Friday, April 12, 2024

The Great American Plains

This is a vast area stretching westward from the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Here you can experience St. Louis, Missouri’s birth as a trading post in the wilderness. From there you can travel up the Missouri River with Lewis and Clark as well as other explorers.

Before Zebulon Pike, Manuel Lisa, and later John Charles Fremont with Kit Carson at his side began to discover and record the wonders of this bountiful and lonely land it was far from empty. Here was the home of the buffalo, the wolf, and prairie dog. They lived in a harmony of survival with their brothers the Wichita, Pawnee, Kansa, and the Osage people who were later joined by the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Comanches. Some of the first white men on the plains were missionaries who, like all creatures, brought both good and bad to the plains.

Homesteaders built sod houses and raised their crops and children in this wind-blown, wildflower scented world where prairie fires killed, grasshoppers devoured, and crops grew taller and more abundant than could ever be dreamed.

Here, from the earth of the prairie, grew broad expanses of grasses that fed the buffalo until hide hunters nearly depleted them. Then those same grasses fattened longhorns being driven northward from Texas to the wild and lawless cow towns and railheads in Kansas and Missouri. These towns drew not only cowboys but gamblers, outlaws with lawmen on their trails, and “soiled doves” to the rows of saloons that lined the streets in such places as Abilene, Dodge City, and Sedalia.

Mother, Where Did I Come From?

Today I dashed into my mother’s tepee. I asked her where I came from. She gave me a startled glance, and a funny little...