Day 238 – Nebraska Heartland, August 11, 2011
This morning we left Grand Island and headed northwest up
Highway 2 in gusting winds through corn fields and farmland to Broken Bow, so
named for a broken Indian bow found nearby.
The winds are so strong in this area that trees are planted along the
highways as windbreaks. The Broken Bow
area came to be known as the Sod House Frontier, as when settlers first moved to
the nearly treeless area, they built their homes, corals, pig pens, churches
and school out of sod. Today the town is
small and modernized, relatively speaking.
We stopped near the courthouse to snatch a cache…Nebraska checked off
Continuing along Highway 2 as geese flew in a V-shape form
overhead and trains chugged by, we entered the sand hills region. The immense system of dunes that spans for at
least 200 miles along the highway was created when sands of ancient sea were
carried here by wind. The dunes are
blanketed in flourishing grasses whose root systems have kept the dunes in
place. If I were a cow living solely on
grass, this is the place I’d want to be.
The view was quite serene.
A 90,000 acre area, Nebraska National Forest, is situated on
the south side of the highway within the dune region. Approximately one fourth of it comprises hand-planted
trees. In the late 1800’s, Dr. Charles
Bessey was convinced that the region was once forested and could be again. After years of building his case and
gathering support, he wrote to President Roosevelt stating the government must
take steps to provide for the production of timber for America’s future as
eastern forests had been harvested or burned by 1902. Roosevelt established the Dismal River Forest
Preserve, which is now the Nebraska National Forest. We visited the Scott Fire Lookout, named for
the forest’s first supervisor, Charles Scott.
The tower is not only home to a nice view, but also to a cache! We walked along a hilltop trail watching for
rattlesnakes and sticker burr bushes and admiring the wildflowers.
After visiting the forest, we continued west past miles of
dunes and eventually turned south toward Ogallala. Just about the only sign of life were cows
grazing on the hills or drinking from a water trough beneath a windmill.
In Ogallala, I decided to take in the nightly performance of
the Crystal Palace Revue, named for a naughty 1875 dance hall. Eight high school students perform a gunfight
outside the saloon prior to the beginning of an hour and a half performance of
singing, dancing, and joke telling on stage in the bar. The show; cute, fun, goofy, comical and very
interactive with the crowd, runs all summer until the kids go back to school and has been in production for over forty years.
I grabbed a bite to eat at the bar before the show where I
met Jerry. He once lived in Bedford,
Texas and now lives in Kansas. He works
for a seismology company and is in Nebraska briefing the farmers about the
procedures that will take place on their land in order to look for gas and oil
in accordance with the leases they signed.
Somehow we got to talking about the weather…oh because the bartender
Stacy asked if it was going to rain…and he said a guy traveling through had to
pull off at his hotel because his windshield got smashed by golf ball sized
hail. I’m glad I missed that storm. I hope I stay out of them!
Ogallala is on Mountain Time. I read a road sign that informed me of this,
but my phone never changed, so I ended up being an hour early to the show. Of course, I didn’t figure that out until I
sat around a while which was annoying until I noticed the Cowboy game was
on! I thought well this was a good $10
spent. If the show is boring, I’ll watch
the game on mute. They turned the
football off and the show was entertaining enough anyway! ETB