Today, I touched history. Literally.
We pulled off the side of the road into a deserted patch of asphalt.
For miles in front of us, Kansas prairie land stretched unabated; knee high grass rustled gently in the soft summer breeze. Above, the unforgiving
sun beat down mercilessly.
“Let’s see what this one says,” my husband announced, opening the van door. He had parked about a hundred yards in front of a small historical
I sighed, less than enthused. My husband, a history aficionado, devoutly studied every historical marker he came across. Me, I was less
enthusiastic. After almost two weeks of driving across the country, stopping at every possible historical site, no matter how mundane, I just wanted
to sit in the car and listen to my iPod.
“We drove all this way, you’ve got to come see this,” my husband reasoned. I was unmoved by his logic.
“Last time we stopped, it was to see the biggest hand-dug well in North America. We paid twenty-five bucks, and you know what we saw? A huge hole
in the ground. Twenty-five bucks for a hole in the ground.”
“You’re loss, then,” my husband shrugged. He turned to my son and nephew. “Boys, you coming?”
Of course they were. Typical six year olds, they jumped at any opportunity to escape the van. Pushing the door open, they spilled out onto the
parking lot and ran ahead to the marker.
I watched my family for a moment, then sighed and opened the door. I really didn’t want to see another pseudo claim-to-fame, but my legs could
definitely use a stretch. I leisurely followed my family through the grass, feeling the hot Kansas sun pleasantly warming my skin and the light
breeze deftly lifting the tendrils of hair that escaped my ponytail.
When I reached the marker, my husband was reading it out loud for the boys. “In front of us, you can see the tracks made by the wagons as they
followed the Santa Fe Trail, heading west to hopes of a better life.”
Curious, I stepped past the marker and glanced down. There they were, twin tracks worn into the prairie landscape more than 150 years ago. I was
astounded. How could such old tracks still be visible?
Back at the marker, my husband was taking pictures and the boys were playing an impromptu game of tag. After cautious reminders to the boys to watch
for snakes, I told my husband I was going for a quick walk and would return soon. He nodded and continued snapping pictures.
I walked about 100 yards down the trail tracks, brushing my fingers over the top of the prairie grass. I closed my eyes and imagined the sound of
creaking wagon wheels, laughing children, and lowing oxen. Perhaps a young mother had walked where I now trod, her hands teasing the tops of the
grass while she walked beside her wagon. Maybe she dreamed of her new life, waiting more than a thousand miles away. Possibly she warned her
children to stay near the wagon, mindful of the multitude of dangers lurking on the open prairie. Or perhaps she considered more mundane matters; the
never-ending chores waiting for her attention: laundry, cooking, mending, and more.
I imagined her life, her fears and hopes, her aspirations and her doubts. I wondered….did she imagine me? A future traveler, with the same hopes
and dreams for family and self?
I think she did. In a rare moment of rest, I believe she turned her thoughts to the future and considered those who would come after her. Maybe she
even imagined my hand brushing the tops of the prairie grass as I followed her tracks.
Rarely in life do we get the opportunity to truly connect with the past. Too often, we memorize historical facts without thought for the ordinary
lives of those who preceded us. I know I am guilty of this; I can tell you names and dates of important historical milestones, yet not even consider
the people of the time. They are forgotten; distant memories that linger in silence, waiting for a recognition and connection that never comes.
I’m too busy with my own life, my own concerns and cares, to consider those long dead.
But not today.
Today, I walked on the Santa Fe Trail, and I was not alone.
Picture of the trail. Can you see the trail ruts?
edit on 17-7-2012 by smyleegrl because: (no reason given)
edit on 17-7-2012
by smyleegrl because: (no reason given)