Thursday, July 26, 2018

Pioneer Courage

The end is nothing; the road is all.  Willa Cather
Willa Cather, who wrote such powerful stories as O Pioneers! and My Antonia, would be proud of The First National Sculpture Parks  in downtown Omaha, Nebraska. Our family stood in awe of the splendor of these larger than life pioneers who crossed our great plains in search of a better life.

My words don't feel adequate to describe the urgency, the exhaustion, the struggle, and tenacity that radiates from the faces of these pioneers whose stories are captured in bronze by the artists. So I turned to Willa Cather, a pioneer herself in writing, to describe this life in Nebraska.

"There was nothing but land; not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made."
Willa Cather's words from My Antonia.

"What I like about the story of the great wagon train migration across America is the daring, the tenacity and the innovativeness of the pioneer spirit that opened the West." Bruce Lauritzen, Chairman, First National Bank

We wanted to encourage people to participate in the Sculpture, to imagine what it must have been like to be a pioneer.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS by Blair Buswell, Sculpture

Our family joined in the wagon train by touching, pushing, examining, and wondering how did they do it?  How did the mothers walk the prairie in those long skirts, nurse their children, feed their families, and care for them in ways we can't imagine?  How?  The struggle seemed so real in their faces, so that time and again we stepped in to help.

The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.  Willa Cather

If visitors stopped here, thinking that it's the end of the trail,  it's like not finishing the story.  In real life and in the heart of these sculptures the pioneers continued to travel westward  along the path filled with heart aches and dreams.

As the pioneers traversed the prairie they encountered the massive herds of buffalo, and the sculptures show this story. Walking down the streets we followed the herd of bronzed buffaloes racing through the heart of the city of Omaha and we gazed with delight when the geese took flight before our very eyes.

Cows run away from the storm while the buffalo charges toward it and gets through it quicker. Whenever I'm confronted with a tough challenge, I do not prolong the torment, I become the buffalo.  Wilma Mankiller, former Chief of the Cherokee Nation


The pioneers should have imagination, should be able to enjoy the idea of things more than things themselves.  Willa Cather, O'Pioneers!

On our walk that day along the trail  we searched for shade and relief from the blistering July sun. Touching the cool waterfalls from the last series of sculptures refreshed us.

"We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it--for a little while."   Willa Cather, O'Pioneers!

O'Pioneers, how did the artists bring this to life? What skills and perseverance they must have to successfully tackle a story this gigantic and touch our souls with those who walked the same lands centuries ago.

"Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky." Willa Cather

Click on the colored links below to learn more about this amazing park and the works of Willa Cather.

Willa Cather link to other books

Sculpture Park story

Spirit of Nebraska Wilderness Park

Laura Bush recalls Willa Cather's characters