As the snow was swirling around our garage I loaded up my bags filled with winter wear as well as the saddle and bridles I had brought for the ride. Peter, the ride leader, had let me know that while they had plenty of horses they could always use more tack to assure everyone had the equipment to ride.
Janeen drove me to meet Keith, as he headed from Wisconsin with a load of hay. He met me on the exit of Pioneer Trail. I was stuck by a strange sense of irony that my journey was beginning at place named not for those who made the “trail” but those who had taken possession of it. We made our way through the snow down HWY169 to St. Peter and then headed into the section of the Minnesota River Valley where 150 years ago this war had been waged.
We got to Courtland and found the pasture where we were to leave the hay for the riders that will be coming here next week. A plaque in the town center simply states “1862 – 9 people were murdered in the Sioux Uprising” As we left for Morton the snow was ending and the roads were clear. We expected that we would be in Fort Thompson by mid-night. Keith and I had an enjoyable time exchanging stories of life.
As we got closer to Morton the weather took a turn, colder winds converted the light mist to a driving snow. This area had much more snow and the winds were now driving it into drifts. We met Darwin at the BP and he wondered how we had gotten this far. We followed him to his farm, which shares a driveway with the Birch Coulee battle site. The road, the ditches, and the sky were all various hues of white.
At his farm we loaded up 1,000 lbs of Purina Horse Feed. The feed was donated to the ride after a Land-o-Lakes employee watched the Dakota 38 movie at Bethel University. The employee noticed a farmer in the documentary wearing a Purina jacket, so they made some connections and a donation of 140 bags of feed was made.
The sun was setting somewhere behind the blowing snow; spurred by Darwin’s advice we decided to stay at the hotel connected to the gas station. Hopefully the snow and wind will let up and we can head out early tomorrow to meet up with the other riders at Lower Brule and Crow Creek.
Tonight we sleep in peace in the midst of what 150 years ago had been ground zero in the Dakota – MN war of 1862.