Lost in Wyoming (Part 2)
I awoke the next, ate a small breakfast at the Super 8 motel in Chamberlain, South Dakota situated on the scenic Missouri River. In a short amount of time, I had repacked my car for my trip to Wyoming. It was a bright and sunny day, and I started up in great confidence. I never knew that I will get lost or incur a dangerous encounter. I was back on Interstate 90 heading west. The scenery of fields, farms, and small towns flowed by. Occasionally, I met up with a construction site and needed to slow to pass cautiously.
As I drove along two things happened: I drove across the central-mountain time zone border and I began seeing signs for my favorite pit stop along the way. That is a tourist stop at an 1880’s Ghost Town near Midland, South Dakota. I have stopped a number of times but I never get tired of it. I am always afraid I might miss the turn off so I try to read every sign to ensure I do not drive by without knowing. Finally, I see the turn off up ahead. I keep myself in the right lane so there is no danger of missing the turn. With anticipation, I drive into the parking lot and turn off my car. I am ready to for a long walk to stretch my legs.
Plenty of other visitors are here so I join in a long line to purchase my ticket and enter the museum which includes a gift shop. I pass through the shop gazing at the books. That tends to be my favorite purchase. I consider several titles and decide to think about this while I view the rest of the museum and the old ghost town. After taking time to look at old collections and artifacts of the pioneering era inside, I finally make it outdoors walking down the old dirt main street of the century old town.
The layout to me is almost reminiscent of the old Gunsmoke TV show as I pass by the old post office, bank, and a Wells Fargo stagecoach. There is also an old jailhouse. I even happen to come across a replica of the old medical office of Dr. Addams from the Gunsmoke program and that threw me for a loop. Just because, I knew the old TV show supposedly took place in Kansas, not South Dakota. However, I think they continue to acquire new additions for this popular tourist attraction. For instance, this tourist site has also acquired props from Kevin Costner’s movie Dances with Wolves. I also pass by an old school house and an old church. I can’t help but peek inside. Another feature of this old town is the various lifeless statues of men, women, and children dressed in 1880’s attire. As I wander along I see them on the streets, the wooden sidewalks, and in the buildings. I even encounter motionless statues of dogs and horses. I also strolled onto another dirt street checking out a row of old shanties. These are tiny houses where families lived. I could not imagine how those pioneering settlers survived the harsh winters that I knew took place here. This is a vast flat prairie where when the wind blows, the snow flies, and the temperatures drop, there is no stopping the sheer cold and brute wintry conditions. I am sure these were authentic shanties perhaps hastily built by their very hardy occupants. They housed old furniture, stoves, and dishware of the pioneering era all arranged for use. The walls were thin with no insulation and small paned windows. Somehow though, these tiny, modest, and crude structures have survived through time.
I then continued to follow a long dirt road which led to a distant old farmhouse. No other tourist was on the road so I was alone walking along listening to the soft wind and the silence. Up ahead I noticed two more statues of horses grazing behind a long, white fence. As I drew closer, I saw one of the horses’ tails silently sway back and forth. I had become so used to the stillness and the lack of life here, that I nearly jumped out of my skin. Obviously, these ponies were very much alive. I spend a few moments watching the animals quietly chomp on the grass.
Eventually, I turned around heading back through the old ghost town. I stopped back in the gift and do make a purchase, a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Back in my car, I returned to Interstate 90 westward towards the Wyoming border.
Filled with anticipation and adventure, I continued my journey. I had enjoyed my little visit to the old 1880s town and now I was anxious to finish my trek and meet up with my friends all waiting for me. Still a long ways to go but, I was sure I wouldn’t lose my way as I sped across that vast South Dakota prairie.
Stay tuned to the conclusion in Part 3.