, suddenly, a mother from another nationality who doesn’t know what you’re talking about, through the translation, burst into tears because she’s endeared to what Mardy did . . .” he trailed off. 

“Do you know what that does to me? It’s so special. I get these rewards all the time. I love my work, I really love it. I’m so honored to be here.” 

The docent job includes living on the Murie Ranch for six months. The rest of the time McIlhenny and his wife live in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. 

In the fall, bears wander through McIlhenny’s backyard to munch on hawthorne bushes. 

“It’s a good, wild place,” he said. “This just satisfies everything. I’m just on a constant good vibe about nature and wildlife. It addresses all my means and loves and so forth.” 

When he wants to get musical, McIlhenny pulls out his guitar and heads down the road to Dornan’s to play at the Hootenanny. 

Whether he’s playing music in front of the mountains, explaining Olaus Murie’s research as an elk biologist to children or describing how Grand Teton National Park came to be, McIlhenny is living out his childhood dream. 

“One of my favorite things is to wake up to a blue sky Wyoming day,” he said. “When I go outside I like to look up at the tips of the trees where they are reaching up to the blue sky. It’s one of my favorite things.”

There's A Dog On the Roof - By Dan MclLhenny 

There’s a dog on the roof 

There’s a dog on the roof 

I’d like to tell he’s bulletproof 

It’s not to imply this hound is aloof 

He’s just stuck up on the roof 

Maybe we should call Carole King and James Taylor  

I’d betcha they’d know what to do 

How to rescue a pup indeed in need 

It’s a puzzler I'm tellin’ you! ...'Cuz 

There’s a dog on the roof 

There’s a dog on the roof 

I’d like to tell he’s bulletproof 

It’s not to imply this hound is aloof 

He’s just stuck up on the roof 

Will the duo arrive when it’s dark 

To save the canine on a lark 

Will the trio howl at the rising moon 

Then huddle and cuddle and bark 

Life gives us a strange bunch of circumstances 

Some more difficult than others to solve 

Thank goodness we have great singer heroes 

Who help our stories evolve 

With a folk tune here and a pop song there 

Here a pop, there a tune everywhere song, song 

We hear them so much they feel like friends 

So we ask ‘em c’mon play ‘em again!   

There’s a dog on the roof 

There’s a dog on the roof 

I’d like to tell he’s bulletproof 

It’s not to imply this hound is aloof 

He’s just stuck up on the roof 

He’s just stuck up on the roof

The Shadowman - By Dan MclLhenny 

Is the shadowman wavin’ hello or goodbye? 

Nobody knows... but the shadowman knows 

He shows up early - goes home well before dark 

He’s the quietest dude, ‘tis so, ‘tis so   

Reckon he’d be an asset in the orchard - Gwen 

...He could grab all the fruit way up top 

We wouldn’t hav’tah buy a new ladder - Ben 

And that’d help our slim budget a lot, a lot 

That’d help our slim budget a lot 

Is the shadowman coming or going away? 

He’s tall as the dickens the chickens all say 

We oughta recruit him without further delay 

And get the pickin’ outta the way…okay? 

Heck ya, get it outta the way! 

Next day the gray skies came 

Insisting it rain, drop after drop 

It poured and poured and poured 

Then finally dropped to a stop 

We never saw the giant guy again 

Or even had time to become his friend 

Funny how life just sends what it sends 

Then suddenly splits like the hurried breeze 

To still these ripened apple trees 

Leaving us a hefty score of work to be done 

Beneath the warm Washington Sun 

While we wonder and wonder... 

Was the shadowman wavin’ hello or goodbye? 

Nobody knows... but the shadowman knows 

He shows up early - goes home well before dark 

He’s the quietest dude, ‘tis so, ‘tis so  

Busy Rain - By Dan MclLhenny 

Carried away with words 

Attached to the insides 

Of random assorted cards 

Somewhere in time 

Lightning flashed, thunder roared 

Causing the miracle of 

“Busy Rain” to quench an already deeply 

Moistened soil 

In these lavish waterfalls 

Trees, their leaves...glisten 

In the muted gray tones 

Squelching out 

The brightness of a  

Masterful Sun 

In its blurred absence 

Busy Rain, Busy Rain 

Takes control 

Courtesy of a heavenly storm

Howdy, The Red Headed Cowboy and His Horse Named Fred - By Dan'l MclLhenny 

Most folks called him Howdy this red headed feller 

Wore a red hat, red chaps and a pair of red boots too! 

Of course his horse was brown but almost red and Howdy 

Named him Fred… short for Fredrico because Fred 

Understood Spanish & English he was an equine Bi-lingual 

When folks greeted Howdy they said, “ howdy, Howdy” 

Which started to bug him for quite a long spell 

He’d say back to ‘em… yes, my name is Howdy, and… 

You don’t have to wear it out!” To which they muttered… 

 under their breath, “he’s a moody sort of cuss don’t- cha think?” 

He rode the river valleys along the rutts of wagon roads 

Way off in the mountains like a bonafide buckeroo would do 

He had a thing for whiskey but we won’t discuss that now 

Mostly, Howdy was a cowboy since he left the farm and plow 

He whistled and he sang some as he traveled with the boys 

Busy punchin’ cattle on the trail all the way from Texas 

Up to the High Wyoming ground livin’ by the credo… 

 Good - Cowpokes seldom ever fail  

Ol’ Howdy was a crack shot he had two eagle eyes and 

Two red handled forty fives holstered above his thighs 

At the campfire he sipped whiskey and said… 

 “May this brew never go outta style!” 

While his mostly toothless cowboys friends laughed... 

 and tried their best to smile 

This kind of life ain’t for everyone our bodies ache 

 when the ridin’s done baked to a crisp by the danged old Sun - 

 then we freeze beneath the stars but proudly show our scars 

 to the pretty ladies at the bars 

When the trail rides done yeah, thats big fun for everyone 

Until it's time to ride again with my ugly cowboy friends...  

And my trusty amigo Fred 

Let the cattle cries make music for the sunset skies ahead 

May I say thank-you Lord for the occasional perfumed feather bed 

Where I settle down as the man I’m truly meant to be with… 

 Annabelle Lee, whoopee! Whose a red head just like me! 

If ya gotta hoot, you ought to holler a little bit too 

When that pebble in your red boot feels like a boulders buggin’ you 

Never shoot an unarmed cowboy unless he cheats at playin’ cards 

Or steals your girl and whiskey away 

Then you kin wrestle him down on main street no need to be discrete 

Where a pair of red metallic spurs become a legend of the west... 

And it seems Howdy’s better than the rest!  

And it seems Howdy’s better than the rest! 

Being the Brilliant Souls We Are! - By Dan'l MclLhenny 

In the dark, dress, coolish mornin’ 

The rain came pourin’ in 

The rat a tat sped to a drum roll 

Like Buddy Rich was at it again 

As the tin roof made nature music 

How could you not grow a beautiful grin 

It’s been a long hot span of summer 

With barely a drop to the skin 

It’s a worrisome thing 

When the mercury runs high 

And the clouds vaporize 

Over Wyoming skies 

As our land goes dry 

When the wild craves rain 

Some search for solutions 

Most deal with the strain 

Are we all a ship of fools... 

So blind we fail to see 

Our garden of Eden is vanishing 

And with it goes humanity 

Maybe we get what we deserve 

Being the brilliant souls we are!

At Conservations Home - By Dan'l McLlhenny 

On a typical day 

Once Spring sets in 

A higher elevation 

Of forest ground 

Where meadows grow lush 

In Murie greens 

The prettiest shades 

I’ve ever seen 

 Amongst the trees 

The birds are singing 

Whilst the sky above 

Hangs spectacular blue 

There’s not a great view 

Of our majestic mountains 

But Mardy’s front porch 

Offers you the crest of the Grand  

Mornin’s always peaceful here 

With regular visits from Moose and deer 

Uinta, squirrels and ravens too 

Doin what they’re meant to do 

Being wildly free  

At Conservations Home 

Let’s discuss the antlers 

Propped up and standing still 

Waiting for their picture 

In the hands of family ones 

A simple pose, one moment 

Brings a keepsake for the rest of time  

Stuck inside a dresser drawer 

Lost, completely out of mind 

And when it’s rediscovered 

You find your face a smile 

Remembering the pleasantness 

In Grand Teton for awhile 

Outside is alive in awesomeness 

Only nature can provide 

The invitation’s waiting 

When we walk or take a drive 

Straight into the natural world 

Where we all came from 

In our long family line 

Just flip your phone to silent friend 

And make the day you choose... up close 

The magic Earth delivers 

As we willingly approach the specialness 

 At Conservations Home