May 13, 1997
Location: Gothenburg, Nebraska - Location: 40:55:46N 100:09:37W Elevation: 2567 feet
Summary: Tuesday, May 13, 1997 (Clear, but very windy)
Journal entry: [Translated by Tomoko Nakayama]
Morning in Cozad was very cold. It has been a long time since I've seen the tent freeze. I wonder how long this kind of weather will last as I warm up my frozen hands. A man whose name is Melvin who is from Logan, Utah talked to me when I stretched my legs muscles for the 7 o'clock departure. Melvin is already retired, but he has a Ph.D in Animal dietics. He has been teaching at many universities and continues his research at the invitation of foreign organizations. He asked me, "Why don't you ride on this wagon?"
But this wagon has only two wheels and one horse. Imagine a jinrikisha (a rickshaw) being pulled by a horse. This looks just like it. He explained that he needs help controlling both horse and wagon at the same time. But once I rode the wagon, a cold piercing wind began to blow at me. My hair is constantly blown back. It would certainly feel lonely to ride alone on this wagon. My body begins to freeze, my knees start hurting, and it is hard to open my mouth. Hmm, the horse is pulling the wagon looks different from usual. It keeps shaking its head and stops many times.
I asked Melvin, "Is he sick?"
"No, he is just a little nervous"
"When a horse moves his tongue around, it is a sign that he is nervous."
As expected, he really is an animal dietics expert. "Also, I borrowed this horse from some Amish people, so it easily surprises."
The Amish are people who live around Pennsylvania who don't use electricity, cars and other modern conveniences. So this horse rears up when it hears car sounds or the rattling of trains. We need be careful with this horse. Besides, since the Union Pacific railroad was built on the Mormon pioneer trail, we often move along the railroad tracks.
A Japanese person would have a hard time imagining how long these trains are. Usually, about 100-120 cargo cars are connected. It's very amazing. Moreover, the train often lets out a piercing whistle. The first train car is yellow. The dirty letters, "Union Pacific" make me feel its strength. It pulls more than 100 cars, so sometimes there are two or three yellow cars in the front. The trains carry corn and beans from Nebraska all the time, and coal from other areas. Every 7 min, the trains pass by, so there is a lot being transported. Everytime a train passes, this Amish, "uncivilized horse" stops. The horse becomes less shy. Maybe it has gotten used to the whistles. I can't tell if it's a good thing or not, but I feel a little bad for this horse.
It happened about one hour after I got on the wagon. We left Cozad and were moving to the right side of a public road. On coming cars passed by slowly, at the direction of a police car. A truck pulling a trailer tried to pass. In the trailer, there were a few cows. One of cows jumped up when the truck passed by. The horse which pulled our wagon like a jinrikisha was startled by the cow and started to run recklessly. As the horse off the road, into the right bank, and speeded up rapidly, I could see the wagons and walkers on the left side.
Melvin pulls the bridle strongly with his head back. But the horse keeps speeding up and runs through the bank. The excited horse doesn't care if the wheels fall into the ditch, or run into a rock. Oh, no! If I try to get off now, I will be run over! But if we don't do anything, then this wagon will roll over! What am I gonna do? Many things pass through my mind. Time passes slowly in situation like this. Melvin is trying to pull the bridle so hard his face turns bright red. People around us notice our predicament and cowboys whip their horses trying to catch us. As I look back timidly, Takako is also trying to catch us. There is no way she will be able to catch up with us.
Once again, Melvin tries to calm down the horse. The horse shakes his head, and stops, pawing the ground with his front legs. The incident may have taken less than 20 seconds.
It was very scary. We shouldn't underestimate a horse.
"It looked like Rodeo" said Freddy from Austria, with a smile.
Of course nobody rode in Melvin's wagon after that.