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JUNE 2014 • NEBRASKAland 13 12 NEBRASKAland • JUNE 2014 A Brief History Accidents Along the Trail By Patricia C. Gaster, Nebraska State Historical Society The greatest dangers along the Overland Trail were disease and accident. Except for sanitary precautions, then little known, disease was perhaps unavoidable. Accidents, however, were "a built-in, do-it- yourself hazard," according to historian Merrill Mattes's Great Platte River Road, published by the Nebraska State Historical Society in 1969. Mattes classified trail accidents as "shootings, drownings, crushing by wagon wheels, and injuries resulting from handling domestic animals. These were the four big causes of maimings and killings. All other discoverable causes combined, such as sharp instruments, falling objects, rattlesnakes, buffalo hunts, hail, and lightning, did not equal one of these four major causes. "The emigrants were walking arsenals, armed to the teeth with rifles, shotguns, and revolvers, supposedly used to hunt buffalo and defend themselves from Indians. More often what they managed to do was blast, wound, or annihilate themselves instead, and in alarming numbers. Firearms did not have the safety features that exist today.... Many emigrants were strangers to their deadly weapons, and all underwent the fatigue which impairs judgment .... 'Shot himself accidentally' was the monotonous refrain on emigrant grave markers and the primary cause of accidental death. "A close second were the drownings at the river crossings, the result of wagons or ferries tipping over, of some tired teamster getting snarled in harness, or of a fatigued hiker perishing in the cold water. Drownings were routine on the Kansas, the Blue, the South Platte and the Laramie. "The big emigrant wagons were efficient when rolling forward with a load, but clumsy and inefficient when it was necessary to stop. From a variety of causes an impressive number of men, women and children got caught in or fell under their monstrous wheels and (with some amazing exceptions) were mutilated or killed." Domestic animals proved more dangerous to emigrants than their wild relatives. "The dangerous animals were the friendly beasts of burden. Not only did they rotate the wheels that crushed people, but when temperamental they committed mayhem on careless teamsters." Kicking mules, plunging horses, runaway teams and stampeding herds caused emigrant injury and deaths. "Generally speaking," Mattes concluded, "one who could swim and had a healthy respect for firearms and wagon wheels had an excellent chance for survival – if he didn't get the cholera!" ■ PHOTO BY JEFF KURRUS Emigrants passing Fort Kearny, as remembered by William Henry Jackson. From the William Henry Jackson Collection at Scotts Bluff National Monument. 1-800-833-6747 www.nebraskahistory.org/sites and enjoy new transportation exhibits! 10-5 Tuesday - Saturday, 1-5 Sunday 8:30-5 Daily THROUGH LABOR DAY New Super Tag and Combo Lotteries For Resident and Nonresidents Apply April 21 - July 4, 2014 OutdoorNebraska.org/supertag or see the 2014 Big Game Guide Bring your family, bring your friends and make plans to visit the Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege. See the 16' wide buﬀalo mural, a life-size buﬀalo, a two-bearded wild turkey and a sandhill crane. For more information about visiting the museum and the interactive museum map of our exhibits, check out our website. Hours: Mon - Fri: 9 am-5 pm | Sat - Sun: 1-5 pm nebraskaprairie.org 308-995-5015 N. Hwy 183 Holdrege Bowhunter Education By Cristina Woodworth Nebraska bowhunters looking for more information about education classes and bow and arrow field days should check out Huntsafenebraska.org. The website, run by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, lists all of the additional requirements for hunters ages 12 through 29 who hunt deer, antelope, elk or mountain sheep with a bow and arrow. Bowhunters can register for hunting events and classes on the site as well as read up on the latest rules and regulations for both bow and firearm hunting. Bowhunters around the country will also find useful information at Nbef.org, the National Bowhunter Education Foundation's website. The NBEF is an organization that promotes responsible bowhunting through educational hunting classes and activities. The site also lists contact information for the bowhunting agencies in every state so visitors can get more facts about the specific location where they'll be bowhunting. ■ 12 NEBRASKAland • JUNE 2014 were built do-i you haz acc to his M M G P R R