It’s never too early to learn something that can one day save your life, a lesson especially true for would-be “tourons” who, without some directed education, are destined to go viral on video dying horribly in Yellowstone National Park.
One “disturbingly hilarious” — yet surprisingly educational — gift idea for kids and adults that’s sure to stand out is Wyoming resident Andy Robbins’ “Yellowstone National Park: A Cautionary Coloring Book,” which depicts the various ways a person could die in Yellowstone. And almost all of them happen to people oblivious to their surroundings as they experience it from the other side of a smartphone camera.
Robbins first published the giddily gruesome coloring book in 2016. Seven years later, even he does a double take when revisiting it.
“Every once in a while, I go back and look at it,” he told Cowboy State Daily, “and I'm kind of shocked at how gory I made it.”
A Cautionary Coloring Book
Robbins was looking for something to do with his creative skills when a friend recommended creating a coloring book. He found inspiration in the cautionary yet unintentionally humorous drawings on the warning signs throughout Yellowstone.
“There's some funny illustrations in the park warning visitors about the hot pools,” he said. “I think that was kind of part of it. I wanted to make a coloring book, it seemed like a good theme, and it was always in the news at that time, and still is every year.”
Thanks to all the news stories and Lee Whittlesey’s book “Death in Yellowstone,” Robbins had plenty of inspiration for a Yellowstone coloring book: a bison goring, bear mauling, dissolving in a thermal pool. The reactions of the people depicted range from pure terror to mild annoyance.
Robbins had fun putting the book together, even suggesting funny crayon color suggestions like “selfie stick silver.” He admits that he created the book mainly for his own amusement but found an audience that enjoyed his off-tilt humor.
“I just kind of did it for me,” he said. “It was just a fun little side project. But it turned out to be a good thing.”
Let's Look Inside
One of the first pages available for coloring shows the unfortunate results of a bison impaling a young woman who is holding a selfie stick.
How to color the spraying innards is up to artist, of course, although one Instagram user recommended silver for the selfie-stick, pink for the kidneys, and burgundy for the bowels.
“I can’t stop laughing,” she said. “That book is excellent.”
On another page, a young man who seems to be boiling in a hot spring can be brought back to life with crayons.
A tourist, meanwhile, is taking a photo of the bubbling corpse on her smart phone while a younger boy nonchalantly watches with a juice box in hand.
Even more graphic pages follow, like the depiction of two bears dining on a hiker. The hiker, incidentally, looks similar to the guy who just got boiled. If so, not a great vacation for him.
One bear has a severed arm in its mouth with the hand still holding what appears to be bear spray.
The other bear seems to be enjoying the hiker’s foot while his car keys, intestine, and heart are all airborne.
There does appear to be some gratuitous violence on this page, however, as an eyeball is popping out of its socket for no apparent reason.
Saying that, there are plenty of opportunities for good coloring on this page. So unnecessary violence be damned.
“Practical and fun!” wrote one commenter. While another said, “Oh, the grandkids will love this!”
Range Of Reactions
Seven years later, “Yellowstone National Park: A Cautionary Coloring Book” has a rating of 4.9 out of 5 on Amazon, arguably making it the most popular Yellowstone coloring book on the site. The reviews show most people appreciate it in the spirit Robbins intended.
The book is described as “wonderfully disturbing,” “a must-buy gift for adults” and “sad but true.”
“A solid how-to guide — how to not be an ‘ugly tourist,’” said reviewer DanielJ. “Detailed, factual and hilarious. The author captures what makes Yellowstone amazing and offers insight into a safer way to experience the park and its one-of-a-kind wildlife and features.”
There’s only one negative review from “an Amazon customer,” whose one-star rating suggests she didn’t get Robbin’s sense of humor.
“A man being boiled alive in a hot spring? A girl projectile vomiting? What kind of a coloring book is this?” it reads. “Sick.”
Robbins said the most telling reactions he gets comes from the concessionaries who operate in Yellowstone National Park. He said they all love it, which is precisely why they don’t sell it.
“It's funny because we sell a lot to the park, and their concessions people like it. They all enjoy it,” he said. “They just don't want to sell it in the park. It's not their image.”
Robbins said he considered making a “PG-13” version of the book to make it more concessionaire-friendly, but never got around to it. Most of the people he encounters who know and love Yellowstone think it's perfect as it is.
“I haven't had anybody dislike it too much. But most people enjoy it. We got a lot of positive feedback on it, particularly in Wyoming, around the park and in the park,” he said.
Back To The Drawing Color
Since first coming out with the Yellowstone coloring book, Robbins has published several others, including a similar coloring book based on Grand Canyon National Park, the “Awful Air Travel Activity Book” and field guides to unicorns and Jackalopes.
He hasn’t given his Yellowstone coloring book much thought, despite the surplus of potential ideas from tourist incidents reported by popular social media groups like “Tourons of Yellowstone” and “Yellowstone: Invasion of the Idiots.”
If people want a sequel or expansion to his coloring book, Robbins insinuated that Yellowstone tourists need to get more creative with their unfortunate decisions.
“There’s definitely been more antics,” he said. “I guess you could include those kinds of things, a Hall of Shame section, but I think I probably covered them.”
Many people commend the book as being “informative” about the genuine dangers of Yellowstone and their presentation in a graphic but amusing way. Robbins wasn’t expecting that kind of feedback but understands the broader implications of his funny side project.
“There wasn’t an ulterior motive to keep people out of danger,” he said. “But I would assume that if you gave it to your 12-year-old, it might help, I think. I guess there's a morality tale in there somewhere.”
Whether it’s an accurate cautionary tale, a gag gift or a good laugh to keep the kids occupied, “Yellowstone National Park: A Cautionary Coloring Book” is certainly a unique way to take in the history and realities of Yellowstone. The book is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other retailers.
Robbins is working on more books and is always looking for more Wyoming ideas. But he knows that as long as there are tourists, there will be a market for his morbidly amusing coloring books.
Just be prepared for your blood-red crayons to wear down faster than the others.
“I think it's something people still enjoy,” he said. “It's a gift that keeps on giving.”
Robbins' books can be viewed here.
For those who don’t want to wait to receive the book for lifesaving guidance in Yellowstone, there is a handy map available to download which could be of some assistance.
Made for Yellowstone’s 150th anniversary celebration, Cowboy State Daily reporter Jen Kocher created a map of Yellowstone entitled “Scaldings, Maulings, Murders And Other Unnatural Deaths” for your enjoyment.
Andrew Rossi can be reached at: ARossi@CowboyStateDaily.com
Andrew Rossi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.