Oh boy. I woke up at 3:30 with a lot of itching and pain in my eye. I almost vomited when I saw the monster in my mirror. My eye was mostly swollen shut and my cheek was red and puffy. Uh oh. What to do? I have a well-stocked first aid kit but nothing for this. (Note to self: add antibiotic eye drops to kit.) I’m in the middle of nowhere – York, Nebraska without a clue. At 5 a.m. I called the front desk to ask about a walk-in clinic or an ER but the clerk didn’t know anything so I tried to imagine what a pioneer woman would do. I’m never sure whether to use heat or cold for swelling so I used both alternating a warm compress with ice. I took a hot shower and let the water drum against the swelling. It felt better but without makeup I looked like hell. If it’s not better by the afternoon I thought, I’ll track down a pharmacy or a clinic wherever I happen to be. Although I felt and looked like Quasimodo I’ll probably never see anyone I run into today again. So, as long as I don’t scare any small children or animals I’m just going to enjoy my day and forget about my appearance.
OK, first stop Fort Kearny. I was disappointed. The fort was an outpost for travelers heading west on the Oregon Trail, where they could stop and re-supply. There were no battles fought there. There are a few outbuildings standing and the wooden palisades surrounding the fort. The clerk in the Visitor Center was a young man who didn’t know the history of the fort or the surrounding area so I left after buying a couple of postcards for the grandkids.
Then I headed to Gothenburg, the Pony Express Capital of Nebraska. The station in the park was used as a fur trading post along the Oregon Trail before becoming a Pony Express station. It’s hard to imagine in todays world of cell phones, internet, email and text messaging that the only way to communicate in the early days of the country was through brave young men riding relay, galloping between stations picking up and dropping off saddlebags full of mail. Hostile Indians, brutal weather, robbers – Pony Express riders were tough, courageous and resourceful. The station is now a museum. I bought postcards for the kids and placed them in an original mailbag attached to the front door. My imagination was deliciously satisfied.
I hit the jackpot at the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park in North Platte, Nebraska. Buffalo Bill Cody’s Scout’s Rest Ranch was fascinating; the mansion, the grounds, the barn and all the artifacts from his long life as an Army scout and buffalo hunter and then as a world reknown showman traveling with his Wild West Show throughout the US and Europe. It was a gorgeous day and I spent a happy couple of hours looking around and plugging the holes in my memory with details of the life and times of Buffalo Bill Cody, a bigger than life icon of the wild west. I imagined living in those rooms that look so small by today’s standards but was a mansion in the 19th century. The rooms are furnished with elegance and style. Bill’s wife and daughters were women of culture and intelligence and strength but it was still a difficult life. Two of his children died from scarlet fever in that house so although it is a beautiful place it is filled with ghosts. The spring house and a small cabin were interesting. The huge barn holds a collection of the posters from Buffalo Bills Wild West Show and many of of his wagons, tools and rifles. I saw my first buffalo. My eye still hurts and I’m still in the middle of who knows where? But, I had a great day and I’m very happy.
I regretfully left Scout’s Rest Ranch but still needed to find a place to spend the night. Ogalalla. I love saying that. So I decided I would try to camp at Ogalalla State Recreation Area More about that tomorrow.