Pictographs, Buffalo, Mount Rushmore, Memories

Pictograh by Native American Artist, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument Visitor Center

Pictograph by Native American Artist © 2013 Bo Mackison

Day 7 – Nebraska Panhandle to Black Hills

Scotts Bluff, Nebraska. 7:10 a.m. 34˚F. Sunny. Windy.

Smoke hangs in the air as I head north, leaving town.
Cook Oil Road.
Gas Engine Road.
Narrow valleys shrouded with heavy fog.

Wild turkeys on the roadside look ready for a butterball feast,
No kin to the elongated, scrawny fowl in Wisconsin.
Black calves peer though the wire fencing,
one has a pure white face, striking in his difference.

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument on the Nioroba River.
The ranger unlocks the Visitor Center, it’s early on a Friday,
He story tells his way through the exhibits, proud of
the people in the murals and their discoveries and kind deeds.
A calendar pictograph covers the wall – a peoples’ history. Striking.

Horses in Custer State Park

Horses in Custer State Park © 2013 Bo Mackison

Trees appear in the distance as I drive
the battered road in Ogallala National Grasslands.
Antelope stare, then break into an elegant run.

Ardmore, Nebraska, nearly out-of-town before I notice it’s a ghost town.
Old houses and churches, broken windows in faded businesses, out of business signs,
old cars, but no people, no voices. No signs of movement, of living.

Driving turns hypnotic, I jerk alert when I see a curve sign.
Enveloped by soft greens, soft mounds, soft sounds, I continue –
Me, my car, the narrow asphalt road.

Historical Sign Ahead: Wood Stage Memorial Marker.
Cheyenne River, a narrow ribbon of brown.
Wild Horse Refuge. and the hills turn Crayola Crayon Green.
Cascade Falls, Black Hills National Forest.
Bison chili at the Blur Bison Cafe in Hot Springs.

Buffalo Right of Way

Buffalo Right of Way © 2013 Bo Mackison

Wind Cave National Park,
I skip the cave tour and watch the buffalo instead,
often I wait, my foot on the brake, as the buffalo ignore me.
Huge beasts, shaggy and disheveled, shedding their winter coats.

Mount Rushmore from Afar

Mount Rushmore from Afar © 2013 Bo Mackison

I detour through Custer State Park, relive memories of a family summer vacation
twenty years past; there was a pop up camper,
a hotel-preferring husband, three kids and me, all on our big explore.
Memory making moments, still precious, favorite childhood memories.

I pull out my camera when Mount Rushmore, framed in a narrow tunnel, takes me by surprise.

Flags at Mount Rushmore

Flags at Mount Rushmore © 2013 Bo Mackison

Miles down the road, I hesitate.
Stop at Mount Rushmore National Monument? I’ve already seen it…

Once more memories crowd my thoughts, I stop, pay exorbitant parking fees,
and walk to the empty benches in front of the four Presidents.
That vacation long ago…
I remember the 9-year-old boy who sat next to me for a half day,
craning his neck, staring, studying
stunned into silence by the thought of a mountain, a sculptor and a chisel.

The memory alone was worth the stop.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. A cross-country traveler by day, and an occasional poet. This is a poem in nine parts, because the trip lasts nine days. This is Day Seven.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. I’d agree, the memories of our first visit to Rushmore would be well worth the parking charge. You gave us the gift of the National Parks starting that summer. If not for your push I would have spent my time in Door County or the Wisconsin Dells and would have missed so much (not that the Dells or Door County aren’t fun, but they are not Yellowstone, Galcier, Badlands, Arches and so on).

    Great memories.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      So true. The National Parks provided the backdrop for so many of our family’s most treasured memories!

  2. I’ve never seen Mt. Rushmore but it’s on my ever-growing list. LOVELY prose and images, Bo. I am so loving this journey of yours even though I’m behind, though you’re already home in Wisconsin I feel I’m a bug on the windshield of your journey holding on for dear life!!! LOVELY!

  3. Bo Mackison says:

    Awww, Debi! You have such a great bucket list. And I do hope you weren;t one of those bugs – they were a bit on the bedraggled side… 🙂

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