On Thursday, we're getting a new foster child. That will make 5 teenaged boys. Charlie decided we needed a little outing before this all came down, so Saturday morning he told me to wear walking shoes and be prepared to leave at 8:00. Where were we going? IT WAS A SECRET.
The boys sleep in until 9 or 10, and then have their Saturday chores to perform. After that they can swim. Should they need help, one of my daughters lives just across the street. We were set.
At eight, we left in the Camaro and started east. We drove for an hour and a half over countryside that never changed fromn the flat, arid plains that surround Holyoke. Then, suddenly, trees and lush green grass lined the road. A forest stretched beyond them. We crept through a tiny village and turned off onto a dirt road marked by a small sign that read Dancing Leaf.
After a mile or two, we pulled into a parking area across from a gorgeous lodge-type building. We were welcomed by a tall, spare woman with bobbed graying hair. She took us into a small cabin marked as the museum, and we settled onto a bench.
For the next half an hour, Jan Hosick regaled us with the history of the area: Dancing Leaf is located near the Allen Site on Medicine Creek...an active paleo-anthology dig. Southwest Nebraska was once part of a huge inland sea, and then it became a tropical paradise, and then a savanna rimmed by glaciers. More types of elephants have lived in Nebraska, Mrs. Hosick told us, than any place in the world INCLUDING ASIA.
We held huge Mamouth teeth in our hands and marveled at the skill of primitive huntsmen as she demonstrated the methods they used to hunt and kill the huge beasts. We followed the progress of these ancestors of the Pawnee until they emerged into the "present" of the appearance of Caucasians in the area.
Then Jan Hosick took us down a path to a clearing where, overlooking the river valley below, there is a reconstructed Indian dwelling. Deer hide tanning processing racks rimmed the place along with covered shelters where the women could work during the day's heat, moving along with the shade. In the center of the clearing stood a moundhouse...something like an earthen igloo.
Then we stooped and entered the moundhouse where Mrs. Hosick explained the artifacts and laid out for us "a day in the life." She pointed out the "carpeted" floor and the hole in the roof through which a square of light fell near the firepit and served as a clock. She told us about the technology of the construction of the house that allowed it to keep out the rain and snow and the heat of the day as well as moderate the cold of the winter.
When we returned to the main house, the Hosicks joined us in a wonderful meal of buffalo stew, raw vegetables and melons and corn muffins...a meal, she explained, the Indians would have prepared, since they grew fruits and vegetables in abundance.
The cost of a day pass to Dancing Leaf is nominal. You can also camp or rent cabins there. You can even stay in the moundhouse...sleeping on the hide-covered shelves as the Indiand would have. Charlie and I are determined to go back, and to take the boys.
When we returned to Holyoke, both of us were refreshed and excited about this unexpected oasis in the arid plains. If you want to check it out, go to http://www.dancingleaf.com
And to all of you who aren't as lucky as I am to have someone like Charlie...EAT YOUR HEARTS OUT.
Check out my books at http://www.beyonderqueen.net/annecarylinvitesyou
Posted by beyonderqueen
at 10:37 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 3 August 2009 11:29 AM EDT