Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River, Eastern Colorado

On our great sweep of the Great Plains, one corner of the trip was a visit to Bent's Fort. It's a reproduction of a big adobe fort that was a hingepoint of history in the first half of the 19th Century, figuring in the fur trade, the Santa Fe Trail, and the Mexican War. When I was a little kid, I used to take a bus to the Capitol building in downtown Denver and go to a museum just across the street. In the museum was a wonderful model of Bent's Fort. At the time I was seriously considering pursuing a career as a mountain man, guide, and explorer. Found that was a trade not in demand, and not a long, long time after that I became a Linotype operator. Should have lit out for the Shining Mountains, as I can't see how computers could've messed up the mountain man trade. I always wanted to see the reproduction built on the site of the fort. It was wonderful.

The fort was built of adobe and sat near the Arkansas River.

The interior is as near original as possible. Like a lot of things historical, the reproduced fort was essentially the product of a bunch of old ladies with an interest in history. Without old ladies, we'd have lost half our history.

Oxen were used as draft animals to pull carts and wagons on the Santa Fe Trail, and they keep a couple on hand so visitors can get an idea about them. Strictly speaking, oxen are simply steers, but this one must stand nearly as tall as me at the shoulder, so it's easy to imagine him pulling a wagon.

An intrepid mountain man stands ready to handle a gun to repel attackers if necessary … or work a crossword during the long, dreary hours of standing watch. Note clothing made from fibers of native plants. Countless hours of staring into the relentless sun of the plains have left this rugged old frontiersman with a network of small wrinkles around the eyes.
It was a really cool thing to see, and I'm glad we went. It was the idea of my wife, bless her, who underestimated the distance.


chats said...

Meetcha in the mountains. Old sods like us won't underestimate the mileage.

Sugar Magnolia said...

The gentleman in the picture appears to not have "wrinkles around the eyes", but rather etched reflections of a life well-lived and heartily enjoyed.

Thanks for another interesting article.