May 29, 1997
Location: Bridgeport, Nebraska - Location: 41:39:55N 103:05:55W Elevation: 3653 feet
Summary: A continued story.
Journal entry: And now I continue with the last few days. Leaving Broadwater in the morning, I had a few errands. I had to find the post office after doing a few computer things. I was again behind the group, but felt confident I could catch up. I was about 45 minutes late but hurried to the mail drop. It was close to the main road, so I ran out on the road and started walking. I couldn't see the group ahead, but knew I would be able to catch up.
It was a lovely day. A little cool, but the sun would come out of the clouds for sure. I walked a few miles when I suddenly realized I was not dodging the usual horse tulips. In fact, there was nothing familiar about the roadside. A wagon train leaves tell-tale signs behind. It was a little disconcerting to know I wasn't following a wagon train. I looked north and thought I saw a dirt road. I took off and walked about a half a mile.....no road. So I went back. On the way back I happened to glance across the river and way off in the distance I saw the sag wagon. I had no idea they were going to cross the river. That was at least 3 miles back, and the next crossing was probably the next town, Bridgeport.
I could go back, keep walking--alone all day or swim across the river. Swimming the river did not seem really all that smart, seeing as how it is at flood stage. Besides, we had been warned to stay out of the fields --rattlesnakes. Some had already been killed. I chose to keep walking. It would have helped my walk if someone would have kicked me a few times down the road. So dumb!
I was trying to find some kind of good out of my situation when a truck came along the railroad tracks. He was spraying for weeds and the week killer permeated the air. I always get headaches when I smell this stuff, and I was worried about what to do now. Can't go forward, can't go backward. I breathed through my sleeve. Not three minutes passed when a suburban passed me, came to a stop, flipped a U-turn and came back to me. A fine grandfather with his grandson. He asked if he could take me into town. I gratefully accepted.
On the way he told me about the wonderful rainstorms and how the amount was a perfect amount. The fields were so dry that they needed a good soaking, but also needed not too much or the new seedlings would rot in the ground. He said it couldn't have been better. He pointed out a house that two days previous had been close to flooding from the river. Another few hours of rain and it would have been under water. With the tremendous run-off in the Colorado mountains and the fact that the rains came at the same time, it was a critical situation for a few days. He said they were very lucky. He also told me about flying over Jail Rock and Courthouse Rock, the two landmarks near this town. He explained that while they were in the air, they could see the wagon tracks from the Oregon Trail. The Oregon Trail was on the south side of the river; the Mormon Trail on the North Side. He told me they flew about 500 feet above the ground clear to the Wyoming border and followed the wagon tracks the entire distance. We talked about the Wagon Train a little, he dropped me off in Bridgeport, I thanked him and he drove off. He came at just the right moment. Thank you, sir, Mr. Christensen.
I never carry money with me during the day, but today I happened to. I went into a little bakery called Sweet Things and had two of the best sweet rolls I have ever eaten. Bob was at the counter (I know his name because everybody intown must have come in and said,"Hi, Bob!") He had a smile and a joke for everyone, including stranger me. I listened to the town talk and felt reassured that the values of America are alive and well in Nebraska.
As I walked out on Main Street, Tennessee John came by and gave me a lift to camp. I spent the rest of the day helping to shuttle vehicles (except my own). I also spent a few hours watching camp develop from a large fair grounds with big open fields, to a regular town. It was truly a fascinating experience. I grew to appreciate the incredible organization it takes to create this wagon train and to move it everyday from one town to another and maintain sanity and order. This was a part of the wagon train I had not experienced, but is incredibly important. I also watched the train arrive, and as each wagon and horseman passed me by, I felt the spirit of the trail engulf the grounds. The people in camp stopped their activities and hollered and yelled halloo to each passing wagon and walker. It was exciting again. I felt the pioneers entering a fort or a geographic marker, and their excitement at having arrived at a place they had only heard about. We are passing by places we have only heard about, but it marks off another few miles that brings us closer to our destination. It is still the same feelings of excitement. We are closing in on the half-way mark.
The two markers here, Jail Rock and Courthouse Rock, are immense. Stories are that in the pioneer days, Indians would steal the travelers horses and take them to the top of Courthouse Rock. Their defense was impenetrable. The settlers would leave, several horses less than when they arrived.
The rain today arrived with the last handcart and everyone ran for shelter.
Bridgeport served us a great meal. We so appreciate their hospitality. We were given the services of a large community center with hot showers, a great game room, and a TV to watch the Jazz game. Thanks so much for your kindnesses! HappyNetTrekking!