…but of a much easier nature than it could have been….oh…150 years ago…
Wisest Sister and I did indeed head north and east through Wyoming and to Nebraska, and visited the Brown Sheep Company. I have been there once before, and it’s really not such a long way from where I live.
When I was there previously, I was thinking it was the funnest (is SO a word!) name for a wool mill ever, and wondered about the brown sheep that must have inspired the name of the company. While waiting in the hallway for my turn at the ladies room, I happened to spy a photo. Of the Family Brown. Who founded the yarn mill.
Yep, Not about brown sheep, but about Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their kids. Glad I didn’t say anything. There is an old adage about there being no stupid questions…well, I would have proven that one wrong.
So we shopped some at the factory store, where I bought more than Sister. But not too much. Then we headed to Scott’s Bluff National Monument, which is just down the road a piece. It was a beautiful day for seeing such sights.
End of April, we traveled back to Kansas, and while there, we trekked out to a place called Alcove Springs. After debarking in early spring from Independence, Missouri, on the Oregon Trail, the wagon trains would stop at Alcove Springs for a brief respite. This rest was sometimes out of necessity, to wait for the Big Blue River to fall a few feet to crossing safer.
(seen up close, little arrows, mine, mark the swales)
I was born in Kansas, and lived there, and in other places around the Midwest many of my years. I have also traveled the West a good bit as well. However, until Alcove Springs, I had never taken the time to get off the beaten path to find one of those places where one can see the ruts left by the wagon wheels of those wagon trains.
(seen from way up high)
As the wagons crossed the prairies, the wagons did not go ‘single file’. They would spread out, and in this field, there were several ‘dips’ and runnels in the grassy area that are what remain of those pathways.
(reproductions wagons next to where the actual trail passed)
Now, it’s the first of June, and Wisest Sister and I are in Western Nebraska at Scott’s Bluff, which marked the end of the prairie to the travelers. I am not sure why they thought it was the end of the prairie. I think there is a lot of prairie west of there, but those were the claims made in the pamphlets and guides we read. They were one third of the way ‘there’, at any rate, upon reaching this particular landmark.
Whew. What a relief to be able to answer that! to all those ‘are we there yet?’ questions…
At Scott’s Bluff (called by the Native Americans ‘hill that is hard to go around’), the wagon trains had to pass through single file. Quite a bottleneck, don’t you know…
The wagons passed here…(again, the arrow is mine...it was not there to mark their path...lovely and pink, though it might be...)
It was a beautiful day while we were there. In the low 80’s. Blue sky with a few clouds, and a gentle breeze (very uncommon for the area!). As I walked up the path to where the wagon trail crossed, I shed my overshirt down to my tanktop.
Not something a pioneering female would be apt to do, in spite of how warm she was, in her long skirt and undergarments and long sleeves. And apron. And bonnet. And I suppose there would have been more unpleasant weather with which to contend. Just perhaps…
Also in the pamphets and guides? Those hardy pioneers found most of the claims made by the promoters grossly understated the hardship and overstated the ease with which the journey was to be made! (Madison Avenue strikes before there was an actual Madison Avenue!)
I am left pondering. I have much admiration for these hardy souls who up and left what was behind, looking forward to what the future might hold for them. And yet, there, at the monument, is one small patch where the original ‘prairie’ is being regrown. Our forefathers exacted a huge price for all their tenacity and endurance and hardiness on the environment, the Native Americans, and the indigenous species of plants and wildlife.
Hindsight, yes, and yet, if we do not learn from our history, we repeat our lessons. (I know these things…)