Modern Pioneers of the Stormy Roads

Pa itched to follow wagon trails to new adventures, and while he dropped roots in De Smet, his heart still looked toward the west.

Laura, ever Daddy’s little girl, slid along the imaginary and infinite moon-path… at least until a wolf turned her back.

I get it.

The Ingalls family was a pioneer family.  Laura and Pa were not only pioneers — they had pioneering spirits.  They wanted to start a journey and not know the end destination.  They longed to indulge their senses just beyond the next hill, or just across the next river.  They edged close to dangers ranging from raging flooded creeks to loads of hay between blizzards.

The spirit is in me, too.

Obligations like career, house, and family have anchored me to Omaha, much as Laura and Pa were anchored to De Smet.  Once a year, though, hubby and I break our fetters.  We load our wagon, feed and water the horses (and by that, I mean gas up the car), and set out across the prairie for a week or so of freedom.  For that week, we follow our moon-path.  We push ourselves to the next hill, the next river.  We edge just close enough to danger to smell it without entering its grasp.

Our goal, in the end, is to see storms.  But it’s also so much more than that.  We love the rush of passing towns we have never seen before, taking in scenery that is new to us, and traveling roads less traveled.  Ghost towns and abandoned houses provide mystery, with the secrets of who lived there and why they are gone.  We parallel railroad tracks for miles, and in my head, I always hear, “One-two-whoop-three!”  Our food can range from something barely better than a skillet johnny-cake to a feast fit for a Wilder farm. We pack what we’ll need for the week, our complex lives boiled down to the essential apparel, gear, and maintenance items.  Our wagon crosses paths with other trail riders who are in their itching their wandering feet, often bringing us to meet the same old friends year after year.

When we’re chasing, we do occasional stumble upon a wolf or a bear — not the literal animal, but the beast of a storm that is awesome in its beauty and chilling in its danger.  You’ll even hear storm chasers talk about the “bear’s cage” — the core of the supercell thunderstorm beneath the rotating updraft, where a tornado will form if the thunderstorm is so inclined, where the danger is greatest and the power of the storm is most evident.

Supercell thunderstorm with a rotating wall cloud, not too far southwest of Topeka, Kansas, on May 21, 2011. Photo by Josh Boustead.

For 51 weeks of the year, I am a planner, an organizer, a goal-setter.  I live through my calendar and lock in to a crazy but predictable rotating shift schedule.  But for that one week in the spring, I am a free spirit, unleashed onto the Plains to ride in our modern covered wagon and touch the edge between Nature and civilization.

Until next spring, fellow trail riders!

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One Response to Modern Pioneers of the Stormy Roads

  1. John Haase says:

    Beautifully written! I love that sentence “feed and water the horses (and by that, I mean gas up the car)”. Of course back in the pioneer days it would have taken longer to load the wagon, feed and water the horses but it probably was cheaper!

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