All aboard

Have you ever said “Wouldn’t it be fascinating to go back and see how people lived 100 years ago?  1000 years ago?”

Which era would you want to visit?  For how long?

It is hard for me to imagine wanting to live at any other time than NOW.  It doesn’t take too many history books to appreciate how cozy and luxurious we have it, especially those of us living in the United States.  For example, my current reading, Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick, highlights the starvation, disease and warfare with Native Americans which the earliest settlers to this country faced for decades.  In the first six months following their landing, 52 of the original 102 Pilgrims who landed had died.

Or, this past summer, it took me six weeks to drive along and re-trace the Lewis and Clark expedition, by car, by foot and on bicycle, in comparison with the almost two years it took for them.  While we did experience incredible summer storms which wrecked our tent, we could still retreat to the safety of our car to wait out the storm.  Our making it back to Chicago in time for the afternoon game at Wrigley Field certainly pales in comparison with the arrival back in St. Louis by all but one of the original expeditionary group accompanying Lewis and Clark.

So, it would be nice to visit, for an afternoon, maybe even an overnight, but I’d want to get back here pretty fast.

What was so amazing during that summer trip across the West was how much of the country along the Missouri River looked as Lewis and Clark would have seen it.  Sure, the human impact has changed the settlements magnificently, but theirs was a trip about geography and documenting the habitat.  We did not see the numbers of buffalo they ran into, but we certainly saw the force of the river and its overflowing banks through the level plains to appreciate first how easily it is to see that the river can change course, but also how hard the expedition must have had it to go upstream, with mud and swamps on either side of the river.  It sure made me realize how I was never cut out to do the work that either Lewis or Clark, or any of the men accompanying them had to do make it across country.

What was fun, though, was transporting myself back to that time, for an extended period, trying to imagine seeing the landscape as they would have seen it.

The more I thought about that, the more I became involved in various projects and trips did I begin to sense the history all around us.  Thus was born this blog.  This time capsule only goes in reverse, not forward.  It is a random walk backwards, to see our surroundings and current events, in the light of their history.

Welcome and all aboard.

Headwaters of the Missouri



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