We set off in sunshine and ended the day in a mighty thunder storm conducted by Thor and Odin, but more of that later. We left Omaha and travelled north past the Fort Calhoun Power Station on the Missouri before turning inland over the Omaha Indian Reservation and the former hospital of Dr Susan La Fleche Picotte, the first American Indian to become a doctor in 1889.
To the west we filmed the Haskell Agriculture Laboratory before heading back to the Missouri and Ponca State Park, where we did actually get a glimpse of either Shelterhouse 1, or 2. This was a beautiful park with cabins nicely spaced out and set on the edge of thick woods. Unlike yesterday, which had a great number of locations but a shorter transition between them, today was the reverse, so even having filmed only a few places we needed fuel and so crossed the border into South Dakota and refuelled at Yankton.
Back in Nebraska, or rather on the border, was Gavin’s Point Dam and the Lewis and Clark Lake. Some amusing action was filmed with people on a large inflatable and also sitting in a blow up sofa towed behind a speedboat. It all looked so tempting from our position in the aerial glasshouse. Further along the river was the confluence of the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers and the Niobrara State Park. Once again wooden cabins lined the ridge and fitted well into the landscape. After picking out some detail we headed south down the Verdigree River in the hope of some fishing, but perhaps it was too hot for both fish and humans.
The Ashfall Fossil Beds was our furthest south point of the day before heading west to O’Neil and fuel. Whilst on the ground we could take a serious look at weather and realised a very nasty storm was on its way. As the song says, ‘should we stay or should we go’. If we went and hit the storm we would have to turn back and that would waste flying time. If we stayed it would put us behind and leave too much for the last day. After comparing aviation weather charts we decided the risk of going was worth it and set off south to Fort Hartsuff, which was a well preserved frontier fort, which was only active from 1874 to 1881.
On the way south to the fort and on the way north to Ainsworth, our overnight stop, the landscape had changed to sand hills. This was a real surprise and to me it resembled a violent green choppy sea with white horses breaking on the crests. These great waves of grass hills, many with sandy tops, stretched as far as the eye could see. It was an extraordinary and beautiful site. What was also a beautiful, but also threatening, was the building storm. The clouds were billowing up and Thor’s anvil stretched across the sky in a dramatic way. We had phoned ahead to get hangar space, which was just as well because within thirty minutes of landing the gods began hurling thunder bolts at each other. It was in the truest sense an electrifying scene.
Waiting for us at the airfield were NET in the form of Joe, Ralph and Emily, the sound recordist. They gamely shot interviews with a thunderous background noise and failing light. Just as they finished the heavens opened and the wind howled. I do not think I have been in a storm like it. I have filmed many from a safe distance in places like Louisiana, but never actually been under one, or should I say amongst one. It was in the true sense of the word – awesome.
Category: Filming Nebraska from the Air