I was weary of traveling. The journey was long…1800 miles of mind-numbing boredom. A trip that takes two full days, at best.
I was on my way back from California, heading home for a wedding in southeast Nebraska.
My brother was getting married today…My big, noisy brother! The ceremony would be held at great, great Grandpa Didier’s cabin in Brownville, not far from the Mighty MO. It was a momentous event in the history of our family…and I had to be there, no matter how tired I was!
In western Nebraska, I pulled over to stretch my legs at a rather unique rest area. Getting out of the car, I followed the walkway, reading the signs along the path. “Pioneer wagon tracks,” the signs said.
What….? Wagon tracks…!?
I stared at the old ruts embedded in the Nebraska sod. Pioneer tracks! They still remained after all these years?
I marveled as I walked along the path…following the trail of my forefathers. Pioneers like my great, great Grandpa Didier had made these wagon ruts…traveling back and forth on this route in the 1800’s. History books say that my Grandpa Didier was one of the first white settlers in the state, and he must have known the trail well.
I wandered on down the trail, pondering the matter—thinking about sun-baked Pioneers in covered wagons. Crying children. The threat of Indian attack. The sweat, blood, and tears. And those miles. Those endless, agonizing miles.
I gazed at the wagon tracks disappearing into the distant haze of history. Then slowly, I returned to my car and continued my journey eastward.
I made the trip across Nebraska in record time. It took me only a few hours whereas it would have taken my ancestors many weeks in a covered wagon. By the time I pulled into Brownville, I was feeling more nostalgic than ever.
This was the same town where my great great grandparents had wed, back in 1855. I braked to a stop and sat staring about me. Although much had changed in Brownville since 1855, some things would always remain the same.
The birds were singing cheerily…the same sound that my grandparents had heard on their wedding day so many years ago. The same sunlight was slanting downward, as well. The same tired shadows stretched out to slumber beneath the trees as the sun melted slowly westward.
I got out of my car, heading towards the log cabin in the center of the park…It was a reconstruction of my great, great grandpa Didier’s cabin, fashioned from the old logs from his original house.
My footsteps echoed as I crossed the old porch. Tentatively, I reached out to touch the walnut logs. They were ancient…so old, in fact, their timber had been growing about the same time that George Washington was president. If only these walls could talk!
I nudged open the door of the cabin and peered inside the gloom. There were no ghosts. No visible ones, at least. But I could just imagine Grandpa Didier sitting there at the table smoking a pipe while Grandma stirred a simmering pot of stew nearby. The silence was heavy.
Suddenly, I heard footsteps. They jolted me from my reverie.
The ghost of my grandfather was standing in the doorway… No. Nix that. It was only my father. He had arrived for the wedding earlier than anyone else.
“Ah there you are!” Dad said, “You made it back in time!” He gave me a hug. “Just think!…Grandpa Didier got married here in Brownville 160 years ago, and now your brother is getting married here, too.”
Yes, indeed. It was remarkable! I couldn’t help but think that It would be even more remarkable if my noisy brother stayed married just a fraction as long as my great, great grandparents. That would be a feat, for sure! But I didn’t tell my father that, of course.
I watched the relatives gathering. They assembled in front of Grandpa’s log cabin and stood there waiting in the sunshine, listening to the lilting song of birds. The whisper of crickets.
It was beautiful.
The bride walked slowly down the walkway toward her groom on the porch. She was smiling and gorgeous—so much in love she couldn’t see straight, I’m afraid. Halfway down the walk, she stubbed her toe on the rough pavement.
“Oh…!” she said softly, dreamily. “It’s a bit rocky, Isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I murmured. “Marriage is rocky too!”
I raised my camera and snapped pictures. I captured it all. The smiles…the laughter…The tears. The Kiss. At last, I put away my camera with a contented sigh….
It was good to be back again…Home with all my kinfolk…Home where my roots sink deep in the Nebraska soil…Where the birds sing along the Mighty MO, and the crickets whisper my name.
Ah yes. The trail homeward is long and tedious….
But it’s always worth it in the end!