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Monday, 21 September 2015

On the road to Mesa Verde

The Nebraska phase of our trip is over, and we are now on our way to southwestern Colorado, where we plan to visit Mesa Verde and explore the old Native settlements.

Before we left Fort Robinson on Thursday, we managed a half-day hike and a picnic lunch on the bluffs overlooking the White River valley.


From there we drove on to Chadron for the annual Mari Sandoz Conference. We heard two or three excellent presentations, including one on Sandhills cooking, another on women’s roles among the Lakota. There’s more I could say on that, but I would need to refer to my notes, and right now I’m in my bed in a hotel room in Dillon Colorado, having slept off a long day’s driving (450 miles or so).

On Friday night I addressed a gathering at the Bean Broker Coffee House, organised for me by our friend Andie Lee Rising. She now runs a pub next door to the café, and hosts regular music nights. It is so good to have the kind of support she offers. Genuine western hospitality and warmth. The talk was based around The Red House on the Niobrara: how I came to be there, what I did there, and how I came to write the book. It seemed to be well received, and we sold quite a few copies.

On Sunday we drove 200 miles east to visit Keevin and Dottie Arent in Ainsworth. Keevin’s father, Philip, was one of the eight Danish children raised in the red house back in the 1920s and 30s. When he emails, Keevin always tells me ‘the porch light’s on and the coffee pot’s on the stove’, so what else could we do but call by? We rested up, got fed (very well indeed), and chewed the fat before taking a gentle stroll around their farm.

The drive out here was fine until we got to the Denver area and the light faded from the sky. Then it was all road-works, lane closures and ‘watch where you’re going’. Even so, we were robust enough to turn down a $120 room at the first hotel we found and get something a little cheaper down the road apiece. We now have two days to get to Mesa Verde, which should give us a little recreational time in the mountains.

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