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Stories from Bernie's current trip - a mule voyage from Canada to Mexico

Coyote Mummy Halloween
October 30, 2008


A long way from a store-bought Halloween
Outside Zurich, Kansas

Traveling across the Great Plains in my mule wagon looking for traces of the Western Interior Seaway, I find myself drifting farther and farther from a store-bought existence. Need fruit? This week it’s coming off a Hays pear tree. Need spice? Last week, Mark LeSage loaded my wagon down with cayenne peppers. I unraveled a length of bailing twine, threaded my finest needle and strung peppers all morning. Voila. Dried chili peppers to keep me warm this winter on the Plains.


Bernie demonstrates Great Plains winter heat
LeSage Ranch
North of Nicodemus, Kansas

And so it goes this Halloween. In lieu of store-bought scare crows propped on hay bales, I’m bringing you a creepy story captured by wagon out here on the Great Plains.

Here’s how it started.

It started with a rumor in Logan, Kansas. “There’s a dead critter in the Brown Country School House down the road.” a fellow told me. “You should check it out.”

Perfect! Much better than a plastic jack-o-lantern imported from China. I drove Polly to the school house, parked the Lost Sea wagon, unharnessed her and investigated.


Parked in front of the Brown Country School House

The Brown Country School House (named Brown, not for its color, but rather for the land owner who donated the land)has been abandoned for almost 50 years. Peering inside the wind-blasted school house, I found a remarkably intact structure.


50 years after school let out

At first glance, it just seemed like another abandoned prairie structure, no different than the thousands of other ones that scatter this sea of grass: windows smashed out, owl droppings on the floor and cracked plaster peeling off lathe walls. But what was that grey mass lumped in the far corner? Stepping closer, I made out a dog-sized body.


Dog-sized body

Leaning in closer, I saw the paw curled over the snout,the tail curled over the nose, as though keeping warm.


Keeping warm

Then I saw the mummy eye – and backed out of the school house. Spooky…


Mummy eye

Later that evening, Dave Sammons dropped by.


Dave Sammons

Dave, who lives a mile from the school house and runs the county grader, stopped by to check on Polly and me. I asked about the creature I’d found in the school house. In the dying light, he led me back into the empty building to explain.

To listen to what Dave said, and hear some howlin’ Kansas coyotes, click on the audio player below.

Field recording notes: This interview opens with Kansas coyote howls recorded aboard the Lost Sea mule wagon north of Nicodemus, Kansas. The rest of the interview with Dave Sammons takes place inside the abandoned Brown country school house.


Best of luck creating your own spooky, un-store-bought, Halloween.

Posted Thursday October 30, 2008 by Bernie
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