Thursday, 28 July 2016

Rest in Roscoe

Monday May 2nd and another bright cold day perfect for riding as we set out towards O'Fallon's Bluff.  Midday rest by an abandoned homestead. 
 Sad to see that the plot is being cleared and will no doubt be ploughed up to enable pivot farming by some large concern, something which is happening throughout the Mid West.  The Homesteading Acts of the 1860s enabled many landless immigrants to stake a claim to a plot of land and start a new life.  Land was divided into sections of a mile square, initial homestead lots usually comprising a quarter section of 160 acres or later a half section of 320 acres. To apply for a homestead, the applicant had to be an American citizen, head of household and at least 21 years old. Having staked a claim they had to build a house and live and farm on the homestead for at least five years.  But in more recent years people have been moving out of rural areas, and old family homesteads bought up to practise large scale commercial farming with its attendant problems.  One downside has been the virtual elimination of landscape features of historical interest.

O'Fallon's bluff is a section of a long line of bluffs dropping steeply down to the south bank of the River Platte.  This forced the emigrant and pony express trails to take a diversion climbing over the sandy hills to the south...
 This view is along West Antelope road where it gradually rises up the hill, and the edge of the bluffs can just be seen on the skyline to the right.   A Pony Express station was established on the far side of the bluff, called Dansey's after the proprietor, though it was sometimes referred to as O'Fallon's.
An intriguing and somewhat contradictory sign...
For a region which is so hospitable to passing strangers such as myself, North America seems to contain an inordinate amount of No Trespassing signs.  But at least it provides a widespread and  ingenious use for old tyres...
On Google Earth I had earmarked a possible camp site with grass and a pond not too far from Dansey's, but when I got there I found it was draped in the usual No Trespassing signs.  Added to this there was no-one around at the next few places to ask permission from, always a problem when trying to find an overnight stop.  So I was relieved a couple of miles further on to find a house with paddocks containing evidence of previous equine residents and an enthusiastic lady who welcomed me in with open arms.  My friendly hosts Michelle Schuler and John Rogers..
...who provided all the comforts of home, plus some interesting conversation.
Tuesday May 3rd   The rolling road to Roscoe....
 ..where I had arranged to have a day off with NPEA member Mary Cone. 

Rather incongruous sign for a horseback traveller on a dirt road...
 ...but actually aimed at traffic on Interstate 80 on the other side.  This was in the area where Alkali Lake Pony Express station was located, the exact site remaining unidentified.
As I neared Roscoe, a figure appeared by the side of the road - it was Mary, who had come to guide me to her house a couple of miles off the trail.   We crossed north over the interstate, the South Platte and the railway, and climbed up to her lovely home at the top of a hill with panoramic views to the south.  In the photo below the line of trees marks the course of the South Platte river, and the Pony Express trail runs parallel with it along the hills just to the far side..
It was a perfect place for Lady and Mo to relax and chill out for a day, not to mention me!  Mary first helped me to thoroughly clean out and medicate a nasty wound Lady had mysteriously acquired on her thigh at Tyler's. She was not lame, and I had been treating it, but had not been able to give it a really good hose out.
A much needed rest, and a chance to do some necessary shopping, besides which Mary and I splurged on a couple of meals out.   Obligatory local option of buffalo burger with Dorothy Lynch sauce (a Nebraska speciality) both times for me!
We also visited the Tri-Trails Park south of the South Platte at Ogallala, which I would be passing the following day.  The three trails in question are the Oregon Trail, the Pony Express trail and also the Texas Trail along which cattle were driven north from Texas to the Union Pacific rail shipping point at Ogallala.   Mary by the Pony Express statue in the park - she was responsible for organising its installation.
Mary running the water hydrant that is used by horses on the Pony Express re-ride, to check the water will be clean when I pass through... you can see, it is pretty brown, and we had to wait a while for it to clear! But at least I knew it would be ready for the morrow, Thursday May 5th.
Is that a horse I see before me?...
Lady arrives at the Park the next morning, and yes she and Mo drank some water.  This was also the approximate site of Gill's Pony Express way station,
Rest stop on a grassy verge.....
 Sods law just as I was packing up to go, a woman  in a passing car invited me to call in at her stables which were only about hundred yards away just over the brow of the hill!   Steve and Jacky Bishop run Jump Rope Stables  and I ended up stopping for a drink and a chat, the result of which was that I found myself still looking for somewhere to stay as dusk fell. Steve and Jacky had suggested Gerry Sherman who farmed a couple of miles beyond the site of Diamond Springs Pony Express station, and he sorted me out with a field down the road and helped me put my tent up in the pitch dark! 

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