Happy Trails, Part 187: Yep, they were tough

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

ABILENE, Texas — Our retirement journey brought us to a community that is proud as the dickens of its cowboy/Wild West heritage.

Show the city shows it off with a museum called Frontier Texas. We visited it and came away with a keen appreciation of just how tough the folks were who settled in this region. Not only that, we came away understanding a little better the nature of the Native Americans who were here long before the Anglos arrived.

What did we learn? Let’s see …

We learned about a woman who married four or five times after each of her husbands met untimely and gruesome deaths at the hands of outlaws and of Native Americans. I found myself wondering: Why did she keep seeking love when she had encountered such tragedy? Oh, and her daughter and granddaughter died prematurely and violently, too!

Then there were the bison that were hunted to near extinction by “buffalo hunters,” which is how the museum identified them. “Buffalo killers” would have been a much more apt description.

There is a brief reference to the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon between the Army and the Comanche warriors. The museum mentions that the Army captured 1,400 Comanche horses and then “slaughtered” them. It doesn’t tell you that the soldiers stampeded the animals off the canyon rim.

I have long resisted trying to imagine whether I could live in that era. We cannot control the time we come into this world. I was born in 1949 and I am glad I entered the world at that time. Had I been born, say, in 1849, well, I would have coped with life in that time.

Still, as I look back at the folks who lived in this part of Texas and coped with life and death, I come away amazed and astonished at the grit and courage they exhibited.

It’s just yet another discovery we have made on our journey through retirement. I am quite certain there are many more to find in this big ol’ world.

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