Teen’s desire for service led him to Yellowstone

Some of the most recent newspaper, magazine and online stories publicizing the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service have centered on the theme of “hidden gems” or “hidden treasures” visitors can find in many of the parks.
In most cases, these attractions are not really “hidden” so much as they are away from the road, not visible through the window of a car, and generally requiring a short walk away from the roadway. One “hidden gem” visitors can actually drive to in Yellowstone is so close to a major thermal area, Norris Geyser Basin, that most visitors pass it by in their haste to reach the next “major attraction.”
Just a few yards in from the main roadway is a rebuilt log building with “a lot of history.”
In 1991, it was re-opened to the public, known as The Museum of the National Park Ranger, the only museum in the nation devoted entirely to telling the story of the National Park Ranger.
For two weeks each summer in 2009 and 2010, as a volunteer curator in that museum, I tried to help visitors understand the importance of those earlier cabins when they were used by horse-mounted Park Rangers and before them, the Army Cavalry soldiers who patrolled the park from 1886 to 1918.
After 20-plus miles on the trail, checking for illegal fires, poachers and violations of park rules by visitors, a patrol cabin was a welcome sight. The rule however, was, “If you didn’t make it to the cabin by nightfall, you bedded down out under the stars, the rain, or the snow, whatever!”
Fast-forward to the present, when I recently discovered in the Jewish War Veterans archives a brief reference to one of those U.S. Army Cavalry soldiers stationed at Yellowstone Park.
Of course, I knew that Jews have always served in the defense of this country, even during colonial times. However, I was surprised at the thought of a Jewish soldier on horse patrol in Yellowstone and researched further.
According to the JWV’s archives, David Abelow, a New York Jewish teenager, joined the U.S. Army Cavalry in Texas in 1907 “at the age of 15.”
I don’t know what the minimum age was without parental consent at that time, but it is noted that he was “large for his age” and had told the enlistment officer that he “left his birth certificate at home in Brooklyn.” In any case, the ruse worked and Abelow was sworn into service.
Serving in the U.S. Cavalry, first at Yellowstone Park from 1907 to 1910, he later spent an additional three years on duty in the Philippines.
I wish I had known about Trooper Abelow when I had Ranger Museum duty years ago. I’m sure the visitors would have been as intrigued as I was to hear about this (Jewish) teenager who couldn’t wait to become a man.

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