A New Reverence for Nebraska
I had never really been to or through Nebraska, or at least not anything my memories can really pull up, but I do recall people warning me about crossing it that it would be dull, flat and nothing but crops.
There is some flat. There are lots of crops. But there is so much more! If I was looking at the landscape as someone just trying to get from one end to the other I could see that it might get a bit mundane. But when you change your perspective, and see it through the eyes of the Oregon Trail pioneers, it looks completely different.
By the time they hit the Nebraska border (and I'm going to use modern day borders as reference points) they were just finally figuring out the nuances of their frontier routine.
Waking early, the women were packing up their items; tents, bedding; utensils, making breakfast then quickly washing the dishes and putting the "extra" food away for a cold lunch at mid-day.
The men were rounding up the livestock, yoking the team and hooking them back up to the wagons, conferring with the other members of the train as to the day's events...
Rinse and repeat.
Water and wood were plentiful. The livestock had plenty of grasses to feed on, and game such as buffalo and antelope, rabbit and deer could be secured weekly.
In the evenings, hopefully getting in about 15 to 20 miles they stop for the night. It's plenty of daylight to still get any tents set up, unhook the teams and additional horses and livestock so they can graze. Cook and eat dinner with some time to spare for gathering, singing, music and writing.
As they continued on, the landscape would begin to change. The Platte River as their constant companion would guide them along the way.
The wind is fierce as there are no barriers to protect them or interrupt it's bluster.
Storms with piercing rain can appear with little to no warning and lightning puts on a show- sometimes turning deadly.
The earlier generations of overland pioneers had plenty of water and grass, but those that followed after thousands had decided to head west, the supplies began to become sparse and other trails, cut-offs and routes had to be initiated.
The waterways became polluted and the grasses were razed to dust.
And as many people do, in a land of plenty, they take more than they need, they leave the rest behind, they use and abuse, not thinking of who may be coming after or that there would be anything but... plenty.
The landscape showed change now getting just past the "halfway mark" of the state. The hills got a little more steep, you could be walking along and come across a huge crater where the land just seemed to collapse and they would have to find their way around that. Sometimes taking them many days away from their water source.
Huge sandstone boulders would begin to jut up from the ground and tower above them and create landmarks far off in the distance.
They would write home to their families about some uniquely shaped mountains and this served as points to look for in wagon trains to come. Many of these locations had been used for years and years prior to the Overlanders by the Native Americans, fur traders and military. (Here is where you would find the legendary Chimney Rock, Courthouse Rock, and Scott's Bluff)
The soft ground they had grown used to transformed into a rocky terrain. The grasses and trees became more sparse and the water which had given them refreshment was about to turn away, giving them just the tiniest glimpse of what was to come.
If they had minimal struggle so far, they could consider themselves quite blessed as everyday, from this point forward... would be a challenge.
And this is how I see Nebraska. In our modern times, we have paved highways (many following the exact Oregon Trail routes!) so I never have to worry about discomfort. We have miles and miles of crops which has changed the scenery somewhat, but is truly beautiful in it's own way. Not a buffalo is seen anywhere in the wild any more and the Platte River has flowed along beside me like a constant friend.
I am almost to the edge of Nebraska and so excited to step into Wyoming!
And oh! What the pioneers face next!
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