June 16 – 25
148 Miles

    The pioneer emigrants had been following the mighty Platte upstream across much of Nebraska. They had come to its two feeder rivers, the North Platte and South Platte which forked. It was imperative to cross the south fork to rejoin the north westerly route that the north fork of the Platte would trace deep into Wyoming. Near the present town of Brule, the emigrants took the plunge crossing the fearful river at California Crossing (now tame as a mill pond), pulling hard up California Hill to the high plateau that separates the forks and heading toward the North Platte. It was near Brule by the California Crossing that I lay in the bathroom nearly demoralized by the heat and my pitiful 6 mile day.
    But the next day I arose before dawn and experienced an ecstatic 27 mile day. I climbed and crossed the high flat plateau separating the two Platte’s which brought me to Ash Hollow, the most feared landform yet to the emigrants on the trail.
The wheat is waist high and now turning golden.  I have watched it since Kansas go from brilliant green shiny ribbon grass, to head up in a feathery bluish green to now a chartreuse yellow-green. Next it will be golden, I’m told. With the wind stiff, the wheat was in dazzling motion. Not only does the wind race across it in rapidly advancing undulating waves, but each tiny bunch of wheat moves in a circular motion so that the whole world is swirling and zig-zagging and beating up and down. An occasional tumbleweed bumped me.
    It was quickly turning into another fantastic super day. I was enraptured. I felt the same excited anticipation the pioneers must have felt knowing a radical land form change was about to unfold after an eternity of flats
    At the edge of the plateau the emigrants had the problem of descending a steep hill to rejoin the North Platte far below. This fearful descent, known then and now as Ash Hollow, is now a state park where the series of ruts which plummet down Windlass Hill are carefully acknowledged and preserved. The hill so terrified the pioneers that one described it as “a bit past the perpendicular.” Truly it is nothing to scoff at and many a wagon and animal lay smashed in accidents at the bottom in the old days, however, it was nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the terrain and mountains that lay on any of the emigrant trails farther to the west.
Ash Hollow was a sudden plunge into a taste of the old west, dry baked ledges and cactus and a spicy aroma and bluffs and defiles and washouts and erosion and scrubby evergreens. I chased a loose calf and startled lots of speedy lizards and cruised happily down the canyon while hawks circled above.
This day alone makes everything precious
    In the evening I walked up to the Visitor’s Center alone and felt a surge of deep toned self satisfaction. I was utterly at peace and felt secure in my aloneness, so far from home yet totally at home here, or wherever I am

    When night came so did the mosquitoes. They sat on my head net by the dozen and whined and bit through my clothes, horror show! I moved my bag to a field but then late night campers coming in nearly ran over me, oh well, the bugs were bad there too anyway.
    Later the wind came up. Branches crashed around me in the distance, lightening (40 to 50 miles away) lit up the sky like a flickering light bulb. When I say flickering light bulb, I mean like no eastern thunderstorm ever dreamed of being. None of this waiting between flashes. It’s more like a steady flare with short “off” flickers. The sense of natural power with the terrific wind and far off electrical storm was exciting but not unsettling enough to keep me awake more than two minutes. Thank heaven, at least the mosquitoes were gone! Then I awoke to the first drops of pelting rain so I ran to a neighboring trailer, pounded on the door and they let me in where I fell asleep within seconds on the floor. A man next door, who I had passed in his underwear, was outside tying things down and was terrified. The thunder sounded odd to him and he feared a tornado. I mentioned this to the aroused neighbors who in turn were scared. I sensed that we were only getting the edge of the storm and wasn’t in the least concerned and fell asleep, but it was a new and novel situation to be so unaffected while the adults around me were quite agitated. I recall being hysterically afraid of tornadoes and thunderstorms on a return trip from California 15 years ago.

    Goodbye Ash Hollow
This morning on the way to Oshkosh the sky was still unsettled, dynamic and dramatic, black with stormy clouds on one side and pale blue with brilliant sun on the other. The sun touched the cottonwoods along the Platte turning them bright green against the stormy purple backdrop. On with my turtleneck, off with my turtleneck,, on with my turtleneck, off, etc. Finally, toward noon the sun blazed fresh and fierce. Meantime the barren western hills across the Platte went from looking stormy, black and wintery, to fresh, tame and mellow green, inviting to a forbidding sun scorched hell. These same hills that I watched all morning took on such a willful dynamic personality!

    Saw my first rattlesnake, dead, a very small one, cute baby, triangular head, brown diamond pattern on beige, tiny rattle at tip of tail. Saw hundreds of snakes, dead, along the road. When I walk at dawn, they will be stirring, and that’s one reason I hesitate to leap in the weeds every time a car comes.

    People have various ways of reacting to me. Here in the west, “I admire you for doing it,” is the most common. I react to, “I think you’re crazy” by saying nicely and honestly, “Don’t say that.” And my pet peeve is “Whadda ya think you’re trying to prove?” Me sweetly, “I’m sure it doesn’t prove anything, does it!”

    Every so often I hear the music from Saturday Night Fever and it sounds so alive, like the travelin-on theme for my trip.

    Some early mornings I have the dread feeling that I’m going to be killed.

    Yesterday morning left Oshkosh before sun up and walked into the beauty of the awakening North Platte. I crossed the bridge in the eerie light just as the sky was pinkening, the cat tails and bull rushes murmuring with marsh birds. Ethereal ghostly mists clung around the water surface and defined the outlines of every lush island in variegated shaded of cool dark grays and greens. The swallows around the bridge darted and cheed in crazy circular patterns. There are so many scenes of perfect beauty on this trip, harmony, balance and a throbbing life.
    After turning down a dirt road, I came to my first (of many) hundreds of cow guards, a grate across the road of shiny slippery bars about four inches in diameter, slippery and real leg breakers. That’s why the cows avoid them, and it eliminates the need for gates across the road. After teetering a bit, I finally worked out a way to get me and the cart across, the cart bounces fearfully, but…
    My second surprise was that suddenly there I was in the midst of a herd of Hereford cattle, and they didn’t stampede away from me like those behind fences; they started loping toward me and stopped and retreated, then came at me again, stopped and followed me then ran over the hill in a modest thunder. It’s true; the ground does tremble!
    Then I had my third surprise. The road turned to soft sand and suddenly the pioneer and Mormon hand cart complaints about the agony of soft sand became agonizingly real. My God! It was worse than dragging a 100 pound bag of potatoes the length of Jones beach! Two hands on the handle, body sideways, doubled over, side stepping, foot by foot up and down (really down!) hills, over flats. What a horror! Happiness is a stretch of hard packed gravel after a haul through sand! It was different from the toil and struggle of sore feet. Now I had no pain, only intense effort, preferable

    Suddenly and all day I was on the range, no trees, no houses, only softly rolling prairie, sage brush (mmmm... fragrant) terrific heat, tumbleweeds, grasshoppers, big big sky. I could nearly see Indians watching me from the distant bluffs. Yucca and prickly pear, cactus and hidden rattle snakes. After intense effort; I stopped and lay down in the skimpy shade of a lonely prairie cemetery, in the hot fierce wind. I had gone 20 miles, amazing, considering the body breaking struggle along the sandy stretches.
    As I started out an old man (cowboy hat country now) stopped his pickup truck and talked for an hour (while my feet swelled) about his life on the range, his early years in a soddie, his mother’s fear of Indians and how she kept a loaded Winchester rife by the door, how his family arrived with only a map and needed help finding their Kingcade on the vast featureless (only to us) plain and reminisced how once every section had a soddie homestead and there were 40 kids in the now gone school house, and now it’s all gone, gone back to wild prairie again. He gave me a rattle from a rattler he’d just killed

    Those last two miles were the worst of the day. They did more damage to me in the heat than all the rest. I fairly staggered into Nellie’s ranch. The old rancher had described Nellie to me as 80 years old, never married, manages the big ranch herself and “smart as a whip”’  “You probably won’t get her to talk much.”  “Wow!”  I thought, “a real eccentric tough old shrewd pioneer woman.”  I knocked on the door, and after a long wait a little wispy frightened looking woman uncertainly came to the door. She had a vulnerable, soft, doe eyed shy gaze and a naïve childlike smile that never left her face. She looked 60 not 80 (here we go again!). This delicate creature was Nellie! She seemed nervous and shy the whole time but hungry for relating to me.
When most people hear that I’m walking the pioneer trail, they inquire into my motivations with the quiet delicate respect of a Mack diesel truck, “Well, whada ya doing THAT fer?” The curiosity is honest and sincere, but I always wince at the harsh quality of the blunt question. Gentle sweet Nellie’s curiosity was no less active but she softened her already soft voice and asked delicately, “Why are you doing this… just trying to get the swing of the Oregon Trail?”  I felt myself smiling with love for her gentle coaching and answered, “Why yes! That’s as good a way to put it as any!” And then there was perfect understanding between us.
Here is her story: Nellie Hannah’s grandmother grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to Illinois, married and had eight children. Her husband died. She left two children with a childless relative, one of the oldest and one of the youngest, piled everything else into a box car and set off to homestead in Nebraska with six children ages 2 to 16 and no husband. This was 1883. They arrived at Sidney, staked a claim but could not find water and were forced to move 46 miles north where they, women and children put down a soddie and homestead. She had to drive a horse and buckboard wagon 46 miles for groceries, got caught in a blizzard once and had to stay in an abandoned shack half way, the only structure the whole 46 miles! Nellie’s mother was the 13 year old daughter. Nellie’s mother married at age 19 and had three children. When Nellie was 3 months old, her father was killed in a well digging accident, so Nellie’s mother raised the kids alone. Nellie and her two brothers lived all their lives in the original soddie or the stone house her father built. Nellie and her brothers never married. Her two cousins, old maid and bachelor lived in the next section, also never married. Nellie’s brothers both died, one in a helicopter accident while checking the windmill watering tanks. “I miss them so bad,” Nellie whispered with an ache as fresh as yesterday. They built the ranch into vast acreage, over 1,000 head of cattle, minimum 12 acres to each animal plus vast acreage for hay and alfalfa. Nellie’s land went as far as the eye could see, out to the little dark dots which were “pine trees on those hills that the pioneers used to get logs for the roofs of the soddies. Nellie’s greatest pleasure had been riding horseback with her brothers out on the range checking the cattle. She rode till age 77 but stopped because she didn’t want to go riding “with no hired man! Besides I need a nice tame horse. They don’t break them in good any more the way we used to.”
Just like all farm women I’d met (except one). Nellie would rather be outdoors than do housework, and unlike others her house showed this. Unlike others too, she’s all thumbs in the kitchen, but she made a wonderful supper and breakfast for me. She loves her chickens and animals and enjoys the coons, coyotes and colts, etc. There is a minor grasshopper plague on. They’ve stripped her garden and hop all over me as I walk like the staccato keys of a typewriter. This morning as I left, Nellie walked ½ mile with me. As we passed two cows with their calves I said, “Now, which is the better cow?” For a few seconds Nellie’s childlike innocent face changed as she intensely and coolly appraised the two animals. “I like that one,” she said pointing. “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s got a shorter face and you can tell the other’s an older animal because its nostrils are farther apart.” The shrewd rancher had shown through for a minute. She likes to go to the cattle sales to bid on and buy the best bulls. “I like’um chunky but not too short. My steer has three times bought the highest prices on the market.” Nellie gripped my shoulder briefly the morning I left and I was honored. We said goodbye and I left a complex person. She’s never been east of North Platte, she, unsure of herself in social ways, yet an established artist, successful rancher, now without any family left.
    After returning home to Massachusetts the following November, I found this letter waiting for me.

Dear Barbara,
Congratulations on your successful journey.
Sorry to have to inform you of this, but Nellie passed away June 28, a little over a week after you were there. Although I never met you personally, I feel like I’ve known you a long time with what Nellie me and the cards you sent her.  She would have appreciated them. I will always remember the little tire tracks from your golf cart, coming down the road and thru my yard, as I live 4 miles west of Nellie.
I and the community will miss her Greatly.
Soren Hansen

    A year later while in Nebraska, I stopped at the lonely prairie cemetery where I had taken shelter from the sun and hot wind a year before. On the way out, I glanced at a fresh looking grave and stopped. It said, Nellie Hannah.

    Left Nellie Hannah and within a few miles walked into another heard of cattle. Nellie had been surprised when I said I wasn’t afraid of them, “should I be?” She said, “Lot’s of people hereabouts are.” The man at Dozad had said that the black ones tended to be mean and hard to handle. Well here I was right in with the herd, a mixture of colors. This time I knew enough to be a bit afraid, mean bulls, black Angus, cow with calf, all potentially mean types, and I’ll be damned but the whole herd started toward me and cut in front of me. “Whew!” I thought, “Now they’re beyond me.” And then they stopped, turned and came at me again, and again padded in front of me. This was repeated until I was finally ahead of them, and then they started to charge me from behind, led by an all black one!! I shouted (even though it had had no effect before) and all but this one turned reluctantly and clambered faster and faster up and over the hill... finally followed by the black one. Whew! Thunder … earth shake!!!

    Do I have a million mosquito bites or poison ivy? I enjoy the itching as usual.

    Walked impatiently to Bridgeport. I hate the highway.

    The sunrise was hot pink yarn over a bed of lavender gray smoke. How can one describe a sunrise? On the opposite horizon the moon was leaving. A luminous creamy plate, flat and enormous slipped behind the blue horizon clouds and disappeared. The sunrise meanwhile became a garish contrast to the cool moon. The hot pink yarn and purple smoke was dripped all over with rivulets of gleaming liquid gold. I really didn’t like it, too garish. My mood was with the departed creamy moon.

    I knew from my maps that I was almost within sight of Courthouse Rock, the first great landmark of the Emigrant Trail. The sky was providing an appropriate backdrop for so important a meeting; it was a dynamic stormy blue-gray with shafts of sun breaking through here and there as clouds jockeyed for position. And then there it was! Off to the south, a good 20 miles away yet, but unmistakable, a boxy mesa rising defiantly out of the smooth horizon. Jail Rock sat appropriately next to Courthouse Rock like the little sister it is. For my meeting with the rock there was no mistaking the appropriateness of its name. The sun miraculously broke through the fathomless gray and illuminated the courthouse to a gleaming ivory white. A satisfied grin welled from deep inside. “So there!” I mumbled, fairly sniffing at the historians, “it really does look like a courthouse!” I felt I was evening up a score. The pioneer diaries one after another chortled their delight and amazement at the white marble courthouse, but later, historians have often written patronizingly about how the travel weary pioneers sure did stretch their imaginations to call that a Courthouse! Then I saw why. As the clouds shifted, the great landmark was suddenly shrouded in shadow turning it a flat dirty brown. Indeed the pioneers probably saw it both ways since it would have been within their sight for days and nights, mornings, evenings, storms and moonlight before their dots of wagons inched past and out of sight. Those who found it especially alluring would set out on a jaunt to its base when their wagons drew the closest along the route. The short jaunt would soon turn into a long haul when the adventurer found that what looked four miles away was in fact more like twelve.

    Helen and Paul Henderson, a retired railroad family, live in Bridgeport, Nebraska. They have devoted a lifetime studying the Oregon Trail, not the study of abstruse and esoteric classroom lectures, but the study from days on the trail fighting buffalo flies and rattlesnakes to locate the precise spring or campsite mentioned in an emigrant’s diary.
    In my journal I wrote prophetically.
I foresee the truly great loss approaching when the Henderson’s are sick or gone; no books could be long enough to capture all the stuff of knowledge that they fairly ooze. Seven months after I wrote those words, received notice that Paul Henderson had died.

In retrospect my afternoon with them spent wandering at the base of Courthouse Rock seems all the more rare and privileged.
Helen, Paul and their daughter drove me to the base of Courthouse Rock. The Henderson’s came alive and talked with absolute authority and love of the trail, rich with knowledge, total knowledge. We gathered buffalo bones and flint chips and bits of charcoal. The Indians for thousands of years gathered at the high site and scraped marrow from the buffalo bones and chipped their arrowheads and made their campfires in the circles of stones, and we found bits of pottery, lots and lots of all this at the base of Courthouse Rock. We saw eagles nesting on Jail Rock. At one point I gazed into the distant west and saw Chimney Rock unexpectedly. A ripple of thrill and excitement ran through my very bones.

    Feeling a bit like a trail veteran, I left Bridgeport and headed toward the most famous landmark on the trail west, Chimney Rock.

    I kept looking back at distant Courthouse Rock. This angle enhanced its dramatic rise out of the featureless plain. I tried to see it through jaded yet grateful pioneer eyes. Then the land gave way to long gradual hills and I toiled to the top of one and gasped. Ahead of me stretched a flat valley with a pencil line road fading off into the distant mists. No trees, no towns, no houses. A line of buttes and bluffs bordered to the south and way ahead was the pictured familiar silhouette of Chimney Rock, the whole scene virtually unchanged since pioneer eyes beheld it. Its immensity propelled me to the faint stirrings of panic. The road looked so long in the pitiless sun and my cart and I felt so small. But reality prevailed. (I never again felt this degree of apprehension, although later desert stretches were far more difficult.) The air was still cool and the beauty exhilarating so I breathed deeply and soaked in the scene. A carpet of sunflowers filled the grasslands, all faces seeking the rising sun at my back. Here and there the perpetual motion of oil wells caught my eye. Yucca and sagebrush, jackrabbits and adventure carried me.

    While walking I ruminated about periodic discussions about the sandhills and got quite worked up. The Nebraskans who live in or near them love and appreciate them, but see no danger to their disappearance. A corporation last month bought 20 square miles of the sandhills, leveled and irrigated, yet the Nebraska natives say they’re not threatened! “Nature won’t permit their cultivation” or “the large land holders will never sell.” The tall grass prairie is gone, all gone, under cultivation. The buffalo are gone. The redwoods are virtually gone. The desert blooms in Israel. Yet they cannot see that, clearly, the very moment the economy makes more farming yields profitable, the sandhills will be gone. Nature will be conquered. The old land holders will die and their grandchildren will collect the Arab corporate dollar. The hills will be leveled and cultivated and be only a memory.

    The sun heated me as my mind heated me and I took off my heavy shirt and three miles later had lost my map. It must have been dropped when I peeled off my turtleneck. I have some kind of quirk that needles me unmercifully when I lose something. When I describe the pioneers dumping valuables to light loads, I invariably choke up. Now the loss of the map sent me into torment. Did the pioneers suffer like this when something was inadvertently left behind. The pack of cards explorer Freemont saw lying on the ground? The shirt left hanging on the sage brush? It tortured me for miles and miles. But the sight of Chimney Rock pulled me like a magnet. It lured and beckoned.

    As I came abreast of Chimney Rock I somehow had no desire to make the side trip to its base. It not only would have meant two extra hours of painful walking on the baking shade-less plain, but I was repeatedly warned of severe rattlesnake infestation at its base. Reaching Chimney Rock gave me a taste for success and accomplishment and wet my appetite to move on toward the western horizons faster and farther. So I did.

    I was still pushing myself to my physical limits daily depleting the last ounce of strength my energy, tolerance for heat, and feet and leg endurance. After stopping at the end of my long daily hauls I knew and expected my muscles to tighten and lameness would set in for hours. This became part of my daily routine and I came to tolerate it without fright or alarm confident that by next morning my body would rejuvenate.
    On the day I stopped at Alfred and Jane Higgins I was near tears with exhaustion and heat fatigue. The little adobe ranch cottage seemed to be hanging by a thread for its very existence - an artist’s dream. It beckoned from every corner with its picturesque weathered corrals, sagging sheds, and weed choked yards. I knocked on the old door as an assortment of dogs and cats darted around me. A pleasant faced, strong and calm woman answered and, I was thus guided to these heaven-sent proud people who kept me and shared themselves with me for two days.
    In this age of ruthless animal husbandry they seemed to be out of another era, another world. They are not merely close to nature; they are part of nature. Because they won’t kill the prairie dogs, their cattle pasture is pock marked with their dirt mounds. They won’t kill the coyotes. They won’t even kill the snakes unless they are first sure of seeing rattles. Mr. Higgins eats whatever the cows eat when out on the range, Snatch! He swops down and stuffs a handful of grass into his mouth, and Swipe! In goes a mouthful of cottonwood leaves. Chomp… Chomp… Their beef cattle are not merely an animal crop to them; they are a family of living things that require all the care and personal concern of any aware beings. In these scientific days when cows are artificially inseminated from bulls who might have died five years ago and when cows are culled for slaughter if found “clear” (not pregnant), Jane Higgins related a heart rendering story through her tears of a mother cow with cancer of the eye who bawled for hours after her calf was taken from her and another story of their old bull who was allowed the run of the ranch far into useless old age because the Higgins couldn’t bear to send him to the competitive agony of a feed lot. Alfred confided later with a fond smile, “Margaret likes the animals; sometimes she likes them too much.”
Alfred, age 72, was raised in a soddie in South Dakota among the Indians. He has a full head of white hair, dark skin, weathered piercing eyes, aquiline nose, high cheekbones. He speaks incredibly slowly, softly with distinct resonance and laughs mysteriously as I listen entranced to the stories of Indians that crowd his memories. He walks with deliberate stealthy natural movements, and the air around him is thick with powerful vibrations that I can’t understand.
    In the evening Alfred quietly and persistently insisted I check his cattle with him so we climbed in the wobbly pickup and set out, slowly opening the rickety wire gate and creeping out across his two mile cattle range. Castle Rock Butte was looming picturesquely to the east with other mesas and bluffs rising dramatically in the background. The evening cooled. The sun slipped low behind the western clouds. The old wooden windmill leaned crookedly and we drank the cold water running from the old pipe. Prairie dogs yipped all around us. Cotton tails hopped in fearful flight and tiny owls stood by the prairie dog holes. The sagebrush perfumed the air. A big owl sat in a coyote den, originally a badger’s hole. Every half mile or so Alfred would stop the rocking pickup and step out and call his cattle in his low hypnotic voice, “c’m boss, c’m boss” or “skip… skip… “and the cattle would move slowly toward him from far away. He was leading them to fresher range away from the overgrazed area by the windmill and water tank. Finally, deep in the range he fed alfalfa bales and corn and the cattle appeared from over the hills and milled tamely around us slowly and massively. It was like a dreamy ritual through eons of time, man and cattle, knowing and trusting. Slowly we rolled rockingly back home across hogsback hills as the sun set lavender and the full moon for those moments.
    Next morning at dawn Alfred gripped my arm briefly and movingly, and Jane stood and watched me go. I pulled the cart down the road and turned for a last look, and Margaret was still there watching, a tiny tiny speck so far away. A few steps more and then she was gone from view. I can see her still, watching, and I finally let my tears of emoting spill over.

    Later that day in Scotts Bluff National Monument a local newscaster set me up for an interview and flup, the camera batteries were dead. A National Geographic reporter who happened to be in the area arranged for some 3:00 o’clock pictures and “crash,” cancelled because of a violent thunderstorm. It was just not my day for publicity!!

    Next day I walked for a mile or so in actual Oregon Trail ruts. The Donner Party did not walk that way; however, they took a slightly different route called Robideau Pass. I continued for 15 miles on an empty stomach. That’s how unappealing dry sunflower seeds had become by then! Near the end I ran into a horrendous deer fly attack. Although the heat was terrific, my desperation was evidenced by my putting on my heavy turtleneck shirt and the mosquito netting over the hat. The deer files gathered on my mosquito net like polka dots. What a choice: bugs thick enough to eat one alive or protective clothes and netting thick enough to roast one alive! My heat headache, which lasted far into the night, made me wonder if I’d chosen the lesser of two evils.

    I ran into the first (and only) dangerously mean dog of the trip, a Doberman that circled to attack. The golf cart threw him off momentarily, but he bit at my pants leg until the owners casually called it back after viewing the clash with mild satisfaction. I was disgusted.

    I stayed two days as the only guest in an elegant old inn run by Bill and Elsie Parker. 77 year old Bill (who works full time as a carpenter) regaled me for hours with enthusiastic reminiscences of his days long ago as a cowboy, his love of western lore, especially Ft. Laramie and its military heroes, and his fascination with General Custer. Incredibly the anniversary of Custer’s battle was the very day I spent with Bill, in June! Bill showed me slides from his fine times in the days that are gone. “Sometimes when I’m down,” he sighed wistfully, I like to look at these and just dream about those times. The only sad part is that I know that those days can’t ever be lived again.”
    So far in my journey things had always seemed to work out well with the strangers whose lives I invaded. My stay with the Parkers, however, became a comedy of errors that I felt helpless to stop. First, I was invited for supper and slept through it in exhaustion. When I finally awoke, I found no one home. Actually, the Parkers were in their private section of the Inn still keeping the food warm and waiting patiently for me! I felt I could not leave that morning without thanking them so I slept till a reasonable hour to thank them. By that time it was too late to beat the heat with an early departure, so I stayed another day (gratefully). Bill and I were elected to make Sunday dinner while Elsie went to church. Elsie came home 45 minutes later (enhanced by a clock 15 minutes fast) than we expected and by that time I had cooked the pork chops to the ruined toughness of shoe leather. (I’m not much in the kitchen even under the best circumstances!) To add insult to injury, I had used Elsie’s $100 frying pan incorrectly thereby risking its ruin! Later that day Bill was to take me to see his favorite horse out in the pasture. Not wanting to cause any more inconvenience to these people than I already had, I sat by the front door ready and waiting for Bill. After ½ hour I figured something was wrong. Sure enough, Bill had been sitting quietly by the side door waiting patiently for me to get ready! Oh woe!!!

Helen Henderson and her husband Paul devoted a lifetime of studying the Nebraska- Wyoming sections of the trail
While at courthouse rock I looked up and gazed west into the distance and saw the tiny spire of Chimney Rock.  A ripple of excitement ran through me.