Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Grandpa's History Lesson
When I was a small boy, my grandfather, Wick Hopkins, took me on a fishing trip to Wendover Junction on the North Platte River near Guernsey, Wyoming. The day had turned cold and rainy by the time we arrived at the fishing spot. Grandpa and I boarded an old cable trolley car that was to take us over the river to the north side. It was hand operated by pulling the car along with a lever that was attached to the cable that the car hung from. A man was there to operate the lever while grandpa and I sat and watched the Wyoming scenery as we crossed the North Platte River. When we arrived on the other side we then walked down the river to a spot where grandpa often liked to fish and we started casting out. I soon got cold and gave up on the fishing so grandpa Wick told me to go and gather up a bunch of the dried buffalo (cow) chips which were abundant around the area. Of course, being a boy, if it was doing something to get dirty... then all the better! He piled a few of the chips up and lit them with a match, growing up in Texas and Wyoming, he knew they would instantly burn. As they burned slow and hot, they put off enough heat to keep me warm. I was fascinated by the way they burned and I entertained myself gathering and keeping chips stoked on the fire for most of the rest of the day. He told me there was little wood to burn in the prairie states during the 1800's and the plains were nearly treeless at that time, finding fuel for fires was a constant chore for the pioneers and emigrants heading west but there were plenty of buffalo chips and the homesteaders used them for cooking and heating as they crossed the plains in wagons. They also gathered and dried them for use as fuel when they began to build sod houses and cabins on the prairie. He told me that the homesteaders had used everything available to them to live and survive.
My grandpa passed this knowledge down to me in a unique and special way, We had a fun day together, despite the in-climate weather, one that I will always cherish and remember. Grandpa Wick didn't catch any fish that day and because the burning prairie "fuel" had kept me warm, I did not catch a cold!
by: Geoff Hopkins, AKA "Go Hubby", number one fan of The You Go Genealogy Girls. You might also enjoy reading the recent posting on their blog: "Buffalo Chips, Cow Patties...and Such"