A week at Fort Robinson in Northwest Nebraska topped our August vacation list every other year for twenty years. Stripped pine trees placed in a semi-circle inside a semi-circle, with the branches laid across the top, made shade - a squaw cooler the Indians used for sacred ceremonies. Seeing it standing made our nights eerie.
There's a lot to do. In the dark blue night Minnie and I gazed at the sky jam packed with stars. We took bumpy jeep rides to the top of the bluffs, rode horses through the pasture, watched the buffalo eat at their prairie buffet, took in the melodrama with boos and hisses, ate buffalo stew at the cookout by the creek, and laughed at the rodeo "hide ride:" a cowboy and his horse pulled a buffalo hide around the arena with little kids on it. They'd roll under it, but wouldn't let go - a great opportunity for a soap commercial.
The entertainer for the buffalo cookout invited us to his authentic Pine Ridge Indian teepee. Without street lights, the full moon guided us to it's silhouette on the prairie. Inside, he strummed his guitar and sang while his wife popped corn over the pit in the center the toddler stumbled around. We sang along. Timelessness shattered when she poured the popped corn into a plastic bowl.
We've stayed in the leather-smelling rooms at the lodge wishing the walls would talk. For Papa's August 13th birthday we stayed in an enlisted men's house in the center room. Everyone had to go through it to and from the bathroom, and everytime they did, they sang happy birthday.
The Officer's Quarters adobe duplexes have a hard wood central hall the officers used for dances. To keep up morale, keep them civilized, they made weekly visits to other officers. We didn't dance, but the kids had fun slidding in their stocking feet.
My sister's and my favorite activity involved the fifty-cent stage coach ride. We'd hang around the barn until passengers thinned out, then tip the driver to run the mules. He'd race across the prairie, through the creek, and back. We'd bounce around the springless-stage, and laugh so hard our bewildered family could hear us back at the barn. We had so much fun, and it felt so good when he stopped.
copyright 2005 Red Convertible Travel Series