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Advice for Travelers in the 1860s
Nancy Scott


The Midwest is still uncharted territory.
Traveling alone: When you arrive at lodgings
and pigs are milling around in the courtyard,
and even if they aren’t, don’t assume
the innkeeper will be inclined to oblige you.
Separate accommodations: If you want
your own bed, be prepared to negotiate
because the rate will be dear and most likely
not include clean sheets, clean towels or soap. 
On a budget: If the temperature dips
below freezing, make sure to keep a hammer
in your belongings to chip at the ice
in the wash basin that you will share
with the stranger who’s sharing your bed.
Meal plan: If food is included, make sure
you don’t eat anything that is still bloody.
Additional comforts: Should you decide
to settle into a chair by the hearth,
take care that the chair is not covered
in deerskin. Perhaps aggrieved at having
been skinned and eaten, deer find ways
to get even—fleas can drive you
out of your wits with itching,
Yet, the countryside is magnificent,
rolling plains as far as the eye can see,
meadowlark and pheasant take flight
from high prairie grasses; thistle,
milkweed, and goldenrod abound,
but watch out for the mud wasps
and vermin, because outdoor privies
are the custom, which, in some cases,
is only a pole over a trench.
On the road again, you may discover
clear streams that meander between
lush grassy banks. Oaks and maples,
especially when there’s a nip in the air,
are as stunning as you’ll see anywhere.
We are mighty proud of our country,
although less so of our accommodations,
but we wish you a fortuitous journey,
and if you arrive at your destination
within a month or two of your schedule,
consider yourself lucky.

From Midwestern Memories (Aldrich, 2013).
Used with the author’s permission.


After working for decades as a social worker, Nancy Scott is now an author and an artist. She started writing poetry in the mid-‘90s, hoping that her work would eventually be published somewhere; her tenth book was recently released. A chance conversation about a workshop got Nancy interested in collages; her work is now frequently hung in juried shows and, sometimes, her poetry and art are featured together. Learn more about Nancy at



Post New Comment:
What a brave adventure to travel alone in these harsh but adventuresome times. Thanks!
Posted 09/06/2018 08:36 PM
I enjoyed this romp into (the past - I think!) a really good read.
Posted 09/01/2018 06:34 AM
Lori Levy:
Like the contrast between the accommodations and the beauty of the surroundings.
Posted 08/30/2018 11:10 PM
Dorothy WildhagenD:
Posted 08/30/2018 05:09 PM
good dose of reality. After reading a book of women's journals of the westward trek, a la md-1800s, I drove west with a friend and was so glad we had a car in wnich to do it.
Posted 08/30/2018 04:10 PM
I think I stayed at that place once or twice...
Posted 08/30/2018 12:06 PM
What a picture. I love it!
Posted 08/30/2018 10:45 AM

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