Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Rock in the Glen

Sunday May 22nd and Les duly turned up on his impressive young mustang King to ride to his small ranch near Glenrock. It was not long before we crossed to the south of North Platte and rejoined the Oregon and Pony Express trails. Pausing en route at the grave of Alvah Unthank..
 Quite poignant, as in 1850 nineteen year old Alvah had scratched his name on Register Cliff before dying of cholera at this point shortly after.  
After a few long days tramping the main road and a night in a wet tent, I was glad to be able to take a day off and relax with Les and his lovely wife Susan.   The horses chill out in their spacious accommodation in the paddocks around the house ... 
 ...the grass looks very sparse, but apparently is full of protein and horses do well on it.

Glenrock gets its name from 'the rock in the glen' the rock in question being in the background of the photo below.
The sign states 'On July 26 1842 John C Fremont's first expedition to the far west guided by Kit Carson with Joseph Bissonette as interpreter also L Maxwell as hunter, camped in this rocky glen.  Names and dates of many of the 300,000 travellers of the Oregon trail are here'

Although 'the rock in the glen' was a local landmark, Glenrock town itself grew up around the site of Deer Creek station, which itself was based on the trading post Dakota City founded here by Joseph Bissonette. When the Overland stage started in 1857 it became known as Deer Creek station after its location near to the confluence between Deer Creek and the North Platte, and in 1860 it became a Pony Express home station. After the demise of the Pony Express, it served as a telegraph station.   Les by the site of Deer Creek station in Glenrock.....
The stone marker commemorates Deer Creek station, while the post on the left specifically commemorates its function as a Pony Express station.  The large yellow sign on the right shows the layout of the former station relative to the present street plan.  During the Indian wars, military troops were garrisoned here between 1862-65. Increasing hostilities forced Bissonette to abandon the station and it was burned to the ground by Indians in 1866. 
Directly across the street is another privately constructed memorial to the Deer Creek Pony Express station....
A famous feat by Pony Express rider Henry Avis occurred here when he finished his westward run at Horseshoe Creek station to hear that Sioux warriors were on the warpath ahead.  The next rider in the relay was understandably loath to carry the westward mail and Avis was prevailed upon to stand in and gallop on.  Arriving intact at Deer Creek he discovered the eastward rider was also unwilling to chance his scalp, so Avis galloped back again with the eastward mail.  But a just reward for his courage came in the form of a $300 bonus.

 On Monday May 22nd I joined Les in a presentation about the Pony Express to a very eager group of children at the local primary school.
But treat of the day was when Les took me to visit friend Rick Davies, who has done a remarkable job renovating an old sheepwagon.
Although the American 'Wild West' is characterised by its cowboys, what is less well documented is its history of sheep herding. Wyoming once supported several million sheep, and competition between cattle and sheep at the turn of the nineteenth century resulted in armed conflict over grazing rights resulting in the killing of sheepherders and the deaths of thousands of sheep.
 However, due to the decline in free grazing land and shrinking markets for wool, sheep numbers have decreased considerably and can now only be numbered in thousands. Many sheep herders were of Basque origin from northern Spain, and traditional sheep wagons were commonly used while caring for and guarding sheep on the ranges.
At the wagon door with Rick on the right in the checked shirt, and friend Les (another one) on the left. 
The beautifully restored interior of the wagon with attention to every detail, including a pretty bed....
..and a working stove..
Rick has also done an incredible restoration on an old chuckwagon, a covered wagon used as a 'field kitchen' for wagon trains or travelling workers such as cowboys...

He has gone to great lengths to equip the wagon with appropriate supplies, and every drawer is an Aladdin's cave of relevant artifacts.  You can see the table which folds out at the back, behind which the larder is concealed, and there is also a water barrel.
Cowboys would also store their kit and bedrolls on the wagons.

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