NEBRASKAland

Nebraskaland Jan/Feb 2019

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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44 Nebraskaland • January-February 2019 A Horse Rescue on the Icy Missouri By David L. Bristow, History Nebraska ow did a valuable pacer (a horse used in harness racing) nearly drown in the icy Missouri River in January 1882? The story tells us something about 19th century life in a river city. The story begins Jan. 22, when Omaha businessman Clifton Mayne traveled to Council Bluff s for work. This wasn't as easy as it sounds. A railroad bridge spanned the Missouri River, but it wasn't open to wagon traffi c. Mayne took the "dummy train," a train that went back and forth across the bridge. But how would he get around Council Bluff s? He could walk or take the streetcar, but that wouldn't do for a wealthy man with a taste for fi ne horses. Mayne had some special cargo loaded on the train: a light buggy that he used only on special occasions, and his prized pacing horse, Oscar Phelps. This was the 1880s equivalent of bringing a Porsche. Mayne's business took longer than expected and he missed the dummy train's westbound departure. No matter. He'd just cross the river on the ice, as people had been doing since before the bridge opened in 1872. The next day's Omaha Daily Bee tells what happened. "When part way over, he observed some boys who were skating making violent signs at him and stopped to see what was wanted, when one of them came up and told him he was driving on dangerous ground. On getting out and examining the ice he found his horse's fore feet within six inches of a space where ice had been cut out and the new ice was so thin that the boy who warned him readily broke it through with his skate. "Mr. Mayne then made a wide detour and had nearly H This circa-1920 harness race in Neligh was after Oscar Phelps' time, but shows the kind of racing he did. History Nebraska RG2836-1818

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