Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

Margaret Clark Journals

June 3, 1997

Location: Henry, Nebraska - Location: 41:59:55N 104:02:49W

Summary: Joe Vogel Day - his last day as wagonmaster

Journal entry: Today we traveled our last full day through Nebraska. It is a sad happiness. We are sad, for our experiences in this wonderful state are soon over. We are happy, for we will soon begin Wyoming and the anticipation for what lies ahead is great.

And because we will be leaving Nebraska, the reins will be given from Joe Vogel and Russ Leger to Ben Kern. Thus, I chose to spend the last day in Nebraska with Mr. Vogel. When I asked him if I could spend the day with him just talking with him, and watching his duties, I had no idea the great privilege I was being granted. He provided me with a lovely horse named Spider and I rode at the head of the entire wagon train. I must admit by the end of the day I was very saddle sore and my knees were very painful, but I would not have traded this day for any thing you could have given me on this trek. It was a day I will always remember.

Joe says he cannot remember not riding horses or driving a wagon. This is something he has done his entire life. He has been the wagonmaster for five wagon treks through Nebraska, including the Oregon Trail in 1993. In his "real life" he worked for the Union Pacific Railroad for over 40 years but has since retired. He was full of all kinds of information about the trains that passed us. He knew there must be a problem on the tracks (There was a wash-out) because of the equipment that passed us and the lack of trains that did. He loves trains and everything associated with them. But more than trains, I think he loves horses and wagons and trains and the association of the people.

I watched him throughout the day. He is a great kidder. He loves to tease the kids and took many opportunities to just be fun. Three of his grand-daughters are on the train today and he was poking a lot of loving fun with them. They are such cute girls: Donna Marie is 16 years old, Michelle is 14 and Anna is 13. They were all three so kind and thoughtful of me and made sure I was comfortable.

Michelle loves Spider, the horse I rode. Every time we stopped she was there to pet him and tend to his needs. Her hair is exactly the same color as Spider, a bright reddish auburn color.

I asked how Spider got his name. His owner at birth happened to be on the train today. He had named him. He said that Spiders grandmother was named Reneete and his mother was named Reneete On Ice (for the drink). But he said he preferred good old Spider Juice rather than Reneete on Ice, thus the name Spider.

Joe started his day very early. I was scheduled to start at 5:45am, but the rumors had it we would not be travelling today as the roads had been washed out from the rain. Well, by the time the rumor was proved wrong, I was late...a good half hour late. Joe had most of the horse work done and was just saddling the horses. I felt so bad, cause I really did want to do my part. He was pretty much ready to ride and the wagon train did not pull out until 8:00.

In the next hour, Joe rode around and checked on all the teamsters and wagons and made sure everybody was in good shape to ride. He spoke a little at morning devotional and then the time came to pull out. Joe is a very tall man and sits tall in his saddle. He has a very regal appearance and is quite commanding in his position. He had his final "Wagons Ho!" and the train began its last full day in Nebraska. He led the group out of the fairground and down the road to the main highway.

I asked him how he felt pulling out on his last day as wagon master. He said it was a mixed feeling of sadness and gladness. He was especially pleased that the trek through Nebraska had been so successful. Especially that there had not been any serious accidents and that the train had moved every day and made its destinations in fairly good time. He was especially glad there were no injuries that were serious. He commented that it would be nice to travel at the end of the train for a change and not have the responsibility of leading out. Now he would have a little more freedom.

We pulled across the railroad tracks and out onto the highway. The day was absolutely gorgeous. We had the drenching rains yesterday and everything was clean and vibrant with color. The grasses were tall and a luscious green. The rolling hills to the right held pastures of prancing, frollicky horses. The trees along the Platte River were tall and swayed gently in the morning breeze. The beautiful blue sky was filled with puffy white clouds. The breeze was refreshing against my face and gently tossed my hair about. It was the kind of day only fairy tales can claim. This was a dream come true. Joe commented that this would be a nice day. I certainly had to agree.

I asked Joe what it takes to organize a wagon train like this. He said a lot of time. He actually started thinking about this over two years ago. And after discussing the possibility with several people, accepted the position of the north trail wagonmaster through Nebraska. Russ Leger took the Ox-Bow Train from Council Bluffs and met up with the north train at Kearny. Then about a year ago, Joe began the detail work. He said he traveled across Nebraska 7 times just holding meetings with community leaders in arranging campsites, meals, activities, and actual routes of travel. He said he spent every week on the road and took off two weeks at Christmas only. He said for one year this has been his constant thought.

He said one of his biggest desires was to have each community be involved with the train's passing. This is something that has been evident to me. The communities are involved. And they have been wonderful. He also wanted the schoolchildren to come see us and visit the train. And when school was in session we had lots of children with us.

I asked Joe what things he considered when he chose the campsites for us to stay in. He said that this was the first train he had done that had walkers on it. So his first consideration was to choose sites that were within a reasonable walking distance in one day. Thus, we have averaged about 15 to 16 miles each day which is fairly reasonable for a walker. He felt above 20 miles was asking too much. He also wanted to follow the Mormon trail as closely as possible which we did most of the time. Out of Broadwater we did cross the river to the south side and followed the Oregon Trail into Bridgeport. He said this actually cut off 3 miles which was his consideration for the walkers.

We stopped in Morrill for lunch (Ham hocks and beans...yum!) and then resumed our ride. We passed by a wild animal pasture with ostrich, camels, strange looking bison or buffalo and a few other things I didn't recognize. The afternoon was slow and lazy and Joe said it was a good time to take a nap....something the walkers couldn't do. I was up on this horse and was sure I couldn't take a nap. Besides I might miss something. I took off my jackets and let the sun bake me. It was lovely.

We slowly made our way into the border town of Henry and directed the train to the assigned campsite for the night. As we entered the field, I pulled back on the reins and guided Spider to the side, as each wagon followed the direction of their leader. It was really a sight watching the Nebraska wagonmaster guiding the train to his final circle. He appeared confident and proud. Solitary grandeur.

Thank you WagonMaster Vogel for a storybook ride, for the pleasure of your company, for a day in the saddle and on the train. We appreciate your time and efforts in getting us safely through Nebraska. This has been a grand end in your legacy of wagon trains...the successful completion of the Mormon Trail Wagon Train 150 years - Halfway.

Our meal tonight was delicious. We had the treat of fresh vegetables. The lovely people of this little town did the cooking and it was really tasty. For the program tonight, the governors of Nebraska and Wyoming came together with three of our four wagon masters to pass the torch of the responsibility of the Wagon Train from Nebraska to Wyoming. Ben Nelson, the Nebraska Governor stated that this is symbolic of the progress of modern times, that we have bonds of friendship. Jim Gerringer (gosh, I hope I'm spelling these names right) the Governor of Wyoming stated that there are two kinds of people: those who are on the wagon train and those who wish they were. His joke of the day: What did the mother buffalo say to her son as he left for school? Bison.

Our concluding speaker was Elder Pinnock, a General Authority from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He made some pioneer presentation as modern Mormon pioneers. We enjoyed the evening to- night. We did have to pause a few times til the trains passed by, but I've gotten quite accustomed to that habit. Oh, Elder Pinnock was proclaimed an official Wyoming Cowboy by the governor. Cool!

Henry is typical of every town through Nebraska that our wheels have passed through. The people are good people, kind, considerate, genuine. They possess the values that make this country a great country. Henry gave us everything that they could. And they were glad to do it. As I drove out of town the next day, a gentleman was giving some of his beautiful iris flowers to one of our wagon people. What a kind gesture of goodwill.

When I went back to Mitchell to get my car, someone asked me where the train was staying tonight. I said, "Henry." Their comment was that Henry was a neat little town with a great spirit. So, thanks, Henry, and thanks Nebraska. It's been GREAT! I had to write a poem to Nebraska to tell you how it has affected me. I remember as a child driving through Nebraska to get somewhere else. But walking across this state and meeting the people here has renewed in me again the belief that people are kind and good and America is a wonderful place to live.

My Gift to Nebraska--1997

I have lived you, Nebraska,
In this year of commemoration for this trail -
This Mormon trail that stretches from your east to your west
And meanders beside your winding rivers.
This trail that led thousands of believers to
New homes and new hopes and new lives.

I have lived you, Nebraska,
From the swollen banks of the Missouri River to your
Rain-drenched fields of the west.
I have cowered in my cocoon tarp in the dark of night -alone-
And watched the soaking rains
Cover your fields.
I have trudged wearily through mud-filled roads,
My hair stringy; my feet blistered.

I have lived you, Nebraska,
As the beating sun sent trickles of sweat down my spine and
We walked on.
Gusty winds blew clouds of dust from freshly plowed fields and
Sandhills whispered "Slow, slow,slow your pace;
Capture my beauty and then you will stay."

I have lived you, Nebraska,
As the yearly miracle of Spring unfolded before our
Slow-paced eyes
And the browns and greys of the somber cold burst into the
Splendors of Spring and color and life.
I sought each new sprout of blossom and twig.

I have lived you, Nebraska,
And met your people.
Folks like me who want nothing more than to love and be loved.
Who treasure the gift of family and friends, and know
That a smile and a handshake are forever.
People who graciously feed the stranger and shelter the weary.

I have lived you, Nebraska,
With constant thoughts of days long ago
When distant ancestors passed over your trails and
Crossed your rivers.
Did they live and see and feel the things that I have?
Did they consider your beauties or hurriedly pass them by?

I have lived you, Nebraska,
And marvel that the slowness of our journey has
Opened my soul and
Flooded my being and made me
Love you.