I enjoy writing silly poems. Here is a poetic recap of some of the highlights of our trip following the Lewis & Clark Trail from St Louis to Great Falls. Our trip, to this point, has taken almost four weeks. Lewis & Clark were on the river for almost 6 months to their winter quarters in Fort Mandan, and then another 3 months the next spring before arriving near what is now called Helena, Montana.
This tells of our trip.....
The first day of our adventure had finally come
We arrived from all over, ready for fun.
Most felt like strangers, but o’er Louisville BBQ we did chat
Learning about each other, and sharing this and that.
Early the next morning we all boarded the bus
Where Albert, the driver, entertained us.
Of the history of St Louis he was glad to tell
And sprinkled his story with jokes as well.
Missouri, he told us, has 2 states above and 2 below
And 5 east or west if in that direction you go.
Of parks, buildings and breweries, we saw it all
And ascended the arch, at 630 feet tall.
We traveled back in time, to the departure of Lewis & Clark
Who influenced the growth of our country. They left their mark.
At Camp River Dubois, the confluence of the Mississippi and the Mighty Mo
They gathered goods, selected men, and in May,1804 were ready to go.
We saw historic centers, and movies and models of pirogues
And lists, and examples of everything in their load.
In the years after Lewis & Clark’s expedition
Steamboats plied the Missouri, despite its poor condition.
Many a ship caught on sandbars or by tree snags were sunk
And some guys in Kansas City set about a myth to debunk.
After 132 years, Steamboat Arabia was dug from a field,
Then the men were finally able to see what she’d yield.
They started a museum to share the treasure in her hold:
Boots, knives, dishes, so many other things…but no gold.
We toured old mansions, now museums, filled with eclectic stuff,
Some folks eyes began to roll back in their heads, as if to say, “enough”!
But, how could you not find something interesting to see
In St Joseph at the expansive three-story Hotel Patee.
They had antique toys, dishes, trains and a ball of string
A carousel, Jesse James’ house and so many things.
We climbed in and out of many a bus
And tour guides, like Joan, would try to teach us
About the buildings, the history, and all of the statues
About local culture, events and historical venues
In all of the Saint cities, like Louis, Charles and old St Jo
As well as Kansas City, Independence and so many mo’
We saw how the guys on the pony express would ride,
And would quickly transfer the mochilla (a piece of hide),
From one horse to a another at the next station
And ride 70-100 miles without cessation.
In Platte City Lizzie made us laugh with her bawdy jokes and tales;
Another day Jim, in the guise of Clark, told us tales from the trail.
He told us glaciers scoured the land, creating lakes, rivers and bluffs
High atop one the Corps held counsel with Indians to instill trust.
I’ve never seen anything like the Squirrel Cage Jail,
If prisoners tried to escape they’d surely fail.
Three levels of cells would rotate to the only door
Where the jail keeper would wait at whichever floor.
Each floor had ten pie-shaped cells, housing two,
I’m glad I was only there for a tour, how about you?
At the Strategic Air Command museum we saw impressive aircraft,
One that could traverse this country in less than one hour flat.
Our guide shared so much with us, and didn’t want to end
But some of us headed out to eat at “Round the Bend”.
This renowned steak restaurant started it all
In June they host the annual testicle festival.
On a hillside beside the highway Dignity stands,
A star quilt of glass held aloft in her hands.
A lonely sentinel watching over the land of the Sioux,
Inviting respect for the culture from those passing through.
It seems that each little burg, county or town
Along the trail of such renown,
Had some sort of center for tourists to see,
Or a plaque to acknowledge an honoree.
Most centers focused on what happened there,
Bringing history of that spot alive for those who care
To stop by to see, study, read and reflect,
And grab the sort of thing from the shop they collect.
It impressed me to see how sites engaged all of us
With stamps, or ropes to pull, or things to discuss,
With costumes, buttons to push and things to ponder,
As we imagined the hardships the men faced as they wandered.
With all the men endured, from Indians, weather & accidents,
Floyd was the only casualty, dying from an illness they couldn’t prevent.
He was first buried near Sioux City, high on a bluff,
But his remains had to be moved as the river undercut
The place where he lay, and he was moved yet twice more.
Now a tall obelisk memorial above him does soar.
We marveled at the designs adorning the Corn Palace
Made of corn, grass and weeds nailed into place.
While there in Mitchell we also did see
An ancient village and the Library by Carnegie.
On our way to Pierre we all made a stop,
Toured the Lakota museum and yes, we did shop.
One display showed Indian conflict with US regs and rules
Something I somehow missed when I was in school.
We learned that the Lakota were one part of the Sioux,
Known as fierce warriors, they were called Tetons, too.
The Corps had a close call with them while passing by Pierre,
But a Chief calmed things down, there was nothing to fear.
Have I mentioned the food we have enjoyed on this trip?
We’ve been told there are some things you just can’t skip.
Like the Sioux City sandwiches filled with loose meat
A sloppy Jo without sauce, but they were still messy to eat.
At the Cattlemen’s Club we enjoyed a steak
But the salads were lacking, was that a mistake?
The staff prepared meals to feed to our group
How can you forget that delightful stone soup?
We toured some capitol buildings, how different could they be?
Pierre’s building has a dome, Bismarck’s is the tower on the prairie.
Each built with local hardwoods, beautiful stone & tall columns
The guides tossed out numbers, including the total cost sums.
At Abraham Lincoln State Park, North Dakota’s first,
The Mandans were decimated by smallpox and dispersed,
Leaving their earth covered lodges and traveling forth,
Leaving On-a-Slant village and traveling north.
Lewis & Clark saw the ruins on this very same site
Where an Indian chief told him of their plight.
Nearby in the 1870s they built Fort McKeen
On a tall hill they had blockhouses, from there they could see
Any threat to the infantry that was there to protect
Railroad workers from harm by any Indian sect.
The fort was expanded to include cavalry,
Custer was the commander, until the massacrē.
Custer’s home was reconstructed so all could see
How he lived on this remote post of the military.
The Corps was discouraged. They had fallen short of their goal
And soon would be facing cold weather and snow.
The Mandans were friendly and would lend support,
So near them they built a small palisade fort.
Charbonneau convinced them his skills they would need
As he knew the area and he could help them proceed.
Furthermore, Sacagawea, his Indian bride
Could help them get horses from the Shoshone tribe.
Lewis & Clarks’ camping was far different than ours,
We have nice RVs, they were in tents, or slept under the stars.
But, of campgrounds and RV parks we’ve seen our share
Big ones and little ones, great ones and fair.
The camp at Fort Peck was paved and had plenty of space
It only had electric but had birds all over the place.
In Haver we circled our wagons, and formed two lines
A different sort of campground of an unusual design.
It rained some in Epping making some sites a bit icky,
And Basswood Resort turned out to be rather ticky.
After Lewis & Clarks’ journey a trading economy grew;
“I want a cooking pot for me, here are furs for you.”
Indians traded for things they couldn’t easily make.
Fort Union, one of the grandest posts yet, was built on a place
That Lewis & Clark had determined would be a good spot,
Close to the Missouri River, but on ridge high atop.
There a trading post grew, almost a monopoly,
By Astor’s American Fur Trading Company.
Fort Benton was another of Astor’s trading spots,
Gold hunters made it a place of fights and gun shots.
Years later, at Fort Peck, the construction of the dam
Was a relief from the depression for many a man.
Barracks were built but women couldn’t come
So shantytowns sprung up, they looked kinda like slums.
The theater building, where we saw the Hank Williams play,
Was built at this time and looks the same today.
The Corps of Discovery wouldn’t recognize the land,
If they saw the huge lake that was created by the dam.
Next we drove across the prairie to the city of Great Falls,
Where the men in the corps were faced with a surprising pitfall.
They heard of a waterfall, but one turned out to be five,
They dragged heavy canoes over rugged ground 18 miles.
Well, this adventure is more than half done.
Don’t know about you, but I’ve had fun.
It is here where Gunny & Krista stay behind,
They have been great helpers and are oh, so kind.
They’ll head toward the north as we go on west
They’ll be great tail gunners, we can all attest.
We won’t say good-by, because one thing’s for sure
We’ll see you again on another adventure.
- Cyndi Pride