We had quite a long drive ahead of us so we did not want to take too much time sightseeing. The drive down to Branson from home is over 3300 km (2050 miles) so we have to cover a reasonable distance each day. And we do tend to weave around a bit to see things or find geocaches if we can. We try limit the stops to one or two a day and only stop for a cache about every 100 km or so.
But before we left Grand Island the one thing I wanted to see was the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, which is considered one of the top ten attractions in Nebraska. The main building is on an island in the middle of a man-made lake and recently won an architectural design award. I knew we wouldn’t be able to see everything but I wanted to check it out and at least do a quick tour.
The museum is named for the man who donated the land and money to build the main building, but there are other galleries and a heritage village of about 50 buildings that have been moved to the site from as much as 100 miles away.
We really enjoyed the art exhibit in the main building. Internationally known artist Todd Williams spent 5 years travelling to all 93 counties in the State of Nebraska and created over 120 paintings. The exhibit is called Painting the Legacy of Nebraska. Obviously, since these are original works of art you could not take photos of them but the fellow did an awesome job portraying the various aspects, scenery, and people of Nebrasaka during its formative years. On the second floor there was a children’s area with beautiful handcrafted furniture as would have been found in a pioneer house, plus period clothes to wear while you play. There were other static exhibits all around the second floor as well. When we had parked in front of the museum there was a Harley Davidson trike motorcycle with a small trailer parked in the spot beside us. The trike’s license was from Kansas but what caught Joh’s eye were the words on the little trailer; “Osoyoos, BC.” We wanted to tour the collection of Cowboy and Indian artifacts in the Gus Fonner Memorial Rotunda and while I checked to see if it was open yet, John had to have a chat with the couple on the trike and tell them their trailer was made not too far from our hometown.The Rotunda was due to open in 15 minutes so we checked out the bronze statue (it commemorated quite a tale) near the entrace and then wandered over to the gardens.
When we returned after 10 o’clock, the Rotunda was still not open so we drove over to the parking lot at Railroad Town and did a moderately fast walk through the village. It was beautifully done. All of the buildings were well maintained and stocked with period items, the ‘local’ workers like the lady at the telephone switchboard and the young man at the planer mill were more than happy to chat about their town and work. Even though we couldn’t linger due to time pressure we had a good time. The Veterinary Clinic had a living quarters, a room where the vet would mix his potions and medicines, a few stalls for animals, and two patient rooms – one of which contained a surgical table that was used for horses and cows, and the other was a small animal surgery.
The large animal table was pretty clever. It was on a frame that could be rotated so the table would be turned vertical, the horse would be brought beside and strapped to the table then sedated and the table would be brought back to a horizonal position so the animal could be treated or operated on. Really slick. Of course we had to stop and give some fresh grass to mama goat and her kids on the way back to the truck. The drive back out of the museum took us past an old one-room school and Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran church. We looped the driveway of an 1860 farmyard. And continued down past the the house of the Taylor Ranch (the original land owners) to a replica of a Pawnee Earth Lodge. We spent just over two hours at Stuhr but then we had to be on our way. We were due in Maryville, Missouri before 6 pm to visit with a friend, Peter, who had lived in Salmon Arm and was in the fire department with John for several year. He married Elizabeth from Missouri and now lives in Maryville. We were spending the night at their house.
We saw a crop dusting plane flying over one of the many, many, many fields of corn. I could not get a photo of it as it skimmed the crop but man the fellow could fly low and straight.We also had a mama deer and her little one cross the road in front of us.
To get from southeastern Nebraska to Maryville in northwestern Missouri we cut kitty corner across the bottom of Iowa, and once again crossed the mighty Missouri River. The Missouri is the longest river in North America and serves as the border between Nebraska and Iowa, and Kansas and Missouri so by the time we arrived in Branson we had crossed the river several times. There was a geocache hidden at a small lake on the opposite side of the road. Traffic is light in these bread basket states so it was no problem to make a quick left and go find it. After all our days of driving through flat cropland it was nice to get into some treed areas with hills. Many of the corn fields in southwest Iowa are actually terraced for easier seeding and harvesting. There is a geocache series that takes you to the locations of old one-room schools – over 250 of them and counting. The road we were on allowed us to find about four of them.
There are metal signs indicating where every school was (of course most of them are now gone) but I thought it was neat that the locations were still recognized. This is the Lone Star School which operated from 1874-1956 and is on private property. The cache at this spot was near the fence line on the roadside. And, at last we reached our friend’s house in Maryville at quarter to five. We had a visit, went for dinner, visited some more and went to bed. Once again we had had a good day with good roads and good weather and at the end it was very nice to meet Elizabeth and see Peter again.