As we approached Bent’s Fort, my son noted that there were two busloads of children touring the site. It is certainly not as “lost” as our trip to Fort Union felt. And as we approached the Fort itself, we recognized it as re-constructed, not at all like the ruins of the Fort in northern New Mexico. But the name, Bent, reminded me that there was still the connection to New Mexico. More than the trail itself. The Bent of this Fort, and Governor Bent in Taos were brothers. The world was small even then.
My son and I drove the Santa Fe Trail from Cimmarron, New Mexico to Independence, Missouri. The ghost towns along the way were flanked by the railroad, and the wide open sky. Not much different than home. We stopped for the old wagon ruts and in Dodge City, Kansas, and then it poured down rain on us for half a day. I’m surprised it wasn’t worse, frankly. The rain and tornadoes can be crazy in the Midwest, and it made me wonder what the women along the trail thought.
My son and I talked about people we know who’ve come to New Mexico from Missouri. And there are quite a lot; we decided the travel route still persists today. It must be in our memories somehow, and we just don’t even realize it. In fact, it is true, travel patterns do persist. We are examples. New Mexicans, from Missouri, traveling back and forth along the Santa Fe Trail more than 120 years after those wagon ruts were dug into the muddy dirt roads across Kansas.